Extended reading: Luke 2:8-18
Devotional reading: v. 15,17-18
In the time of Christ’s birth, shepherds were viewed as “unclean” in the community of God’s people because of the type of work they did. They were constantly in contact with dirty, smelly sheep, their manure, their blood from cuts and scrapes, and the many insects that buzzed around them. This meant that shepherds were virtually never clean enough to worship with God’s people in God’s presence. So they were generally treated as outsiders.
Yet, “Bethlehem was nearby Jerusalem, and many of the sheep used in the temple sacrifices came from there. The surrounding hills were prime grazing land, and shepherds worked in the area day and night, all year round.”
It is to this group of people that the angel of the Lord appeared one night. Suddenly, and surrounded with amazing light, the angel stood before them (v.9). He gave to them “good news of great joy which will be for all the people.” He tells them of the “saviors” birth, right there in the city of David! He even tells them where to find this heavenly child, “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (v. 12). And then, as if that is not to much already, a multitude of the “heavenly host” appear and are praising God!
That had to be one amazing night. A lowly group of shepherds, angels in the sky all around them praising God and revealing His birth; a divine gift to men! Imagine how you and I might have reacted to such a sight.
Confusion, perhaps disbelief?
They were afraid, in fact, “terribly frightened” (v. 9). The Greek word used for “terribly “ is (megas). It can mean exceedingly, over abundant, or great. But just as in other times when an angel appeared to men, He encouraged them to fear not (1:11-13; 1:30). When the angels leave and go back to heaven (v. 15) we begin to get a pretty good idea of the shepherds view of Christmas!
Faith overcame fear- “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made know to us” (v.15).
Excitement overcame distance- “So they came in a hurry and found where Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger” (v. 16). Just as the angel said!
Joy overcame silence- “They made known the statement which had been told them about this child” (v. 17).
Praise and worship filled their hearts- “The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them!”
The shepherds view of Christmas was one of faith, excitement, and joy. What they “seen” and “heard” ultimately gave them a new spring in their step and a new song in their hearts!
This is only the second view of Christmas that we looked at (the first was Mary’s), but each one of them has given me a renewed joy and heart of praise for a time of the year that our materialistic culture so actively seeks to control.
What’s your view of Christmas?