Advent Reading Day 13 – The Power of Testimony

“16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2

There is nothing quite like a perfect meal to make me a satisfied customer who wants to tell everyone.  Recently we had friends take us to quite easily the best burger restaurant in all of Ethiopia.  Now, there’s not much that I miss about America, but the one thing is a good burger.  Most of the burgers are dry, crunchy, meat mixed with breadcrumbs that has a strange taste that attempts are made to cover up with spices…but then we made our way to Sishu Restaurant.   For me to say that the taste of beef caused my taste buds to explode would definitely not be an overstatement.   The collective groaning of “Oh man, Oh man” around the table was a bit embarrassing, yet we didn’t hold back.  We had found the holy oasis for burgers in Addis and we weren’t afraid to savor it and then begin spreading the news.

The funny thing about the restaurant is that it is totally hidden.  There is no signage.  It is on a back alley.  It is in a two story house.  No advertising.  No glossy menus – (their menus are typed in black ink on a white piece of copy paper).  They are relying on the one type of marketing that continues to work today in a slick Madison Avenue world – satisfied customers who have an incredible experience and then aren’t afraid to tell their friends.  And, when they tell their friends they will go to painstaking detail to describe how to get there, what to expect and then hope and pray that their friends have the same experience when they visit.

I think about the shepherds out on that hillside the night that the news came.   They had been eating a pretty bland spiritual diet for a long time – waiting for a promise to be fulfilled yet as they looked around them they just saw the usual problems and the lack of solutions to the world.  There was a lack of hope because the delay just seemed to be way too long when the world was falling apart.   The Roman empire was growing, yet the Kingdom of God seemed to be on hold and shrinking…

Then, into that stale, ordinary, troubled night comes this incredible news that The Baby has arrived – The One who would change everything.   There was hope.  There was life.     So, they make their way to the manger.  I love the way that Matthew records that they hurried to the manger.  There seems to be some excitement and rushing in his choice of words.   This was not a meandering to meet The Messiah, rather I tend to think of it as a lets drop everything and speed there, rush there, run there – The One we have been hoping for has arrived.   After all if a choir of angels had just appeared to you and scared your pants off, do you think you are going to make it to the manger whenever you get around to it?  I bet not.

Now, we read, “ When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”  I wonder if they left that night saying, “Oh man, Oh man…this is the best news ever in an embarrassing sort of way.”  They certainly went and told people about The One they had seen and the events of that night tucked away in a manger in a cave down a back alley of Bethlehem.   The anticipation and waiting had found its fullness in an obscure location without a sign, no spotlights (okay, so there was a Star, but that drew a different group from much further away), no public service announcement (there was the angel choir but the shepherds are the only ones we read about having been the beneficiaries of that visitation), no glossy posters…rather just the testimony of some group of shepherds who had seen and heard the unbelievable.   Just some satisfied shepherds who couldn’t wait to tell their friends and invite them to consider that The Messiah had arrived.  They couldn’t keep quiet…they had to share what they had seen and heard.

I am convinced that this is still the way that people consider following Jesus today.  I love technology and print and websites and media…and I think that it all serves a purpose in our Madison Avenue world today.  Yet, when we boil it all down, those who come to follow Jesus typically make their way because someone else has told them about how amazing Jesus is and the change He has made in their life.   Anyone can be glitzy and glossy, but when the words come out of our mouths and are backed up by true life transformation, then it becomes tangible and real to people and they consider not a religion, but a lifestyle.  A satisfied customer’s testimony carries a great weight.  The shepherds friends listened to their experience that night…and those around us who trust us many times will listen to those authentic experiences that we have, too.

In reading this passage, I have become convinced that I keep my mouth shut way too often.  I will go to painstaking lengths to make sure that foreigners know the best burger place in Ethiopia, but I am too quiet when it comes to sharing about the Life Giver, The Messiah, The One whom the shepherds encountered and changed everything.   It is something that I need to repent of, because I think it is sin.  Maybe you find yourself in the same place.

This Advent season, may we start by encountering The King and then go out from that encounter fully convinced that this truly is The Best News that could be shared with our words and our lives in all of history, and the only News that truly satisfies what we hunger for.  The best burger in Ethiopia has nothing on the One who truly satisfies.

Prayer: Jesus,  Thank you for coming.   Thank you for sharing the news first with those simple shepherds who were on the fringes of society.  You picked interesting sources, yet ones who listened and looked and then had to tell everyone about you.  I pray that you would break through my guards and my walls and my complexities that too often leave me in a position of keeping quiet when I could be pointing the way to You.  Draw me in to the place of encounter with You where I leave satisfied by the fullness of who you are and ready to point others to You as the only one who truly satisfies.  Amen.

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