8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” 15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
Most of us are pretty comfortable with the Christmas story. For many we have become so familiar that it’s become part fable and part legend in our minds. It’s easy to sentimentalize it to the point that we skim along on a superficial level as we count down the remaining shopping days, stressing about all the minor things while neglecting the Manger. One of the most amazing moments in the Christmas story is the angel’s announcement of great joy to the shepherds. They were considered to be ceremonially unclean, for the most part unwanted, second class citizens. They may have been marginalized men according to the world’s standard but they were special according to God. So what do these smelly shepherds teach us, be:
The first thing we see about the shepherds is that they were attentive to their calling; they were keeping watch over the flocks at night. While others clock in and out the shepherds were committed, this was a 24/7 life for them, they never left their work. These were faithful men, they didn’t just show up they kept watch, they took their work seriously. Men are you paying attention, we were not called to take up space we were called to take our place. God’s call for men is to man our stations to be wake up to His will and watch over our families. It was often the case that the different flocks would come together at night, all coming into the same fold. One of the shepherds would literally lie across the entrance to make sure that no predators would get in. This reminds us of Jesus words in John 10:9 when He: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” You might think that God doesn’t know that you exist and if He does, He’s somehow mad at you. But here is the true message of Christmas you matter to God and He is not mad at you. You are not insignificant to Immanuel and He will meet you right where you are. You don’t have to clean yourself up on your own. Sure you smell like the shepherds, we all do it’s the stench of sin and that is why we need a Savior. God’s message is for the messed up and the messy, you are God’s masterpiece but you are marred by sin and you need the Messiah.
While they were being attentive to the responsibilities they were given, they are suddenly awed by an angelic announcement in Luke 2:9: “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” God will meet you where you are but will not leave you there. How do we know when we are in His presence we will be knees. When God showed up His Shekinah glory lite the night sky, what was dark became day. The shepherds were not weak men they were used to danger and having to face fear. Yet when faced with God’s holiness, there was fear, and they fell apart why, because of their sinfulness. Peter’s response to Jesus in Luke 5:8 was: “Get away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” When these men came face to face with truth there was terror for fear of judgment, but the message was not one of judgment it was one of joy. The message of joy is Jesus, the lamb who came as our sacrifice for sin. Do you marvel at the message of the Messiah? When was the last time you were in awe of the Almighty? When was the last time you were in wonder over His Word? How long has it been since you hit your knees before the King?
The attentive shepherds were not only filled with awe, they also accept this message of good news of great joy. A message of hope and healing, that we do not have to live in fear, we can live in forgiveness. We would have a lot to fear if Christmas never happened. This is literally the word from which we get “evangelize.” This is good news of great joy. The Greek word here is “mega” which means exceedingly, large, loud and mighty. It’s a superlative of greatest degree, Wycliffe translates it this way: “I evangelize to you a great joy.” Joyless faith in Jesus is a contradiction in terms. Christmas declares, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” God’s desire is that we would experience the good tidings of great joy proclaimed by the angels 2,000 years ago. Jesus who brings joy is the message of the Christmas.
- Luke 1:14 – Zechariah was told by the angel, “You will have joy, and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.”
- Luke 1:44 – John the Baptist leaped for joy in his mother’s womb
- Luke 1:47 – Mary rejoiced in God her Savior
- Luke 1:58 – they were rejoicing with Elizabeth
- Luke 2:10 – the angel proclaimed, “Glad tidings of GREAT JOY.”
This message is for “all the people” but notice the word “you” as well, it’s for the whole world but it also deeply personal. Do you have the joy of Jesus living in your life? Have you accepted the message and allowed the word of God to work in you? Have you responded and received God’s revelation of Joy?
These shepherds didn’t just accept and enjoy the message, they acted upon it. Look at Luke 2:1-16,”Let’s go to Bethlehem and see…So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” They didn’t just hear they hurried, they responded to His revelation. What are you in a hurry over today is it Him? The Bible is clear that acceptance must lead to action, James 2:17 says: “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” They could have doubted or delayed but instead they decided to act. Is the Messiah what’s moving you? They went and saw the Savior, while others like Herod held back. A millennium earlier, David kept watch over his father’s sheep in this same area and now they see the Son of David born in the City of David. How about you have you yes to seeing the Savior? The shepherds didn’t just see they shared, they didn’t just pull up straw bale and make themselves comfortable they carried the message to others. When you realize that God has called you to be a manager of the message you don’t hang around the manger. These shepherds didn’t write a book or go on a speaking tour or launch a ministry called “A Shepherd’s Story.” They just simply shared the Savior and so can you. Notice that the message they shared had nothing to do with seeing the amazing angels, Joseph or Mary’s magnificence. Do you believe in the baby of Bethlehem? Then don’t get comfortable you have a calling to proclaim the message of Jesus, and don’t compromise the message, make it all about Him and not the helpers. In what area is God calling you to action? It’s not enough just to see the Savior you have to share Him.
The shepherds went back to the same job of shepherding but they were not the same. We never really return to where we started when we have the Savior. After Christmas we have to go back to the same routine but will we return to it with rejoicing? The call here is to rejoice right where you are. It’s possible to have joy in your job and even in the junk of life. In Luke 2:20: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” They didn’t just wonder about what they saw, they witnessed and worship the One they saw. They went from watching sheep to worshipping the Lamb of God. What are you worshipping is it your work or the Word of Life?