Luke 2:16-20: “They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.”

The shepherds were rushing to see Jesus and found Mary and Joseph with their baby boy who perfectly fit the description the angels just gave to them: a baby lying in a manger. Out of town visitors, the family found shelter in a barn where Mary gave birth to her baby. She converted a feeding trough into a baby bed, so that’s where Jesus laid sleeping. This confirmed the angel’s report, and the shepherds got really excited. As they related their story to Joseph and Mary, Mary soaked up every word coming from the shepherds’ mouths.

This is a great example how faith works. Faith without steps of faith is really dead in its tracks, literally. In all reality, faith expresses itself in action. Mary and Joseph both did some huge steps of faith – Mary accepting to carry Jesus, the Son of God, inside her womb and Joseph accepting to marry pregnant Mary, knowing the child was not his. Both were separately approached by Angel Gabriel, and the rest is history.

Imagine this had happened to you. Can you picture the skepticism of your friends and neighbors? Yes, you had one life-changing event: an angel spoke to you when no one else was around. This was it though – this angel never showed up again. Angels are God’s messengers and are not supposed to be the sole reason why we believe. The reason why we believe lies in the reason for the Christmas season. God puts things into perspective, and He throws out seeds of hope. Our willing hearts receiving those seeds represent the fertile soil, and our subsequent growth in maturity is the result.

Mary treasured the conversation with the shepherds and stored it away in her heart, which is really the wise thing to do. And should you experience an affirmation or encouraging situation that means a lot to you: follow her example and store it away in your heart. We all have precious moments from time to time, and we better commit them to memory when they occur. Life is an ongoing battle! Guess what:

We need to remember the good times; this will keep us going through the hard times.

Faith is never meant to be walked out alone. Joseph and Mary had each other, but even that is not enough. Faith cannot be lived out very well in isolation; faith is meant to be experienced together. The shepherds played a crucial role here. They brought their faith experience to the table and shared it with Mary and Joseph. This was music to their ears and life to their bones. It encouraged them. Listening to those shepherds talk strengthened their faith. So don’t be surprised if your faith is not growing without having friends around who share their faith experience with you. Mary and Joseph needed that. So do you and me. Take it or leave it:

We need each other to keep going.

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