Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
And in that region there were shepherds out in the field keeping watch over their flocks by night. Luke 2:8
Good morning Prayer Team!
We’ve all experienced the stress of the mall at Christmas. Fighting over parking places, waiting in traffic, and long lines in the stores, and now added to that everyone looking at their phone, WHILE fighting for parking, sitting in traffic and waiting in line. I remember once thinking, with all of this stress at the mall, would anyone even notice if a multitude of angels appeared over the mall? The glory of the Lord over the mall of your town might actually go unnoticed.
It’s no wonder that the message came to shepherds out in a field. They were the only ones that weren’t overstimulated. Think about it—has God ever revealed Himself to you while you were stuck in traffic? It’s never happened to me. God reveals Himself when we are open to receiving Him. That’s why I’ve never experienced God in a traffic jam, or with the radio blaring, or at a crowded stadium. I experience God most powerfully in prayer, in worship, and sometimes even in conversation with one other person. Notice how I said “with one other person.” I have felt God’s powerful presence when hearing confession and when offering my own confession. I have felt God more strongly with two people in church than with two hundred. I have experienced God in silence more than I ever have when there is lots of noise.
I’m reminded of the story of the small, still voice that Elijah heard the Lord in. In I Kings 19:9-13, we read:
And there he (Elijah) came to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thy altars and slain Thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him.
No, it wasn’t at the mall of Bethlehem where the good news was announced. It was in the quiet of the countryside, to the shepherds quietly going about their work. If you want to feel closer to Christ, turn off some of the noise. Put down the phone, get off email, stay away from the mall, and get on your knees and pray, read the scriptures, and listen for the small, still voice of God. Everyone is busy, but there is no one too busy for God. Certainly God isn’t ever too busy to hear our prayers. Even the shepherds were busy, tending to their flocks. They weren’t doing nothing. Take some strides so that your life resembles the quiet hillside outside of Bethlehem rather than the chaos on the Bethlehem streets. Work was being done on both of them for sure. The glory of the Lord appeared all over that region. On the busy streets of Bethlehem, it was somehow missed. On the quiet hillside, it wasn’t.
On this day the Virgin Maid goes to the grotto to give birth to the Pre-Eternal Word in an ineffable manner. Dance for joy, all the inhabited earth, on hearing. Glorify along with Angels and with the shepherds Him who will that He appear as a newborn Child, the pre-eternal God. (Kontakion of Advent, Trans. Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Leave room for God in your schedule today!
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The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. The Prayer Team is a daily devotion written by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. Devotions include a verse from scripture, a commentary from Fr. Stavros, and a short prayer that he writes to match the topic.
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