What Are You Watching This Christmas?

e_CES0370This past Sunday my younger sister was nice enough to e-mail me a page from her daily devotion guide.  Betty is a regular reader of this blog and thought I would enjoy the devotion written by Gina Bridgeman.  I did.  Bridgeman pointed out a connection between the Christmas story and nature that I had not given much thought to in the past.  That connection is the fact that key players in the Christmas story were actually focused on elements of nature when they were presented with the good news of Jesus’ birth.

In Luke’s Gospel we are told that there were shepherds out in the field that night keeping watch over their sheep.  That is, after all, what shepherds do; they watch and care for sheep.  That is their focus.  Well, it was as they did just that this particular group of shepherds got first a visit from an angelic messenger and then were serenaded by an entire choir of angels.  The message was clear—“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (v. 2:11)  The choir went on to sing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (v. 2:14)

e_CES2439It is in Matthew’s Gospel that we learn about the Wise Men.  These individuals (we actually have no idea for sure how many there were) may well have been astrologers.  They weren’t watching sheep.  No, their eyes stayed focused much higher.  Long before there were telescopes these individuals paid careful attention to the movement of the stars and planets.  They believed that there was much to be learned by doing so.  After watching the night sky for some time they came to the conclusion that God was sending them a message.  Though they were from the East they felt led to follow the path of the heavenly light westward.  Matthew says when they arrived in Jerusalem quite some time later they asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (v. 2:2)  Once again, we see that God spoke to a group of people as they focused on an element of nature, the stars.

The author of the daily devotion mentioned above raised the question, what are we watching these days?  That is a good question.  Perhaps we are watching our favorite Christmas program on television.  Maybe it’s a band marching in our town’s annual Christmas parade.  This time of year a lot of people like to get out and look at the Christmas lights and decorations others have put up. Others will watch their children or professional actors perform A Christmas Carol or The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever.  A few days ago my wife and I went to watch (and hear) a Jim Brickman Christmas concert and even more recently a Holiday Pops performance by the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra.  When it comes to watching there’s no shortage of options this time of year.

baby-sheep-2Bridgeman went on to say that paying attention to all these things does not necessarily help her keep her focus on Jesus.  In fact, she said much of it turns out to be a distraction.  Because of this, she said she decided to do something different.  She says, “Each evening I walk out my back door, and taking a cue from the Wise Men, scan the December sky for the brightest object—Sirius, the Dog Star.  I watch it for a few moments, and not only do I feel connected to that first Christmas, but it’s time each night to focus my heart on the One at the center of it all.”

I think that’s good advice.  In the midst of all the madness and noise that is associated with this season, perhaps now would be a great time to spend some precious moments out in nature watching the stars, sheep or whatever else might be handy.  God has a long history of speaking to those who watch and pay attention to His Creation.  Why should today be different?


(I took the top picture at John James Audubon State Park in Henderson, KY; the middle picture last night at Henderson Sloughs W.M.A., and the bottom one at a friend’s farm in Virginia.)