Urgency = “Importance requiring swift action.”
Understatement = “The presentation of something as being smaller, or worse, or less important than it actually is.”
“Brent, we need to go to the hospital…
Let me back up.
It was 1991 and Tracy was a couple of weeks in front of the due date for Kid1. We’d just spent Labor Day with her folks eating BBQ and deflecting a barrage of jokes about going into labor on Labor Day. We were tired so we decided to skip making sure we had enough gas in the tank even though the dashboard gas pump was on.
Before bedtime, I’d told her not to wake me up with jokes about being in labor on Labor Day because I had a busy work day ahead and wanted to get rest. Since about week 36 she’d been sleeping in our den on the most comfortable couch we ever owned since we had a full-sized bed at the time as well as a full-sized Black Lab at that time. Don’t judge me or us.
Anyway, Tracy woke me up on Labor Day +1 at 2am with the quote above. Water broken. Contractions timed. Doctors had contacted. My heart rate went from resting to 120-ish faster than any other time in my life.
The word I’m looking for is URGENCY.
She told me I had enough time to get gas for the car while waiting on the doctor to call back with further instructions. Did that and apparently the guy with 16 years of college the seemed to think that contractions starting at about three minutes apart meant to get to the hospital with…
…the word I’m looking for is…
We ran red lights. We broke speed limits. We got there in record time.
Now, we’d had well over seven months to prepare for this. From the pregnancy test to telling the family to baby showers to cravings to name choosing sessions to packing a bag to breathing classes and the whole deal, well, we were just going about our lives. Going to jobs. Eating dinner. Going on dates. Visiting family. All that stuff. Even though we knew the baby would be here mid-Septemberish, we were living our lives waiting for the imminent, inevitable life-altering event.
But then the contractions started and things got fast and chaotic and real…and after that trip to the hospital Tracy and I were more than just Tracy and I (and well, Buford the Black Lab).
That sense of urgency is how I think of Mary and Joseph and the no room for them at the inn and in that stable around back on that night we all read about. I don’t envision that event like the “silent night/holy night/all is calm” nonsense with cattle being all silent and halos around babies and beautifully smiling Mary and Joseph. I have no idea how that picture came from a reading of Luke 2.
Verse 7 gives us an incredible understatement: She gave birth.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a labor & delivery situation, but when the day starts after about two hours of sleep and water breaking and fast and chaos and all that…followed by 18 hours of labor and delivery, well, yes…my wife gave birth. She was a mixture of sweat and surgical procedure and pain and beauty and exhausted smile and wanting sustenance beyond ice chips. The contractions started and things got fast and chaotic and real. That backstory about a maiden giving birth gave Mary a lot to think about.
Then in verse 9, we see the shepherds, who, if my research is correct, are teenagers. Likely some young women among them. Unclean by religious standards. Just going about their business of wrangling and protecting the animals at night who get interrupted by…
…A heavenly host of singing angels.
See, I’ve heard that song “Angels We Have Heard On High” sung a lot around this time of year. Usually some large choir with majestic sound in a big opera house elongating the “In Excelsis Deo” chorus. But that’s not how I understand that song. Nope. Not at all.
The event being described was urgent. Fast. Chaos. A word from God after 400 years of silence? Are you kidding? A punk band singing it is how it should be done. May I recommend the band Bad Religion and their version of it? Go ahead. I’ll wait:
Or, if you’re more into alternative college rock sound, how about Lost and Found on their Christmas album? Go ahead. I’ll wait.
These are just a couple of ways this song should be sung, man. Fast. Loud. Lotta motion. Unbridled joy. Silent? All is calm? Not a chance.
They know Israel’s seven centuries of waiting is over. Even better, the four centuries where no prophetic word from God had happened is over. The silence is broken. The Messiah has come. The hope has turned to reality. The imminent, inevitable event has happened. And, oh, by the way, you’ll find him a couple of miles away in a manger.
Another understatement: “Let’s go see this event…”
They have news. Good news. For all the world. This despised class of young people had some information they needed to communicate…and I’m guessing the angels assumed they’d be taking a field trip since they gave specific instructions on precisely how they’d know they found the right baby. The word I’m looking for is urgency.
They had to go roughly 2-3 miles and I can’t imagine that it was a quiet stroll. If you have ever worked with young people who are excited, well, quiet and stroll aren’t really a part of that equation. My guess is they covered that distance in a half-hour at most, rolling through town with abandon trying to find the location. The word I’m looking for is urgency.
Another understatement: “When they saw him, they related what they had been told…”
Again, the word I’m looking for is URGENCY.
Lotta motion. Lotta noise. Busting in on an exhausted teenage mom. Talking over one another with their own version of the story…
Which, I’m sure gave Mary another reminder that she’s not crazy no matter what the townspeople think. Virgin birth. She knows what she knows but she likely was aware that folks weren’t buying her version of what she knows. She treasures these words in her heart. Teenagers get each other.
And then one final understatement: The shepherds went back. Glorifying and praising God for what they had seen and heard.
My guess is that you can’t go back and tend sheep the same way you did a few hours ago. The world looks different now. Feels different now. The world is different now. God became a person and moved into the neighborhood.
Silence becomes urgent.
Understatements become reality.
Ponder this in your heart…because we all have to go back and tend our sheep. And if we are living our lives the same way we were before we experienced the fast, loud, chaos of God moving into our neighborhood…
…we miss what it means to truly live while in the now and not yet. There will be another fast and furious and chaotic and imminent and inevitable life-altering event. And that in and of itself is an understatement.