For unto us a Child is born…
What would it have been like to be there on the holiest of nights, when God came to earth in the form of a precious baby named Jesus?
Have you pondered that question during this Christmas? Would you or I have felt immediate peace in the presence of the Prince of Peace? Would we have understood the significance of the gift? Or, would we have been too caught up in your own lives to even pay attention.
What would it have been like to be there and simply be living life, unaware that the greatest gift in the history of the world had just been given…. to you, and to all of mankind? We can look to the story for our answer.
It is the shepherds with whom most of us would identify. Their vocation may have been humble, and God must have chosen them specifically to send a message that His salvation could not be bought or earned. However, their focus on the everyday (and every night) tasks of life is the common denominator with us. Some of them were probably asleep, and some were just doing their jobs. Most importantly, none of them seemed to have had any knowledge that the night when Jesus was born would be different from any other night.
In the account of the angels’ proclamation to the shepherds, their response to the events and their state of mind as the night unfolded was revealed four times (as told in Luke, chapter 2).
First, the shepherds were afraid.
A quiet night on the hillside with sleeping sheep had suddenly become an event. The startling light was unlike anything anyone had seen before. It was more than just light. It was “the radiance of the Lord’s glory”. The shepherds must have felt that they had been singled out because they had done something wrong and that they must now answer to the Lord because surely all their wrongs were known. The angel had to reassure them by saying, “Fear not!”
, before proclaiming the good news of the Savior’s birth and stating God’s intention of revealing His good will toward men.
The Shepherds and Angels
(from Luke, chapter 2)
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them.
“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
Secondly, the shepherds were obedient
(and perhaps more than a little curious). They said to one another, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us.”
(If the Lord chose to reveal something this big to you, in such an astonishing way, wouldn’t you want to go?)
Remember, though, that in order to be obedient and go to see the Child, the shepherds had to leave behind their livelihood (the sheep) and let go of the concerns that caused them to spend the night on the hillside (the guarding of the sheep). To leave their posts and their responsibilities behind, they had to either be so caught up in the miraculous that they temporarily forgot the everyday, or they had to be trusting that the God who was big enough to do all that they had just witnessed and to fulfill His promise of a Messiah, a Savior, was big enough to take care of their concerns.)
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.
Thirdly, the shepherds were amazed and excited, to the point that they testified about all that they had heard and seen repeatedly. They were so thrilled and humbled and joyous that they could not keep this good news (and the miraculous events of that night) to themselves. They told everyone!
(Note: The word “humbled” is used here because the focus of the shepherd’s retelling was the events and the Child. We know about them today only because they were humble enough to be obedient and then were transformed by the revelation of God’s good will toward men, incarnate in the infant Christ, to the extent that they did not care what anyone thought and were determined to personally share the news with as many people as possible. (Remember that they had left their job caring for the sheep in order to go and find the Christ child. However, sharing the good news about what had occurred was more important to them than any concerns about their livelihood.)
17 After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.
Finally, the shepherds were worshipping with joy.
Remember the description of the shepherds’ return to their flocks after seeing the infant Christ? They were “glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.” That is worship.
20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
* Notice that the shepherds were not praising God only for the experience of seeing Jesus but rather for ALL that they had heard and seen. Even the angels’ pronoucement, which terrified them at first, had become a source of joy and wonder and something else for which to give God praise. The very fact that God’s holiness and power had been manifested to them on that hillside and in the person of the infant Christ gave them reason to rejoice.
* Notice also that the shepherds had to obey what they were told to do before they were able to have the full experience of worship, joy, and wonder.
God announced His incredible gift to them and invited them to come and see. Then, they had to respond… just as we must respond individually to God’s good news that He has provided a Savior for us.
Again, God has taken the initiative. He has provided a Savior in response to our need. laying aside His own glory and willingly experiencing pain and loss because of His love for us. All we have to do is to bring our doubts and sins and fears to the manger and the cross, believing that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and then laying our burdens down in exchange for His gift of salvation in Christ.
He has given the gift. He has issued the invitation. Have you come? This is what He says to you, to me, and to everyone:
New International Version (NIV)
(Note: Jesus Himself is speaking in the verse below.)
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
- Psalm 34:8
New King James Version
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”
Our God has sent a Savior, Jesus, to rescue us from our own hardened hearts.
He chose to come to earth in the form of a Man in order to do what we could no do for ourselves. He lived a perfect life so that He could, once and for all, pay the penalty for the sins of mankind. To God be the glory!
May we praise Him every day for that Holy night and what it means…
Emmanuel, God with us!
Here is a poem that I wrote as this Christmas and the Lord of my life touched my heart again through the message of God’s great gift.
Come and See
Come, lowly shepherds! Now, arise!
Heavenly angels fill the starlit skies,
For in Bethlehem, the promised Child is born.
Come, and see God’s only begotten Son.
And He will care for His flock like a shepherd,
He will give His life for the sheep.
His tender mercies will comfort the fallen,
And He will bind the wounds of the weak.
Come, wise men searching for a King.
Follow the star; your treasures bring.
For in Bethlehem the King of Kings is born
Come, and see this blessed, Holy One.
And He will rise, triumphant and Holy.
He will reign in the Heavens above.
He will fill the hearts of His people
And conquer hatred with His pure love.
Come, pilgrim seeking Heaven’s joy.
Behold “God with us” in this boy.
For the Prince of Peace has come to grace this Earth.
Come, and see Salvation’s humble birth.
And He will calm the storm of temptation
He will heal the sickness of sin.
He will break the chains of the pris’ner
And give new life to us within.
Come, wand’rer chasing empty lies.
Behold the Truth! Lift up your eyes!
For the Light of the World is here to set you free.
Come, and see the Lamb of Calvary.
And He will shine as Star of the Morning.
He will take your hand in the night.
He will slay the dragon of darkness
And fill the shadows with His light.
Come, seeker looking for the Way.
Let Christ be born in you today.
For the Lord of All has come to take your place.
Come, and see your Redeemer’s face.
And He will guard your heart and your tomorrows.
He will wash away every stain.
He will redeem each one of your sorrows.
And bring you joy even through pain.
For He is Lord, Messiah, and Savior.
He is Emmanuel, King of Kings.
He is the Alpha and the Omega.
He is the one of whom angels sing.
Come, and see.
– by Cynthia A. Boyd
Copyright December 2013
A Reader’s Theatre Version of this poem has now been added to our blog.
You can find it at:
Come, and see!
This post was written by Cynthia A. Boyd
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