Friday, December 20, 2013
I've always wanted to be a shepherd. No I haven’t really wanted to live alone with a herd of sheep; I have always coveted the experience of the shepherds on that first Christmas night.
God could have chosen to reveal this most important announcement to anyone on earth. But instead of assigning the angels to visit some of the most important people on earth, God sent the angels to speak to humble shepherds, who most people didn't consider important.
The shepherds would have been watching over their flocks while the sheep and lambs rested or grazed on grass from the hillsides. While the shepherds were prepared to deal with any danger that threatened their animals, they were shocked and scared by witnessing the angels' appearance. That’s why the angels told them, “don’t be afraid”.
The angels reassured the terrified shepherds that they had good news for them. Since the shepherds raised the lambs that were sacrificed to atone for people's sins each spring on Passover, the shepherds would have well understood the importance of the Messiah's arrival to save the world from sin. Many historians believe that Jesus Christ was born in the spring around Passover. In John 1:29, the Bible refers to Jesus as the "lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world".
Long before electric lights were invented, the fields around Bethlehem would have been very dark. Suddenly a bright light broke into the black night, as the sky above Bethlehem filled with a multitude of angels.
The announcement of the birth of Jesus was marked by the light of many angels appearing in all of their heavenly glory. As amazing as the experience must have been, seeing angels appearing in the night sky, that’s not the part of the experience that intrigues me the most. It is what happened next.
The Bible tells the story in Luke 2:15-18: "When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them."
Imagine what it must have been like to be one of the first people to see the baby Jesus! I can just feel the excitement these humble shepherds felt. The just had to tell people of their experiences. Can you imagine being a part of those conversations! Even in the days before media such as television and the internet, word traveled fast that something amazing was happening.
Even though I will never be a shepherd or experience the things that the humble shepherds of Bethlehem experienced on that first Christmas, I can follow their example. I can spread the word about the baby Jesus. I can be excited about Jesus and what he means to this world. That is what Christmas is all about. Let’s all be shepherds!