by Steve Mangle
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15
When I was 10 years old, I was as excited for Christmas morning as I had ever remembered. I’m not sure now, as I look back, what got me so excited for the morning to come. Maybe it was because I asked Santa for a baseball mitt in a letter I wrote him. Maybe I had been extra good that year and thought my attention to good deeds would bring me a bigger stack of presents. What I do remember is how confused, even dumb-founded I felt when I rushed to the tree Christmas morning and found my name on a ‘Merry Christmas’ tag attached to a small guitar. My mother asked “What do you think?” I couldn’t figure out how to describe the gift I saw sitting there under the tree or how I felt about getting it. I didn’t get what I expected, and though I knew what a guitar was, I was a piano player. I was without words. The moment was…indescribable.
Ponder the announcement from the angel to lowly shepherds on the hillside in Luke 2:11-12. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Here in the middle of the night, when the sheep were tucked together keeping warm, and the shepherds had themselves resolved that another night like always was upon them, the skies suddenly opened up. Reading on, Luke 2:15 says “So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.'” It was a reasonable decision to go, whether compelled because of what they witnessed, or by curiosity. Luke goes on in verses 16-18: "And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”
After verifying that what was announced by the angel had indeed taken place, the shepherds then told anyone and everyone who’d listen what they had heard from the angel concerning the Child. And what was the response by those who heard it from the shepherds? Luke tells us that all who heard it marveled at it. What does it mean to marvel at something? It means that they were amazed, surprised, filled with wonder, maybe even stood in awe. What were the people filled with wonder about; what did they stand in awe of? Well, how about that the Savior prophesied long ago was…a Baby? How about that the birthplace of the Savior was… Bethlehem? That an angel announced the news? That the angel told lowly shepherds? That a multitude of angels rang out the loud praise ‘Glory to God in the Highest,” and the only ones with a front row seat were those same shepherds?
How would you and I have responded to that announcement? How would you have reacted when you went to the barn and saw the newborn baby boy? Today, we know powerful truths about Jesus Christ: that He is Eternal God, and that He is fully man; that He is the Eternal Judge, and that He lived on earth like us, even enduring every kind of temptation as we, but never sinned; that He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, yet humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross, for the payment of our sins. The shepherds? They didn’t know these things when they stood in awe and wonder at the manger of the Baby Jesus. Yet they glorified and praised God, and we as well give thanks to God for His indescribable gift.
And what about that guitar I received Christmas morning? Well, by age sixteen, I had learned enough guitar chords to play reasonably well, and it finally made sense. I couldn’t describe the gift of a guitar at ten years old, but what I had received led to many youth camp nights praising God with a guitar around the campfire. Besides, there was no way to sling a piano over my shoulder.