And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Faith is belief before sight. Faith is conviction about what God says before confirmation through what God shows. Our faith is tested, tried in fire. Peter writes that believers are priests and we know that God will purify the sons of Levi. He refines us like gold is refined. We each have our seasons of burning.
The testing necessarily includes some kind of disappointment. We hope things will go one way, we pray accordingly but the thing we didn't want prevails. The great thing is to be sure the disappointment is not degraded to the point of doubt or even despair, to the place where faith begins to break upon the rocks.
If nothing we ever learned from God's Word ever appeared to be true in our experience few of us would have remained Christians very long. But what God says about the world, about history, about the way people are as they abide in their respective spheres of belief and unbelief, is more than enough to shelter faith when the test comes. That and the overwhelming sense that, like the Hebrew children in Babylon, we are not alone in the furnace.
The elapsed time between what the Shepherds heard and what the Shepherds saw was short. The time was made even shorter because they made haste and searched out God's promises without delay. Not a bad model for ourselves.
We are not likely to be favored with a vision of angels. The privilege of the Shepherds was enormous. They worked in the right neighborhood at the right time. But they doubtless knew their trials in after-years. Perhaps trials which even made them doubt the reality or the relevance of what they saw that night.
But it WAS real.
And it remains eternally relevant.
The elapsed time in our own case will be longer for sure. But our prospect is just as sure.
Like them, we shall behold Him.
No longer lying in a manger but seated upon a throne.
The shepherds will be there too.
Still glorifying and praising God.
Merry Christmas from Memphis