"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" (Luke 2:8-9
A couple of years ago, during a children's Christmas pageant in our church preschool, the group of shepherds contained one child who stood out from the others. He was dressed—not in the traditional Shepherd robe and sandals—but in an Ironman costume, complete with helmet and plastic-armor. At first, people were stunned by this juxtaposition of time and culture; but as the pageant wore on, and as parents squirmed in their seats, the imagery of the Ironman among the angels and shepherds didn't seem so odd.
I wonder if those first shepherds, in fact, didn't experience the angels as something akin to a being from another world? Was their appearance different? Were they beyond the comprehension of the earthly shepherds? Evidently! The shepherds retreated in fear at the sight of the angels.
This little boy helped bridge the historical and social gaps of the gospel story. Instead of offering us smug and familiar images of the angelic host, he gave us a jolting reminder of a protector, a friend, an envoy sent to watch over us.
There is much glory in Christmas, of course. It is the glory of those traditions and sights and smells that remind us of the gifts of God's love, of friendship and light. The shepherds watched their flocks, but God is watching over us as represented by the angels. This is the glory that shines around us.
During this season of light, our youth ministries can shine, too. The love we show may be the light that helps others recognize the appearance of God. We don't have to wear any special costumes to be effective. Rather, we try to embody the love of Christ and help our teenagers do the same. We don't have to be bastions of strength. We can be humble, caring and transparent. That is exactly how God is made known.