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An Angel Visits the Shepherds


So, the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth is over, right?

Nope – not on your life…

It is just beginning.

Although, “the birth of Jesus was a personal, predetermined event,” the world he came to redeem had been waiting for the Messiah, having heard prophesies such as this:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners
;” (Isaiah 61:1 New American Standard Bible NASB),

the same words spoken by Jesus himself:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed”
(Luke 4:18 NASB).

Therefore, when the angel appeared to the shepherds, they were fearful. I would have been fearful. It’s pitch black, the shepherds are no doubt sound asleep. And, all of a sudden, “an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them;” (Luke 2:9 NASB). Fear was a common reaction to this kind of apparition. Think about how you would feel if you were laying in a field in deep darkness, and an angel stood before you with the glory of the Lord shining around him.

However, the birth of Jesus was not an apparition, and God sent one of his angels to announce the birth of his one and only Son. It seems to me, that by sending the angel to shepherds instead of governmental figures, God was again showing Jesus as a servant to the world. Jesus was the chosen One who would tend God’s sheep; the lost people of the world.

The angel said, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (vs. 10-12). A baby? Lying in a manger? Where? Did the shepherds wonder what they were supposed to do? I imagine. But before they had time to think, “And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased
” (vs. 13-14).

Interestingly, the shepherds were no longer afraid, and so they immediately went to Joseph, Mary, and the God-baby lying in a manger.

When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.  And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds” (vs. 17-18).

The shepherds told everyone they saw about this cosmic event, and soon the word was out. The people, surprised and confused by the way their Messiah had come into the world, wondered what might happen next. But the shepherds went back to tending their flocks, praising God for what they had seen.

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart” (v. 19).

Well… I would imagine so. Think of what had happened to the teenage girl, Mary. In less than a year she had carried the God-baby in her womb, traveled on a donkey to Bethlehem, given birth to the God-baby, and watched shepherds come to look at him and adore him.

I could say, “The rest is history,” but I will not. For, as I mentioned at the beginning, this is just the beginning of Jesus’ redemptive work in the world. May I suggest that we take Mary’s response to the birth of her son, who is also her Lord and Savior? Maybe we should treasure all these things, and ponder them in our hearts. After all, God’s most fervent desire is for us to recognize his presence in our daily lives, and reciprocate by letting his will guide us in everything we do, just as Mary and Joseph did.

Merry Christmas.

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