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Heading Home After Holy Moments

This Sunday, just before we left for church, my daughter stopped me as I passed through the living room.

"Look," she said. "The shepherds are headed home."

I followed her waved out, game-show-hostess arm and saw what she was talking about: the nativity. In our house—as in many—the crèche in our living room gets a lot of action during Christmas. The characters get rearranged. They fall off tables. I dig Baby Jesus—snug in his hay-filled manager—out from under the sofa a lot. And sometimes, if they are lucky, the nativity folks get a visit from others: Barbie or Freddie, the Little People mechanic might pop in to say hey.

But, since Christmas was over, my daughter thought it was high time the shepherds get rolling. My girl had turned all the shepherds away from the Jesus, Mary and Joseph and had moved them clear across the table.

Headed home. Of course.

How long could the shepherds stay and admire the baby?

No matter how wondrous he was. No matter how holy and precious. They had jobs to do. Sheep to tend. Perhaps babies of their own to cradle.

Every year when I read or hear the "Christmas Story," I pick up new never-before-thought-of nuggets. This year, it was the shepherds headed home.

I'd heard talk of the lives of the shepherds and wise men being "forever changed" and all that, but really, I had never thought of the moment that they turned to leave Jesus. When they had to say goodbye to their Messiah.

Until that morning, I'd never given any thought to whether it was hard for the shepherds to leave or if it was clear that they were starting to over-stay their welcome, running out of things to talk about with Joseph as Mary slept. I'd never wondered if they teared up as they left. If they lingered a bit. And I'd never given any thought to what they talked about as they headed back to the fields, their sheepdogs barking alongside them.

Did they question? Did they doubt? Did they start to second-guess what they saw that night? The glorias they heard?

Were their lives really all that changed? Did they resolve to live differently now that rocked and cooed the Son of God? Would they forever heed the angel's commands and live life without fear?

Who knows. And I don't know, actually, that it's important that we know the answers to those questions. While certainly it would be interesting to have more detailed biographies on those men, what really matters is how we live when we leave those "holy moments" and head back into real life.

While we might not have the same sort of encounters the shepherds did, as Christians, I hope we've all had our holy moments, our "spiritual highs." The times when God feels particularly close, nestled in. The times when our skin tingles with the glories of God.

And as church leaders, we not only spend a lot of time with people in their spiritual highs, but we try to orchestrate them.

So I guess what the shepherds headed home has made me wonder is that we do when we're headed home. And how do we prepare ourselves and others for the journey back to regular life after such high and glorious moments with God?

What are your thoughts?

December29, 2010 at 12:56 PM

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