By Greg Steele
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Jasper
Most people in America are familiar with this passage because every December we watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and hear Linus tell us about the true meaning of Christmas.
Let’s set the scene. An angel rocks the routine of some guys who are just out doing their job, Luke 2:8. In the early pages of the Bible, shepherding was considered a noble profession but in the first century shepherding had gone to the sheep. Shepherds made up the lowest class of people, coming in just ahead of the lepers. Living out in the fields away from society made them outcasts.
Except for the bleat of the sheep, the night was quiet. In the midst of the normal, an angel of the Lord suddenly shows up, verse 9. From the darkness of a silent night came the glow of the glory of the Lord. I’m sure the shepherds were rubbing their eyes and shaking in their sandals. In fact, the word “terrified” means that they were alarmed and agitated.
The angel spoke to them in verse 10, and the message the angel brought was “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Good news of great joy. The Greek word here is “mega” which means extraordinarily, large, loud and mighty.
As the shepherds are trying to handle the message from this one messenger, they are then blown away by a mass of angels who are praising God! The word “suddenly” means unexpectedly. I imagine the sky filled with a mass of messengers and they said in verse 14, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!”
After they experienced this incredible display of worship and praise, the shepherds knew that they had to move. I love verses 15-16 because it shows that their once fear had been replaced with faith and then their faith went to movement. They didn’t waste any time. The word “hurried” carries with it the idea of speed.
The shepherds found Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus who was lying in the manger. Our passage gives us no indication that the shepherds hung around or made themselves at home. NO, they had to go tell everybody about what they had seen. And verse 18 says that “… all who heard it were amazed.” Here’s the neat thing. We are here today because a few outcasts from society couldn’t keep quiet about what they saw and experienced.
Then verse 20 concludes with the shepherds returning praising and glorifying God for all they had seen and heard. What would have happened had the shepherds delayed a few days or if they had just discussed what they had seen in the night sky.
Never has earth seen such glory. Angels sang to some workers about a Savior; the Chosen One; the long-awaited One; the Lord. His arrival was ‘good news of great joy for all people.’ Where would the outcast find this babe? In a castle? A temple? No. An angel said: ‘You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in manger.’
The Creator of the Universe placed himself in the arms of a teenage mom and the rough hands of a carpenter. God among the ordinary. Most people ignored Him and went about their business. Only some shepherds, who were let in on the secret of who He was, stopped to acknowledge Him and enter into the joy of His presence in their world.