Keeping Watch in the New Year

I’m so glad the shepherds near Bethlehem didn’t have smartphones or Netflix that first Christmas. Can you imagine the scene?

SHEPHERD 1 (surfing Facebook on his phone): “Hey, Jed, did you hear something?”

SHEPHERD 2 (binge watching the latest show): “No, but I thought I saw a flash of light and heard some noise yonder, but probably just a storm rolling in.”

CHOIR OF ANGELS (visibly disappointed, shaking their heads): “Pack up gang, maybe we’ll have better luck with the innkeeper.”

Pastor and speaker, Skye Jethani, in a sermon shares the story of watching the greatest display of fireworks and multimedia magic on the planet at Disney World, and noticing many of the young people were staring down at their phones instead. We’re doomed folks, when even Disney can’t pull our attention off our devices to be present to something happening right where we are.

As we approach the New Year and consider new habits for 2020, let’s put on the top of the list learning to SEE and HEAR and be fully PRESENT to what’s happening around us. Let’s read this familiar passage with fresh eyes and remember that Moses could have missed his burning bush and the shepherds could have missed the angels’ appearance and message.  Let’s slow down and keep watch, seek to really see and hear, find and be amazed, and treasure and ponder the little miracles of God’s glory shining all around “those who have ears to hear” (Matt 11:15).

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, KEEPING WATCH… An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord SHONE AROUND THEM... When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and SEE this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has MADE KNOWN to us.” So they went with haste and FOUND Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they SAW this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were AMAZED at what the shepherds told them. But Mary TREASURED all these words and PONDERED them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had HEARD and SEEN, as it had been TOLD THEM. (Luke 2:15-21)


Each New Year we encourage people to seek God for one special word to contemplate, ponder and treasure, and guide their faith and everyday life this coming year. Words might include “rest” or “grace” or “gratitude” or “joy” or whatever else the Spirit puts on your heart. Like Mary, may you find your word and ponder it in your heart all year long. 

Happy New Year!


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