Sunday, December 20, 2015

Close Encounters

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11, KJV)

Roy Neary is an ordinary, hard-working, blue-collar guy. He’s out in his truck in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, doing his job, trying to figure out the cause of a power outage. Suddenly, strange things start happening around him and he finds himself in some kind of blinding spotlight from above. The instruments on his dashboard are going haywire, things are flying all around the cab, and the world seems to be shaking itself apart at the seams.

After the light goes away and everything is calm once more, he finds that he has been left with not only a strange sunburn on half of his face, but also a five-note earworm that just won’t go away and a strange compulsion to sculpt cylindrical rock formations out of mashed potatoes. Then, he finds he is one of a number of people who just can’t stay away from a particular place in Wyoming.

Roy’s experience in Close Encounters of the Third Kind is currently shaping my mental image of a group of shepherds in the hills near first-century Bethlehem. They were out in the middle of the night, in the middle of the fields, doing their jobs, when suddenly they were in the spotlight. The sky was going crazy above them, with first one strange being talking to them and then many, many more singing all around them. I imagine that the angels left them dazed, and they must have jumped a mile the first time a sheep bleated in the darkness afterwards.

I imagine also that they had a glorious new earworm and the mental image of a family in a stable, and when they conferred with each other about this, clearly they could not resist the pull to go into town and check it out. They found the family, the baby in the manger, and then they told everyone they met about their close encounter.

My wish is that we may have a close encounter this Christmas. May our ears be filled with the singing of angels and our minds be fixated on the Savior, but most of all, may our feet be compelled to go look for him and may our lips not keep silent but spread the good news everywhere we go.