Miraculous Encounters: A Reflection for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus
By Rev. Sally Carlson
Daily Lectionary reading: Numbers 6:22-27, Psalm 8, Galatians 4:4-7, Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 2:15-21
Selected passage for reflection: Luke 2:15-21
Luke 2:15-21 The Message
15-18 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the shepherds 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 shepherds were impressed.
19-20 Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The shepherds 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!
21 When the eighth day arrived, the day of circumcision, the child was named Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived.
I love the shepherds. The shepherds have become some of my favourite characters in the story of Jesus’ birth. I think I like them so much because they are just normal, everyday guys out at work. They are just who they seem. On my first visit to Palestine, I was able to see many shepherds with their flocks throughout the Bethlehem area - both in the country the city. Nothing like walking around Bethlehem and having to move to the side for a shepherd guiding his animals around cars and trucks! Now when I read this passage I can see the Shepherd’s Field and imagine these folks out with their sheep and goats. In my mind’s eye I can see them surprised by an angel choir that appears to them in the quiet of their field.
I am struck by the amount of enthusiasm the shepherds have from hearing the news. It’s not every day that one hears an angel choir, and the action that follows is immediate. They talked it over, and said “Let’s go!’ and they left, running! They didn’t sleep on it or check in with others first, they just ran to see Jesus. I am an Enneagram 9 who hardly ever reacts immediately to anything. I ponder things from all sides, get insight from about a million different people, and even then have a hard time making a decision. I like to think that seeing an angel choir would move me to immediate action, but I am not so sure!
What they encountered in that manger was indeed what the angels had proclaimed. Their enthusiasm didn’t wane, but instead was boosted by their encounter with Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. They told everyone they met about what they had seen. God had, indeed, entered our world as a weak, tiny human - he had put on skin and moved into the neighbourhood! Again, the shepherds didn’t discuss it to death. They didn’t look to the experts for their advice or confirmation - they believed what they had seen with their own eyes. They had encountered Jesus in a very real way and couldn’t keep it to themselves! This is just the beginning of the unfolding story of ordinary lives being transformed by encounters with Jesus. Ordinary people without power, privilege, or prestige, hearing about this Jesus, running to him, and worshiping him with excitement and abandon. Our world doesn’t always understand this irrational, seemingly unbelievable faith that we have - this trust we have in Jesus who lived long ago and is alive today. Can we be as confident in what has been proclaimed to us as the shepherds were about what was proclaimed to them? Can I drop everything and run to Jesus, even when there isn’t an angel choir announcing his presence? What does it mean for us, today, to see and hear the revelation of Christ in our midst and lean in to what our world finds unbelievable?
The shepherds experienced the miraculous in their encounters with the angel choir and with Jesus Himself. Think back on the last month… Did you have any miraculous encounters with Jesus? Did you encounter him in any ways that were unexpected? What was your reaction when they happened? What emotions or feelings did you experience? Take a few moments to think on or journal about your experience, and maybe think about sharing it with someone else as the shepherds did.
Jesus, Immanuel, name above all names, like the shepherds long ago, we praise you for who you are and all that you have done and will do. Open our eyes to the miracles around us and remind us of your constant presence with us. By the power of your Holy Spirit may we encounter you in the everyday moments and see you at work in our lives and in the world around us. Empower us to proclaim the hope that we have in you and fill us with joy as we follow you. We praise you, Immanuel! Amen
About the Author
Sally Carlson serves as associate pastor at Shoreline Covenant Church in Shoreline, WA. She loves reading, the outdoors, hotdish (she’s from MN!) and a good cup of coffee! Sally especially loves walking with people as they walk with Jesus. Sally lives in Shoreline, WA with her husband, Daniel.