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     And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:20

Dear heavenly Father, life just on the other side of Christmas day feels quite different to different people. For some of us, this was the “greatest” Christmas ever, in terms of healthy, caring relationships; incredible “eats”; thoughtful gifts, both given and received; and above all, fresh gratitude for the indescribable gift of your Son, Jesus.

For others of us, it was a painful day; marked by palpable tensions, unmet longings, and inescapable brokenness. Still for others, it was the first Christmas with an empty chair where a loved one used to sit.

Father, my prayer today is for all of us—no matter what yesterday was like—rapture or rupture For even our best days are in need of the gospel, and none of our worst days are beyond the reach of the gospel.

When the shepherds left Jesus’ manger, they were still shepherds. They still couldn’t worship at the temple; they still couldn’t give testimony in a court of law; and many in their community still stereotyped them as a lawless and untrustworthy lot. Jesus’ birth wasn’t a magic pill.

Neither must we spiritualize Joseph and Mary’s experience the day after Jesus was born. A five-star inn in Bethlehem didn’t suddenly open its doors to the travel and birth-weary parents. Mary’s body wasn’t spared all the normal trauma and pain, of birthing and afterbirth. Angels didn’t start showing up as round-the-clock nurses.

Father, thank you, that as followers of Christ, we don’t have to pretend about anything. Christmas isn’t a season in which we’re supposed to be transported into a pain-numbing, circumstance-denying, super-spirituality. The gospel isn’t about make-believe; it’s about believing you and resting in your love, no matter what’s going on, in us or around us. We are grateful that the gospel makes us human, not super-human.

Father, grant us the same grace you gave the shepherds. Let us rejoice in the “good news of great joy”, even if we remain “shepherds” the rest of our lives in this world. We are confident that our Savior is making all things new, including us. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ faithful and loving name.


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Scotty Smith

Scotty Smith is the founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. You can follow him on Twitter.

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