By Stuart Powell
Note: This is week three of a four-week series of Communion meditations in which we consider essential features to the story of the birth of God’s Son. This week we focus on the shepherds.
Luke recorded surprisingly few details of what occurred in the stable on the day of Jesus’ birth. We might boil them down to these: Jesus was born, a feed trough was used as a cradle, and some excited shepherds arrived.
There are many reasons why we wouldn’t put either of the latter two incidents in a story about God’s Son.
We could use many words to describe the shepherds’ story: fear, wonder, urgency, worship. But the one word that probably best captures the shepherd’s story is transformed.
The dark night transformed into dazzling light. The shepherds’ fear transformed into unceasing hope. A group of undesirable shepherds transformedinto the first people to share God’s good news of great joy to everyone they met.
Jesus’ birth changed all of creation. The transformations that night in Bethlehem were just the beginning. Jesus’ death transformedrebels into saints, tyrants into servants, and murderers into evangelists. The Holy Spirit transformed pagan temples into houses of prayer and immoral cities into birthplaces of missionaries. Paul wrote,
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
Christianity is all about transformations. Jesus’ grace transforms each believer from a selfish sinner into a redeemed child of God. Even this Communion observance is an example of Jesus’ transformation. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus and his disciples entered the upper room to remember how Israel’s firstborn sons were spared from death as a prelude to deliverance from the slavery of Egypt. Jesus transformed the meaning of the bread and the cup into symbols of his body and blood, which ever since have served as reminders that God’s firstborn Son was not spared; instead, Jesus’ sacrifice offers deliverance of all humanity from the slavery of sin.
As you partake of these emblems, give thanks for the power of Jesus’ death that is transforming us.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.