Symbols of Advent
Part 3- Week 3
The Candle of Joy
Also known as the Shepherd Candle
by Lynda McKinney Lambert
LIGHT the 3rd candle of ADVENT
A miraculous world-changing event will take place.
For a Christmas delight, click on the link below to listen to a Christmas song. JOY to you today.
Listen to _While Shepherds Watched Their Flock by Night”
One thing I know for sure is this:
God comes us in ordinary and everyday events.
We can be visited in unexpected times and in unique ways. I have experiences visitations and deliverance many times in my seventy-two years of life. I bet you have, too! Pay attention to how God comes to YOU in the mundane activities of your life.
Begin to have a consciousness of God’s presence in the ordinary!
For the birth of Jesus, historical documents and texts show that God prepared this event in advance. We saw that preparation in last weeks Symbol of Advent – the Candle of Preparation. Week 2 _Candle of Preparation
For Week 3 of Advent, we see that sent ANGELS to make an announcement to LOCAL SHEPHERDS as they were working at night in the fields near Bethlehem. Just another silent night in the fields! An ORDINARY night, so they believed. But then, the MIRACULOUS came to visit them. It would become a night that the entire world would remember. Even now, over 2,000 years after the event people all over the world stop to remember it.
A miraculous visitation of ANGELS, sent from the Divine, happened without warning. The humble shepherds were summoned to leave their fields. The destination of their God-directed trip was a stable in Bethlehem where the shepherds would see a newborn baby.
My extensive background in art and art history leads me to look for a connecting thread from one event in history to another. Historical context is what I seek to understand contemporary events and life in the 21st Century.
The one thread connecting every character in this ADVENT story is that each person was required to make an unexpected, unplanned, trip from one place to another. Every single one!
I feel the underlying loneliness that underlies this miraculous story – everyone had to give up something that was familiar and travel to an unfamiliar place to do unfamiliar things, with unfamiliar people.
Travel – Journey – Go – Trip – Excursion – Passage – Flight
Mary and Joseph had to leave their home at a time when no pregnant woman would choose to be going anywhere on a trip – especially by foot and by donkey. Yet, the trip was mandated by the LAW and they had no choice but to go.
When I was nineteen, I gave birth to my first child. Eighteen months later, the second daughter was born. At age twenty-five, our third daughter was born. For all of those births, I was living in a comfortable home with my husband. I had a local doctor, and when the time came, he delivered our daughters in our local hospital just 2 miles from our home. And, I remember how frightening it was – every time – when the pains of labor were intense enough that I was bent over double, unable to even stand up straight and I knew it was time to leave for the hospital and give birth.
OH, how did young Mary bear the long days of rugged travels when her body was heavy with her baby boy?
How did Mary straddle the back of a donkey and ride those many miles with her bones and her muscles aching and cramping?
How did Joseph bear it to see her pain during the long journey to Bethlehem?
Oh, Mary! As a mother living in the comfort of my own time in history, my heart is sad when I remember that you did not even have a warm bed or the comfort of your family that night in a barn, in a city that had no room for you. You must have been so frightened – your first birth, your unfamiliar circumstances, your willingness to be obedient to the visitation you had from the Divine.
Mary, you knew you were carrying God in your womb, but how you must have wondered “why” you had to be so far from h home, so lonely, and in such a strange place as a barn that night.
Mary, when I need strength to meet the demands of my ordinary life, I remember you. Your courage, your love, and your obedience to God are more than enough to bring me through in victory from very inconvenience, every strange journey, every lonely day, and night. Mary, I hold you in my heart today as I write this letter to you, across the centuries.
I know that in art through the ages, in songs, and now, in contemporary depictions of the Nativity, we see Angels, the Holy Family, Shepherds, and Three Kings all there together with the animals. Yet, when I read the ancient scriptures that record this event, what we see in the depictions of it are not at all accurate.
The nostalgic Christmas card scene has been pieced together over the years into a fantasy world that never existed in that way. The centuries of lore have put together a very odd mixture of Christian history mingled with pagan practices, ideas, superstitions, and myths. And, then add to this mixture, the cultural and racial confusion that exists to add to the fantasy.
One evening in October 1997, I heard Him whisper to me, “Come away, my beloved!” I turned, and walked towards Him, and as I walked, I remembered the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “When Christ calls a man (woman); he bids him (her) to come and die.” Like one of the shepherd’s in the fields near Bethlehem, I too became a shepherd who came to see, the infant who would one day be known as “The Good Shepherd.”
There were only a very few worshippers around the manger in Bethlehem – just a handful of shepherds. Oh, yes, the Three Kings were on the way, most likely, but it would be quite a long time before they traveled the distance and bowed before the little boy.
“[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
A lonely birth. There were no midwives, no assistance to Mary at all. The Bible doesn’t even mention that Joseph was present. Perhaps he was, but if he was typical of first-time fathers, he would have been of little help to Mary. She was basically on her own.
Luke 2:8-20 describes the experience of the shepherds when Jesus was born. Think about that for a moment. Out of the whole of Jerusalem society, God picked a band of shepherds to hear the news of Jesus’ birth. That’s intriguing because shepherds were among the lowest and most despised social groups.
The very nature of shepherds’ work kept them from entering into the mainstream of Israel’s society. They couldn’t maintain the ceremonial washings and observe all the religious festivals and feasts, yet these shepherds, just a few miles from Jerusalem, were undoubtedly caring for sheep that someday would be used as sacrifices in the temple. How fitting it is that they were the first to know of the Lamb of God!
More significant, they came to see Him the night he was born. No one else did. Though the shepherds went back and told everyone what they had seen and heard, and though “all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds” (v. 18), not one other person came to see firsthand.
We are left to wonder when we search the historical, scripture accounts – about the shepherds. We don’t how they knew where to go. I imagine they just came into Bethlehem and began walking about, asking, “Do you know where a baby has been born tonight?” The important thing for us to know is that they came! They came because angels had visited them while they were taking care of their flocks at night. They had a visit from God, and they left their fields and followed the direction of the angels to go find the baby. The shepherds became that night, the first Christian evangelists. They went out from the manger, and they told others what they had found.
Well, now that I have talked my way through the meaning of the shepherds, I can better understand Psalm 28. (NIV) and, here is where I find the connection between “joy” and the journey of the shepherds. I wish you a joyous journey to the Christ Child tonight, too.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him.
8 The Lord is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever.
As you complete this essay, you will LOVE the music and video I have placed here for you today – Check here!
Link to Week 1 – The Candle of Hope at this link:
Link to Week 2 – The Candle of Preparation (The Bethlehem Candle)
Note: Photos by Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.
This essay was written by Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
Please share it with your friends! Thanks!
Look for Week 4 – The Candle of Love (The Angel Candle).