Dear sweet 8-year-old boy child of mine. Dear crazy rambunctious 8-year-old child of mine. Dear one who rarely appears to be listening, rather talking and doing so loudly! Dear one who runs free, so free that I often fear for your safety. I saw you wrestle with the true message of Advent this week. You reacted just like those shepherds did when they saw the star. Those shepherds were going about their daily routine when God came near and made them pause and experience the seeing as believing. I saw you look up, as if there were your own star, and embrace the way God came near to you in a lesson of repentance. I heard you say, “No, mom. It was my fault. I made a mistake and I am sorry.” And in that moment, God came near to your mama too…
We were in the midst of heading to his guitar lesson, which was tucked neatly between picking up his sister from preschool, he and his brother from the bus stop and homework before dinner before baths, teeth brushing and Advent devotional/Jesse tree ornament hanging in my perfect little picturesque mind of just how my night would go. We actually even arrived home from the bus stop with plenty of time to get the youngster to his lesson on time, without a lot of effort.
Oh, how it is with children. The time seems to slip away like cooking oil through a funnel. I asked him once, twice, three, four, five times…and then I lost my mama wits and raised my voice, “If you do not come now, you will be paying for this lesson, by golly!” I was undone. He jumped in the car, surly. “I will NOT pay for this lesson.” I did not respond, rather I prayed silently. We were about three seconds from the destination and I calmly said, “I am sorry I raised my voice at you. I want you to understand that I love you. I also want you to understand that it is not okay to disrespect your mother by disobedience and pretending you do not hear me. These guitar lessons are a gift and can be taken away.” His response jolted me.
“No mom. It was my fault. I made a mistake and I am sorry.”
God has promised that He is with us, that He hears our prayers. Sometimes it is so hard to believe that God indeed hears our prayers for our children when the soaking in of deep faith is so very incremental. It takes so much time, repetition and patience. God has a way of opening the eyes of our hearts in the midst of the every day shepherding of our little sheep to reveal again that His promise still holds true, just like it did 2017 years ago.
This third week of Advent, we light the Shepherds Candle of Joy. The encounter I shared with my boy this week has unveiled the type of JOY I believe our Heavenly Father feels when we “get it,” we “get” the message of Christ’s birth. My son, in his admitting of fault, understood in that moment the foundation of faith in Jesus. Instead of his mama “being too strict” he felt in his own little heart, humility, and his own need for forgiveness. Realizing we need Jesus is the first step in cultivating our very own relationship with the King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Friend of Friends – and this is where true confidence in Christ begins. Confidence in Christ wards off every kinds of evil influence in this world. That. That is the message Jesus brings – and that is what I deeply desire for my children and for every person reading this post. I want to shout it from the tree tops!
The Message version of the bible describes the way in which the shepherds shared the good news as “letting loose.” I love that image!! I imagine the shepherds looking a lot like my boy, maybe even when he has climbed about 6 feet higher in the tree of our front yard than I would like – but then in his “letting loose” he shouts, “God is real! Baby Jesus came for all f us! Everyone, come! Listen!”
“There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger. At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: “Glory to God in the heavenly heights, peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed. Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!” –Luke 2:8-20, The Message
Letting loose is so very familiar to me, a mama of boys. It makes me smile as I think of my boys and their reckless abandon, their uncontainable energy, their speaking-before-thinking way of being. Isn’t that the way God wants us to share His good news? The shepherds in the fields that night of Jesus’s birth were so captured by the reality of seeing as believing that they could not contain themselves. They were much like little boys, running this way and that, shouting to the rooftops without fear of who they might wake up. They had a story to tell and nothing was going to hold them back…not fear, not doubt, not the adult way of over thinking.
This is the story of Christmas. God came near. The angels proclaimed. The shepherds believed. The Christ child was born. The shepherds let loose in sharing the joy this Savior would bring, much like my 8-year-old boy and the way he understood repentance this week. And now, I am letting loose this story for you.. Won’t you do the same and let God’s joy loose today?