• Allison Pelyhes

Upon reading Luke’s gospel (Luke 2:1-14, (15-20) in preparation for today, I knew I wanted to pay close attention to Mary as this was her moment where she would birth the Messiah into the world. After months of holding this child, the prince of peace would come through her. A great relief, I’m sure, to the mother whose back was sore from riding on a donkey and body tired from carrying the baby for so long.

Imagine my frustration when she gets only one line in Luke’s telling of the story: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

And it was so. Just as quickly as God says, “let there be light”. And it was very good.

It is important, however, to recognize who the author of Luke does spend time focusing on: Shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night (Luke 2:8).

So, I began to ponder these shepherds. History of scripture tells us the role of the shepherd is misjudged by all outside of the Israelites. To walk with the dirty animals and sit close to the soil, to labor outside of the city with no attention paid at all to you, and work on your feet all day. All these roles were so foreign to the “good life” of the esteemed and high citizens of the city.

And yet, I believe, that the shepherds knew how precious their sheep were to the people of Israel. They treated them as holy sacrifices which brought God near to them and kept the people in God’s favor. Of course, we know now the concept of the “good shepherd”. As the prophet Micah foretold, out of the clans of Judah would be a ruler over Israel and He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord. Perhaps the shepherds hadn’t quite connected those dots, but they knew their job well. As Phillip Keller wrote, “Under one man sheep would struggle, starve and suffer endless hardship. In another’s care they would flourish and thrive contentedly.” This was the role of the shepherd: to draw the sheep near and guide them as a flock.

And so, they were outside the town of Bethlehem, burning the midnight oil. Devoted to their role, honorable in their service, and sturdy in their steps. Imagine how quickly their knees weakened when the angel arrived and drew them near. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord." (Luke 2:10-12).

The angel invites the shepherds into the great news of God. A Savior, the Messiah, the Lord is for them. And as if to draw the shepherds themselves into heaven with them, “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" (Luke 2:13-14)

There was no dispute, the shepherds would go. Suddenly they found themselves becoming the flock, to draw near to where the angel led them. They went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger (Luke 2:16). Perhaps, the Shepherds knew this stable having just this morning taken the sheep from there. Perhaps, they knew the trough that they found the child laying in because they had filled it time and time again with food for the animals. Perhaps, this is my imagination, and this was their first time in this spot.

Regardless, they drew near to the newborn laying there, and “when they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child” (Luke 2:17). Suddenly, they become aware of Emmanuel, God with us. God nearer to them than ever before. They know how precious this child of Mary’s is without dispute. These shepherds embrace this moment of God being so close. Soaking in the baby from head to toe to create a permanent picture in their mind. Repeating the story to the young couple in the stable of the heavenly host exulting and praising God. Their work, a pattern of protecting their sheep, now changed to ushering in the last sheep. The sheep who would become the shepherd.

And so “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:20). Rather than keeping it to themselves, they know and recognize the great joy a shepherd can offer to a flock when they share great hope that came in Christ that day. They draw others near to share in the hope, the love, the joy, and the faith. Knowing that though the story has only just begun this news means God is closer than ever and peace is among them.

My friends, for some of us this Christmas is more isolated than ever. In fact, I’m finishing up this blog listening to the rain on my roof from my bed alone in my apartment. I’m wondering if this spoils our candlelight service tonight. I’m wishing for snow and family and normalcy. And even still, with water falling from above and in my loneliness, God is drawing me near. May we as a flock recognize this great news and greet it with great joy. Even just for a moment, let us allow ourselves to draw near to God and then to one another in whatever form we can.

And, yes, Mary still shows up in this story reminding us of what posture Christmas Eve should bring us. When we hear this nativity story, may we be like the shepherd and may we be like Mary who “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19). God is near. And God is drawing you closer this day through Christ. Amen.


When I read the Isaiah passage for the third Sunday of Advent, I knew that this was going to be my blog to write. Isaiah says that the heartbroken and the mourners will be the ones to rebuild, restore, and renew what was once devastated.

Let me say that again. The heartbroken and the mourners will be the ones to rebuild, restore, and renew what was once devastated.

Covid has wrought much devastation this year, and has in every way unmasked all kinds of pain that has been around for even longer. A few months ago I was dealing with my own, and I wrote this poem to God:

All my emotions

out here on the floor

for You

Can you handle me?

Can you handle our world?

Can you really be Lord

over all this?

All this mess

All this pain

Who is to blame

We are sick

and poor

and hungry

and lost

and anxious

and scared

and mad

and I want to

hold it together

but I need

the stability I never had

I need a home that’s mine forever

I need a family that never leaves me

Is it too much to ask?

You found me when I didn’t have a lot

And I found you

And you protected me

Did you?

Did you protect me?

Did you preserve me?

Did you hold together

the blood and veins and love

you knit and formed

in my mother’s womb

Redemption isn’t becoming new

It’s recovering


to the Beloved children we always were

the Beloved first laugh

they will never take away

Friends, if there is anything that I hope you take with you from Isaiah and from my poem, it is that God has not forsaken you. He has not forsaken me. In all of our devastation we will wear crowns of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. We will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. This good news story of Christmas belongs to us, and it is the one thing that will never be taken away.

(Accompanying scripture= Isaiah 61, 1-4)

  • David Gaddy

A former student recently decided to move away from her small town, having saved up money, gotten a great deal on a used car, and accepted into a college program. Of course, doing this in the midst of a pandemic. However, there was peace in her decision. She felt prepared, she had a plan, and she needed to leave her town behind. However, she did not plan on hitting rock bottom. Her car broke down. Her job did not transfer. The college program was not what she was expecting. The peace she had of new beginnings progressively evaporated and began to find herself without money or a sense of direction. No money meant no food. This student has helped with ministry organizations before but never thought she might lean into one. However, for four months, she leaned into the help of a food pantry while trying to pull herself out of the pit of isolation and depression. Not a place we would typically find God, nor find peace.

Often, peace is found in unexpected ways and places. Moments and spaces we would never think it would flood in, peace reigns supreme. When advent season rolls around and peace is spoken of, I think of the announcement of peace and goodwill to humanity announced from the angels to the shepherds. I am not rushing to a field of sheep to find peace, especially in the middle of the night, as they were likely threats lurking about. However, the angelic chorus in Luke 2 made their way to announce the birth of the Good Shepherd that would bring PEACE on earth. This birth brought a new way of life that could make possible the true way of peace.

The student mentioned above-found healing and peace in that food pantry. She let go of pride and allowed someone to care for her. This ministry announced to her that despite what she may be going through in this season of her life, what really mattered was her well-being. This organization, without question, continued to care for her. She then began to reach out to others that could help her mind and soul. She is now back in her little town, but it was only by the peace offered to her through the divine calling of a food pantry.

Storied Church supports a similar food pantry, Southern Alamance Family Empowerment (SAFE) Food Pantry. Their vision: “To end hunger in our community. Of course hunger is complex: People are hungry for so much more than just food. People are hungry for healthy relationships, safe surroundings, and God’s abundant love. With this in mind, we will build relationships with all who come through our doors, always seeking ways to feed the hungry.”

The student I talked about asked me a few days ago if there was a food pantry she could donate to. This is when she told me her story. I pointed her to SAFE Food Pantry. She said, “I would have starved without that food bank. I am glad it was there because I never saw myself going to a food bank until I was at my lowest. There was so much going wrong all at the same time. Finally, with the food bank, something felt like it was going right. My faith was being restored. I finally had some moments of peace.”

One day she will be able to announce and share her story. That through a food bank, through people donating food when they can to an organization, that people can be restored body, mind, and soul. Her story will be a silver lining in the cloudy skies of someone else’s life to announce “Peace on Earth and goodwill to humanity.”


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