8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah,the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” LUKE 2:8-12
Shepherds, the focus of today’s devotion, in Biblical times were people of no great social standing; they had no influence economically, politically.
Shepherds were looked down upon in the same was tax-collectors and dung-sweepers. In fact there are early writings that suggest “Nobody should feel obligated to rescue a shepherd who had fallen into a pit”.
So, we get an idea of how despised shepherds were in Jesus ‘day.
However, it was to these lowly, poor shepherds that God chose to reveal the Good News of Jesus’ birth to first. He could have chosen a high-ranking official in government, or some influential leader in the synagogue, but no, it was this handful of despised shepherds that God chose.
Here they were out in the fields, in the dead quiet of the night. They may have been talking quietly to each other; cracking some jokes around the fire; they may have been nodding off to sleep; we don’t know. Suddenly an Angel appears to them.The Bible says they were “terrified” which means “struck with fear” – petrified. I don’t blame them.
What does the angel say to them –
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy” (v10).
What is this Good News? What is this joy-filled headline?
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
After receiving this news of JOY, we read an angelic choir appears and their song is one that declares God’s Glory and proclaims PEACE!
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”
So here we have a group of Shepherds – despised, looked down upon, and they receive a message from heaven – a message of Joy and Peace.
The darkness of the night sky was pierced by the light of God’s glory!
The darkness of their fears, their anxieties and insecurities – pierced by the light of God’s Joy and Peace!
But then I read further and I begin to see that the news of JOY and PEACE extended to the shepherds was not only for them but for the rest of humankind as well:
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (v10)
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men... (v14)
When I read these words, I am the first to admit that my puny little brain cannot begin to
make sense of it. Because you see, if this Christmas story, is one about Joy and Peace for all– then something doesn’t add up, if we look at the condition of the world today.
We turn on the news and we see splashed across our TV screens or news websites, the worst of atrocities taking place in our world.
I hear of lack of racial and cultural tolerance within our own country. I don’t see the evidence of JOY FOR ALL PEOPLE; neither PEACE FOR ALL MEN!
We look at all these things and we may find it difficult to connect the dots.
Has the promise of JOY and PEACE that resounded on that first Christmas night, simply faded with time? Do we need a spectacular appearance by a host of angels, in order to recapture this message of Christmas peace and joy?
Or perhaps, if the human race can just get back to the source of it all; if we can get to the source of this JOY and PEACE; discover what the shepherds discovered, perhaps the world would be a better place.
What was this source of JOY and PEACE?
History is full of people who have chased after things/stuff/material possessions in order to find lasting PEACE and JOY, but to no avail, so ‘things’ cant be the source.
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
“17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,”
When they had seen HIM!
There, in a smelly barn in Bethlehem. Laid in an animal feeding trough, amidst the bleating of sheep and the lowing of cows,
these shepherds saw what they had only heard about;
these humble, lowly down-to-earth men found a down-to-earth God.
Life’s circumstances may not have changed much for these shepherds - they would return to their vocations as shepherds but that was ok, why? They had found the source of JOY and PEACE.
Friends, this Christmas, may the angelic song of PEACE and JOY echo once again through the chambers of our hearts.
This Christmas may you come to know the joy and peace that only the Lord Jesus Christ can give.
May I be a vessel of your joy and peace,
Declared to the despised shepherds of yesteryear;
May I freely share that which I've received,
From the Christmas Child, without reservation or fear.