For the shepherds outside of Bethlehem, the night of that first Christmas was just like any other night. All the sheep had been gathered in and there was nothing left to do except to keep watch, talk with one another, and stay stay close to the campfire, keeping warm.
That night, however, their quiet routine was shattered. There was a sudden bright light…and a sound…a sound like they had never heard before. They put their hands up to block the blinding light that pierced the darkness, and as their eyes adjusted, a shape came into focus…they saw an angel, surrounded by the bright light of God’s glory.
How did the shepherds react to this unexpecrted explosion of light and sound? Well, the same as any of us probably would. They were terrified. That’s not surprising, is it? What’s your first reaction when the phone rings in the middle of the night? You fear the worst, don’t you? It could be a friend calling to tell you that your son or daughter was in an accident, or Grandma, calling to say that Grandpa isn’t doing so well. The phone rings…and our heart is gripped by fear.
In the same way the shepherds must have feared the worst when they saw God’s messenger standing before them. Had he come to announce that it was Judgment Day? If so, were they ready to be judged by the righteous God?
But that’s not why the angel had come. “Do not be afraid.” The angel said. “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
In that instant, everything changed. The shepherds: their fear was replaced with joy…with excitement…with anticipation. Everything they had learned as children…everything they had been taught…everything that had been promised…it is all true! And this Savior, the angels said, this Messiah, he is not simply human, and he is not just divine. He is both…He is both and: fully human, and fully divine. He is God incarnate…he is God in flesh. He is God with us.
But most of all the shepherds were overjoyed because the angel had said that this savior…this savior had not just come to save a select group of people. Not just the Jews…not just the religious leaders…not just the rich or the powerful. The angel said that this news was for “all people.” All people.
And the shepherds…they heard…and they wanted to see. So they went.
They wanted to see him for themselves. And they wanted to see him “right now.” They didn’t put it off until tomorrow. They didn’t debate whether or not they had time to go, or whether it was convenient for them. They didn’t even call for substitute shepherds. They just packed up and started walking. They began their journey to the manger. Right then…in the middle of the night.
They heard…they wanted to see. So they went.
Friends, we really aren’t all that different than the shepherds. We too hear the story. And deep in our hearts, we want to see…to see for ourselves. We want to encounter Jesus. We want to see the Savior. We want to understand what all this means.
Don’t be satisfied just to make note of Jesus once a year in the Christmas carols or in the Christmas Eve service. Look and see…come and experience…experience the Messiah…God with us. Yes, he is here in this place, but he is also in your friends and neighbors…he is in the ones who are in need: the hungry, the homeless, the poor, the immigrant, and the refugee. Look and see! Our faith in Jesus isn’t about simply a child…it is about a relationship.
God’s plan of salvation…God’s story…it changes lives!
- The more you hear, see and experience, the more you understand the gift of salvation that is for you.
- The more you understand and experience joy.
- The more it empowers you to care for your neighbor…
- and the more it will prepare you to navigate the complexities of life as a follower of Jesus.
The Shepherds dropped what they were doing and made their way to the manger. And Jesus, the infant Jesus, changed their lives. And he wants to do the same with you. Listen…hear the story…and then look and see for yourself. You are already on a journey to the manger. There, you will find the gift of new life…in the child…Jesus…our Savior.
Thanks be to God!