Every year the Christmas season seems to start earlier and earlier. These days it’s not uncommon to walk into a store before Halloween and see a few Christmas displays already set up. Why, even just around the corner here, there’s a house that has such a big Christmas display that they start getting set up even before the leaves change. For whatever reason, we just can’t seem to help ourselves. We want Christmas to last as long as it possibly can.
But it really doesn’t matter how early we break out the Christmas decorations, because God has us all beat. As we read in Jeremiah just a moment ago, he was decorating for Christmas centuries in advance. So in the text God is describing how he’s going to restore the fortunes of Israel and Judah—how he’s going to rebuild them as they once were, how he's going to forgive their iniquity and cleanse them from their sin.
And then, in the midst of all these promises, God makes this strangely specific promise:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: In this place that is waste, without man or beast, and in all of its cities, there shall again be habitations of shepherds resting their flocks.…in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the LORD.”
Almost 500 years prior to Christmas morning, God is already planning his big announcement. He’s planning to decorate the hillsides that are now bare and desolate with an abundance of sheep and shepherds so that, when it’s time, he can send out his heavenly host of angels to proclaim to them that God is bringing his promises to pass. He's going to make these shepherds the first to hear that God is making peace to all men through the birth of his Son—a Savior who is Christ the Lord. He’s raising up a righteous branch from the root of David. He’s keeping his promise to establish a kingdom of righteousness that will have no end.
So go ahead. Break out the Christmas decorations. Set up your tree. Hum some carols. Even before Thanksgiving. It’s never too early to get excited about Christmas. It’s never too early to celebrate the day that God brought good news of great joy to all people.
And just so you know that I'm not exaggerating about that house...