Just outside Bethlehem, shepherds were in the fields with their flocks. Tending their sheep, lambs born for possible sacrifice in the temple in Jerusalem.
While doing what shepherds do, a bright light shined upon them. Not a flickering star or a spark from another shepherd’s fire, but a light so bright it frightened them. It was the very glory of God Himself! And from God’s glory, an angel spoke to the shepherds.
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 2:10-12
A message from the angel, spoken in the language of shepherds.
To the one angel came others. One? Two? Twenty? A multitude. A great company. An army of angels announcing:
Glory to God in the highest. And on earth, peace to men on whom His favor rests.”LUKE 2:14
The angels returned to the presence of God.
But the shepherds didn’t return to their duties. They wasted no time in getting to Bethlehem. They hurried to find this baby of which the angels had spoken. And just as the angel had said, they found Mary and Joseph with this baby, wrapped in strips of cloth. They were amazed. And they worshiped Him.
After seeing with their eyes what their hearts could barely imagine, they left the Baby. They told everyone who would listen what had happened that night.
The promise to which they, like so many others before them, had been clinging had come. The One promised in the Garden. The One promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The One spoken of by the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah and Malachi. That One was here.
The Hope of the world was finally here!
Can you imagine? Smelly shepherds being the first to hear the good news? Why not the priests at the temple? The Roman Governor? King Herod?
Up to this point, had God used anyone we could have predicted? Anyone we would have chosen?
These shepherds were not ordinary shepherds tending to common sheep. These shepherds, just outside Bethlehem, were watching the sheep born to be sacrificed in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Shepherds who would understand the term swaddling cloths. Shepherds who used swaddling cloths to protect baby lambs —spotless lambs — for sacrifice.
But they were still smelly. Still dirty. They were still considered unclean, too unclean for worship at the temple.
And it was while they were waiting — for the birth of lambs for sacrifice — that the angel of the LORD appeared to them to tell them the Messiah had been born. The Messiah for whom they had been waiting. The One for whom their people had been waiting so very long.
What the shepherds couldn’t know then was the last Perfect Lamb had been born.
And they were the first invited. The first to hear. First to see. The first to worship.
The ones too unclean for worship in the temple were the first to worship at the manger.
I wonder whom we might consider the equivalent of a shepherd today? Who might we see as too on the fringe to worship with us? Too broken? Too far to hear the good news.
No one is too anything for the Hope that came down.
Father! Oh, the beauty and brilliance of Your story, crafted in Your heart out of Your great love. You made ridiculous promises. Promises that seemed to linger, get lost, or be hushed. To be abandoned. But God, Your story was just as You planned, using whomever You chose to be a part of bringing Your crazy love to us.
Father, I pray that the excitement the shepherds felt will fill my own heart today. As we celebrate, I pray that the good news of the Hope that came down will rule my heart and mind. And find its way to my hands and feet as well. Amen.
Oh, friends, it’s Christmas Eve!
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.COLOSSIANS 3:17
Yes. It’s all worship. If we tether our hearts to God’s and set our eyes on Him, then all that we do becomes worship.
So today, as you gather. As you eat and drink. As you share gifts with one another, do it all as unto the Lord.
Merry Christmas, sweet friends!
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