The Tumult and the Turn
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
- Luke 2:8-9
In almost every situation where angels appear, the people seeing them feel terrified. When the veil is pulled away and we encounter the supernatural, we freak out.
We don’t realize how locked into our expectations we are until they’re challenged. We’re unconscious to our traditions until we experience sudden or dramatic life-change or an encounter with someone who’s different from us. We’re normal. Life is normal. Until it’s not.
The path to the joy of Christmas may entail discomfort, sadness, and even terror. We wish it were otherwise. We wish our grip on “the normal” was looser and that we could move into joy without tumult. But, as the old saying goes, “wishes ain’t fishes or we’d fetch nets.”
The only way to avoid the tumult on the path to joy is to avoid joy altogether. To settle. To accept less than the life God wants for you. To see the glory of the Lord rend the night with brilliant light and turn back to the darkness.
To paraphrase NT Wright, when we’re surprised by difficulty or tumult or evil, we respond to it in unhealthy and immature ways. Knowing that you may encounter opportunities to be terrified on your path toward joy allows you to summon your courage and look to the Lord for strength to stay engaged.
Where have you experienced “terror” in your journey with God? What moves did you make to respond with courage and trust in those seasons? Where do you need the Lord to give you strength to keep pursuing joy this Christmas?