Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Can Have Uncertainty

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me”
Psalm 23:4

No one goes to Colorado for the valleys. Vale and Aspen owe their wealth to mountains, not valleys. Tourists don’t pay exorbitant sums of money to ascend Pike’s Valley, it’s Pike’s Peak they want to scale. We all know the view from the mountains is spectacularly breath-taking.

And through the pathway of life, we like the mountains as well. When we can see clearly and the air is fresh and the wind is blowing and we sense refreshment, grandeur, calm, power—this is to what we aspire. But snaking our way through the dark valleys is a journey anyone would rather skip.

The Christmas cast of the New Testament gospels knew valleys well. Simeon the priest saw Roman guards on the street corners on his way to work at the Temple. Every day he kept hoping for the Messiah. Every night he went home disappointed. And the shepherds? No doubt they often heard music from the parties of Bethlehem, but society had taught them well their status in life. Ostracized and outcast, they watched others dance and heard about the great events in the cities, they trudged to their lonely hillsides to spend yet another night with sheep, while others in the world made merry with friends.

The wise men too, those magi from the East, were encumbered with a culture of political chaos. They grew tired and impatient with incompetent leaders who made promises they never kept. Joseph was a blue collar worker who struggled with making a living. After paying high taxes to Caesar Augustus, he tried to figure out how to set aside a little extra for his family. There never seemed to be enough money. And Mary? I’m sure the changes she was feeling inside her were very frightening. Even more frightening was the appearance of an angel who told her what she was feeling was pregnancy—via the Holy Spirit! Try telling that to a chauvinistic Jewish population. She was plummeted into a valley overnight.

But none of those folks stayed in the valley. Read just a couple of chapters of the gospels and you’ll quickly discover that an encounter with Jesus pulled these folks out of their valley and moved them to a mountaintop.

It’s the same today. Some of you are in a valley. Call it loneliness, hurt, disappointment, sin, financial uncertainty, job insecurity or whatever label you choose. Maybe you’re there. Smack dab in the middle of a valley. Some situation that stinks. Some event you’re not sure you can face another day. But do you remember the words of today’s Scripture reading “The Lord is my shepherd”? The baby in the manger became our Shepherd who is always with us, who will guide us through dark, uncertain valleys.

This Christmas remember His presence. There’s no need for fear, because He is with You. In crowded lines at Wal-mart and candlelight worship services, our Shepherd is with us!