And there were shepherds . . . keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news that will cause great joy to the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14)
How, I wonder, would I react if the glory of the Lord shone around me? For the shepherds, considered by their culture to be unclean and unreliable, this signal of something momentous nearly scared them out of their wits. They couldn’t have remotely imagined they would be chosen as messengers of such earth-shaking news as the birth of the long-awaited Messiah. They had no idea of how closely Jesus would later identify with their role and declare Himself “the good Shepherd,” who would lay down His life for His sheep.
The shepherds were provided a clear signal to direct them to Jesus: He would be the only newborn in Bethlehem bedded down in a feeding trough for animals! It wasn’t by accident that there was no room at the inn. It was also not by accident that Mary and Joseph were ordinary people. The only thing remarkable about them was their spiritual devotion and willingness to put themselves completely in God’s hands. They were exactly the kind of people God could call on to bring about His purposes.
It was wholly in keeping with God’s character that this extraordinary announcement came to lowly shepherds, and not to priestly or political rulers. The peace that would come to “those on whom his favor rests” would not be for the self-elevated. God had already declared through Isaiah:
“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” (Isa 66:2)
The shepherds fit this description; their action on hearing the good news validated that. They hurried to see Jesus and didn’t stop until they had found Him. Then they went and spread the news to everyone they met. Used to being ignored and rejected, they didn’t worry about what people might think. After sharing the news with everyone they encountered, they went back to their normal responsibilities, but with an amazing difference. For they had seen God’s glory, trembled at His word, seen His living Word with their own eyes, and shared that word. No wonder they came back praising God!
Do the people I meet know that I have heard God’s word and seen His glory in a thousand different ways? Can they tell that I’ve found Jesus and want to share the good news with whoever will listen? Do I tremble at His word, or in fear of what others may think? Do I follow the prompting of God’s signal lights, giving direction about where, when and with whom I can turn and offer witness to the news that brings peace to those on whom God’s favor rests?
Father, may it be so this Christmas and every day in every year.