Week 4: JOY
Day 5: Behold! The Savior is Born!
9 Behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all the people. 11 For there is born to you today, in David’s city, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This is the sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough.” 13 Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army praising God, and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
on earth peace, good will toward men.”
15 When the angels went away from them into the sky, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem, now, and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
Luke 2:9-15 (WEB)
I have grown up seeing the shepherds in the Christmas story as a footnote. In most nativities the focus is on Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and rightfully so! They’re the main event. We kind of remember that there were some wise men and some shepherds, and that’s usually the most we get…they were there. To get more we must look closely at the passage above, recorded by Luke, and ask some questions.
Picture for a moment the scene…try to become that shepherd in your mind. The nights are cold and lonely, and there is so much work to be done this season. Lambs are coming so you have to stay up all night to look out for the ewes that might be going into labor. You’re also on watch because the wolves know that the lambs are coming too. It’s a difficult and stressful job. So there you are…tired, cold, covered in a combination of feces and afterbirth, on edge looking out for predators you know are near at hand…and you look to your left and you see him. The angel of the Lord. Artists usually get this wrong, making the angel into a fair-featured, attractive man in a robe and holding a trumpet. That would be nice, but that’s not what you see. You see a field marshall, in full armor, radiating the glory of God, surrounded by a legion of God’s angelic army. Terror does not even come close to describing how you feel. And then the angel delivers his message from God. The same God that has been silent for over 400 years has now appeared to YOU, to proclaim that the long awaited Messiah, Christ the Lord, has come. Wasn’t there entire cities of priests that would be far more worthy to carry this message to the people? Isn’t this message of such importance that kings and rulers would be a better audience? But here you are, stinking like sheep, bearing witness to the best news that anyone has ever received. The only appropriate response is absolute JOY.
Tonight, when we celebrate Christ’s birth, remember that the Messiah was first proclaimed to the humble, working shepherds. This is not a message just for far-away men of more importance than you. The Savior of the world has come…FOR YOU! You are one of the lambs that the Good Shepherd holds close to his chest, that we read about yesterday. You are worth God sending his Son to fulfill the law, bear the punishment for your sin, so that you can walk with God forever and approach His throne without terror or condemnation. You, the exhausted, stinking, terrified, mortal man that you are…Christ has come FOR YOU! This is the angel’s good news of great joy for you and the whole world. Respond today by praising God, as the angels and shepherds did, with as much joy as you have within you. The waiting is over! Christ has come!
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