In the Deepening Silence

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As the days countdown to Christ's birth, we Heart Matters gals thought that the best gift we could give you is some time set apart with Jesus. This quiet time experience Julie Miller has written is really the gift that Ignatius of Loyola left for us as one of his many legacies. Ignatius loved God's Word and approached it uniquely. Rather than read the word to fill in blanks on a page, he stepped into it as if he were living the stories out.

 So, in the words of Frederick Buechner...

 

 We really can’t hear what the stories of the Bible are saying until we hear them as stories about ourselves. We have to imagine our way into them.
~Frederick Buechner

 

 May you be blessed as you sit with the Savior today...

  


Today I invite you to imagine yourself up in the hill country near Bethlehem where only weary shepherds trod with their sheep. It’s a lonely place. Especially at night with only the stars for companions…and predators who remain hidden out of view. 

It may take a certain amount of creativity and imagination on your part, but, you will be blessed if you allow the Spirit of the Living God to move how and where He wishes during this prayer experience. There is no right or wrong way to do this. So, set the Spirit free and breathe in what God has for you today. 

A. To get the gist of what is happening in this passage, begin by reading through the passage slowly. It is printed at the bottom of this devotional. 

B. It may help you to enter the story more fully by prayerfully breaking the passage down into smaller sections. Listen for the Spirits whisper to your heart. Stop wherever or whenever you feel the Savior wanting to dialogue with you further about a passage. Then, journal whatever you sense the Spirit is stirring in you.

If it proves helpful, you may want to use the following as a guide.

Take some time to sit with the following verse:

8 There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. 

Using all your senses describe what you might be experiencing in the deepening darkness. What might you hear, see, smell and taste throughout the long hours in silence. What senses sharpen? Jot your thoughts in a journal.

To keep watch all night long you must remain vigilant, attentive, alert, and focused. Hours pass slowly. How do you stay awake and observant?

C. Read verse 9 again.  

It wasn’t during the busy hubbub of the day that God appeared to these ordinary shepherds. It was in the quiet stillness of the night. When is the best time for God to get your attention?

Only in silence is one’s heart ready to hear God’s.
Frederick Buechner

Imagine for a moment the sky suddenly bursting with light and the angel of the Lord appearing out of nowhere from deepest darkness. I can hardly imagine it, being a Western-minded, analytical American that I am. But, to really understand what the shepherds were feeling we must try to imagine the scene. And the startling terror.

Jot down any thoughts that come to mind in your journal. Has God ever jolted you awake? Has he ever startled you with a thought out of nowhere? 

D. Read verse 10. Imagine hearing those words in first person. They still ring as true today for us as they did for the shepherds. How do these sweet words minister to your heart… to your circumstances… today?

E. The startling terror that had once gripped them was quickly overcome by the grip of God’s love. Read verses 11-12. Can you imagine it? It wasn’t to kings or to the high priest this announcement was made. It was to lowly shepherds. And it was into this poverty that Jesus was born. Christ, the longed-for Messiah, wasn’t born a rich prince laid in a golden cradle, but, a poor little babe lying in a manger. What impact would that have had on those shepherds? What impact does it have on you today? 

F. Re-read verses 13-14.

It’s breathtaking, isn’t it? Sit with this for a moment and journal your thoughts.

Peace had come down to dwell with men forever. No matter the suffering, the fighting, the storms, the distress, nothing now could ever take from the lovers of God the gift of his peace. ~Elizabeth Goudge

G. Finally, read verse 15-17 and 20. Life would never be the same for those shepherds. Oh, their existence, shepherds as they were, would remain the same, but, their hearts had been changed forever. What might the Spirit be whispering to your heart as you ponder these verses in preparation for the holidays?

Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus, is your time on earth filled with glory.
―Betty Smith 


 8 There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them. They were terribly afraid, 10 but the angel said to them, “Fear not. Do not be afraid. I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. 11 This very day in David's town your Savior was born—Christ the Lord! 12 And this is what will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

13 Suddenly a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. 16 So they hurried off and found Mary, Joseph and the baby in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the good news concerning what they had been told about this child.

20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.”

Luke 2:8-17

Faithful
Attire of the Heart
 

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Julie has been inspiring children, youth, and women as a speaker, teacher, silent retreat leader, author and mentor for over 30 years. She was the Director of Women's Bible Studies at Eagle Brook Church, is a certified Spiritual Director and the owner of Heart Matters Publishing Company. She is an alumnus of Bethel University and Christos Center for Spiritual Formation. As an author she has written Bible Study Curriculum and Devotionals, including her latest collaboration, Whispers of God's Grace. Julie draws on her wide range of life experiences, humor and love of God's Word and His creation for her writing. When she is not writing, you will find her absorbed in a good book, puttering in her garden or dreaming of France. Julie and her husband, Rey, live in White Bear Lake, MN and are the parents of two grown sons, Erik and Kyle.

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