It was 2 am according to the clock. Insomnia was stealing sleep as usual.
I lay quietly thinking, alternately restlessly wriggling and praying.
A few words whispered their way into my head. Became embedded in the place where poetry is birthed.
And as I mulled over them I thought back (via my imagination) to another night, over 2000 years ago.
To a hillside, bleak and stark against the sky, where shepherds gathered in the dark, leaning on their crooks, stamping feet and blowing on hands to keep warm in a night devoid of heat.
No 24/7 neon-lit, constant-buzz-of-activity night for them. All was dark. All was still.
They huddled under a blanket of stars, wrapped in a cloak of inky blackness. Struggling to stay awake just as I so often struggle to sleep.
They kept watch over their sheep, a beady eye looking out for predators, routinely counting woolly heads and soothed by soft bleating sounds. Ready to rescue as necessary.
Would they have had any awareness of the greatest rescue mission of them all about to unfold that night?
I wondered if they might have an inkling etched into their consciousness.
A sense of occasion. A sea-change in history. An encounter with Mystery.
A glimmer of the blinding light about to erupt around them.
An awakening to wonder at which they would become ring-side participants.
A new birth – not of a lamb as they knew it but of the Lamb of God – our servant-King, the coming Christ-child.
As midwives themselves to the sheep in their care, did they take it all in their stride as they saw the babe in the manger?
Or did the fear and terror of sudden Divine illumination breaking through their night vigil (and their usual nocturnal ruminations) remove all natural reactions?
We don’t fully know. Fear was there but wonder sat beside it as it always does in our encounters with God.
An angel visitation shook and astonished them. They were unprepared and overawed.
And able to marvel and rejoice as comprehension gradually came.
These are the initial poetic words that came to me in the early am:
“There’s a waiting, dawning wonder
A deepening, yearning hunger
Earth is at rest
She holds her breath”
They mark the very beginning of the shepherds’ story, of a demarcation in the sands of time, of God’s intervention in human history, now changing with the unfolding of His Story.
Then God stirred me again and these thoughts came as He whispered close:
“I come for the humble.
I come for the lowly.
For those with an ear to the ground.
For those who search high in the heavens.
I come to every heart that will give Me room.
I come to bring Light, hope, joy and peace.
To shine in your darkness.
To fill and flood your very being.
To give you a new heart and a fresh start.
Watch and wait, and wonder.
Your King is coming again to rule and reign”
In coming first to shepherds, not kings, God reveals His willingness to meet with us right where we are in our daily soil and toil, to offer holy moments in the mundane.
And it gives a glimpse into how Jesus, the babe in the manger, became the Chief Shepherd of our souls, the One to lead us beside quiet waters and give us rest.
God’s seeking heart chases after and captures our hearts long before we run to Him.
An expectant hopeful, faith-filled heart will have an encounter with the living God, one way or another. Of that we can be sure. He longs for us to be in relationship with Him.
Even to the extent of whispering words to us in the midnight hours!
Thank you for joining me on my journey of Awakening to Advent. I hope and pray it will be a blessing to you.
**How are you awakening to wonder in this season? I’d love to hear your stories. Please feel free to share them in the comments below**