“And the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.”
We read Luke 2 every Christmas. And every Christmas, I’ve assumed the same thing: these shepherds were probably just shocked to see an angel. Anyone would be, right? And yet, why “sore” afraid? These people were faithful, they would “haste” to follow instructions, so what was so scary to them?
I have a different perspective this year, thanks to a woman named Kate. I’ve been going to institute — a mid-week gospel class for singles like me — and Kate was a guest teacher several weeks ago. She had us brainstorm a bit on what the word light means to us. Without context, none of us thought about “the opposite of heavy.” We thought of the sun. The stars. Electricity. Bioluminescence! Illumination. Truth.
And we love light, don’t we?
“Not so much when we’re on a date and trying to hide our flaws. Dim dinner lighting for the win!” I joked. Kate raised an eyebrow and smiled, then handed out scripture references. John 3:19 stuck with me: “light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
It is a lot easier to look good if no one can really see.
What if the burden is coming to see the truth of ourselves and our situation so clearly that we are compelled to change?
We talked of events in the world, too. So many of us in our good fortune would simply rather not be aware of the problems around us: our inability or unwillingness to do something makes us uncomfortable. Will I act on what I know?
“My burden is light.”
While I know that scripture is about rest to our souls, it could have more than one meaning. Wanting to change, and knowing how much we need to, really can feel like a burden sometimes.
I don’t know what it’s like to have an angelic visitor. But it had never occurred to me that such an illuminating experience could show us how ignorant we’ve been of the darkness in and around us. For someone who is generally trying to be a decent person, to see in stark light how much farther we’ve got to go? Yeah, that really would be scary. If the glory of the Lord shone round about me, I’m sure I’d notice more than the dirt under my nails.
But there is good news:
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
One who not only shows us the way to change, but also bears our burden with us, and has the power to make up for all we lack. That is worth celebrating. Merry Christmas. ❤