A few Sundays ago, I came to see the Christmas story in a new light.
My sister sent me a page from her daily devotional guide written by Gina Bridgeman, who pointed out that key players in the Christmas story were actually focused on elements of nature when they were presented with the good news of Jesus’ birth.
In Luke’s Gospel, we are told that there were shepherds out in the field that night keeping watch over their sheep.
It was while they were caring for their sheep that this particular group of shepherds were visited by an angelic messenger and then serenaded by an entire choir of angels.
The message was clear: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). The choir went on to sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests!” (Luke 2:14)
In Matthew’s Gospel, we learn about the wise men. These individuals – we actually have no idea how many there were – may well have been astrologers. They weren’t watching sheep. No, their eyes stayed focused much higher.
Long before there were telescopes, these individuals paid careful attention to the movement of the stars and planets. They believed that there was much to be learned by doing so.
After watching the night sky for some time, they came to the conclusion that God was sending them a message. Though they were from the East, they felt led to follow the path of the heavenly light westward.
Matthew says that when they arrived in Jerusalem quite some time later, they asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).
Once again, we see that God spoke to a group of people as they focused on an element of nature – the stars.
In light of these narratives, Bridgeman raised the question, “What are we watching these days?”
Perhaps we are watching our favorite Christmas program on television. Maybe it’s a band marching in our town’s annual Christmas parade.
This time of year a lot of people like to get out and look at the Christmas lights and decorations others have put up.
Others will watch their children or professional actors perform “A Christmas Carol” or “The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever.”
A few days ago, my wife and I went to watch (and hear) a Jim Brickman Christmas concert and, even more recently, a Holiday Pops performance by a local symphony orchestra.
When it comes to watching, there’s no shortage of options this time of year.
Bridgeman went on to say that paying attention to all these things does not necessarily help keep her focus on Jesus.
In fact, she said, much of it turns out to be a distraction. Because of this, she shared that she decided to do something different this year.
“Each evening I walk out my back door, and taking a cue from the Wise Men, scan the December sky for the brightest object – Sirius, the Dog Star,” Bridgeman wrote. “I watch it for a few moments, and not only do I feel connected to that first Christmas, but it’s time each night to focus my heart on the One at the center of it all.”
I think that’s good advice. Amid all the madness and noise that is associated with this season, perhaps now would be a great time to spend some precious moments out in nature watching the stars, sheep or whatever else might be handy.
God has a long history of speaking to those who watch and pay attention to his creation. Why should today be different?
Chuck Summers is a pastor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Henderson, Ky. He is also a photographer whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines and calendars, and he has published three photography books. A version of this article first appeared on Seeing Creation, a blog Summers co-authors with Rob Sheppard, and is used with permission.