Luke 2, in most Bibles, has the heading of ‘The Birth of Jesus Christ’ above the passage. In the ESV online Bible, when you get down to verse 8, there is a subheading titled ‘The Shepherds and the Angels’. Verses 8 – 20 gives the detailed account of one of the greatest birth announcements ever known.
Just a reminder, there was no social media positing. Mary didn’t change her status to ‘Mother’ at a specific time on that winter’s night. Instagram wasn’t flooded with well wishes and congratulations. There was no official announcement on Bethlehem’s town page or Facebook group. But, there was a heavenly host of angels lighting up the night sky to announce the birth of the Messiah to some common shepherds.
Luke 2:8 sets the scene of the announcement. “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Just a normal silent night with a field of sheep and smelly men or young boys looking out for them.
Just a bunch of guys hanging out on the job, watching the flock at night when suddenly, “An an angel of the Lord appears to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.”
Things take a drastic turn when the night sky lights up with the appearance of an angel. This was not just any angel either. This was the angel of the Lord! I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty scared. Shepherds are trained to fight ferocious beasts, but nothing could’ve prepared them for a heavenly encounter. As in other instances when we find angels visiting us normal folk in the Bible, the first words out of the angel’s mouth are “Fear not”. OK. If you say so. Yikes. The angel then goes on to deliver the best news ever, “…I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12).
The shepherds hardly have time to let this sink in before the whole sky fills with a chorus or multitude of angels signing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)
Take a pause here. The night sky over Bethlehem is pretty quiet. The sheep are finally settled. The warm fire is going in the camp. Imagine yourself settling in for a quick sleep before your turn to take over the night watch. Your eyes are heavy and just about to shut when you’re jolted awake with something never seen before. The glowing being says not to be afraid, but you can’t stop yourself from shaking with fear. Before you can calm your racing heart the whole sky lights up with these beings. Then, they leave and things are suddenly quiet again. You ask yourself, ‘Did that just happen?” You sit shocked for a second before your friend nudges you in the side and says, ‘Let’s go!’
That’s right. The shepherds didn’t pause for long to take in what they heard. They processed the instructions to go and see and they took off. No questions. ” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:15-17).
The shepherds had hearts ready to respond to this amazing news. They didn’t second guess what they heard or try to double check their information with anyone else. They just went. Not only did they go and see, but they also told everyone they encountered on the way home about the angels and the baby lying in a manger. The shepherds received the birth announcement of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and they didn’t keep it to themselves.
We get so excited when we hear great news. We’re quick to text, post, video chat, blog, etc. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort on our part. The shepherds, however, had to leave their sheep in the middle of the night and find their way to the stable. It took an effort and most likely some time and they were excited about it. Are we?
There’s so much to glean from this encounter of the shepherds and the angels. The birth of the Savior of the world was announced to every day people just like you and me. The purpose of the Savior’s birth was to begin the greatest love story ever told. Jesus, fully God and fully man, left the glory and unbrokenness of Heaven to come to our broken earth. He came as a baby to live life from the very beginning and to endure all of the ups and downs that came with it.
Jesus’ goal was the cross. He would give his life for a ransom. His innocent blood would pay for the sins of those shepherds that visited him at his birth and for the sins of each and everyone of us. The night with the shepherds was just the beginning. They shepherds made sure to tell others what they saw and heard. I pray we will continue that message and be just as eager to share about Christ.