And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, 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 for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour 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.’
Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)
Read: Luke 2:1-21
Consider: The Christmas story is all too familiar. Even those who have no belief in God can be touched at this time of year by the story of the nativity. In the lead-in to Christmas parents all over the world have attended nativity plays in schools and churches to see their children take part. Many people will hear the story, or think they hear it, but yet miss the real message of Christmas.
There are the shepherds, angels, animals, wise men, Mary, Joseph and Jesus. To many it is just a nice story, on a par with Santa Claus. Why is this? What have they missed? Look at the passage from Luke 2 and ask yourself the question: What changed the shepherds attitude from being terrified (v9), to glorifying and praising God (v20)? Read the words again:
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:9, 20 NIV)
It wasn’t seeing the angel that brought about the change, as they were clearly terrified. They could have given in to their fear and ignored what the angel said. Instead they chose to listen to the message and go to Bethlehem. Did they believe the message at this point? Probably not, but their natural curiosity led them to follow it up. Having been in Bethlehem and seen the infant Jesus, they came away glorifying and praising God. What they had been told, matched what they found in Bethlehem.
In a couple of days Christmas will have come and gone for another year. However you celebrate it, don’t ignore the deeper message that the good news of the birth of a Saviour has been declared. Jesus’ birth will finally lead to the cross. This is the really good news: that the story doesn’t end with Jesus’ birth. So be like the shepherds; come and see for yourself what kind of a Saviour Jesus is.
Pray: Father, help us to see beyond the Christmas celebrations to what you were doing by allowing your Son to be born in Bethlehem. The road he took would finally lead to the cross and our offer of forgiveness and salvation. Amen