That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
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.”
They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 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.
In what is perhaps my favorite story in the Bible, Luke tells us about some simple people, doing a simple job, who receive anything but a simple message and its impact on their lives.
The Christmas story is filled with interesting people who experience a wide range of emotion: The shepherds went from terrified t0 reassured, curious to celebratory. The townspeople were astonished and Mary was thoughtful. They were part of a heavenly narrative and the events of the story changed their lives.
Like those in the account, for any who enter the events of the day, the wonder if it all leaves their hearts and minds whirling. For those who read carefully, think critically, and engage fully, their lives will never be the same. It is possible to view the birth of Jesus as a mythical story or a historical event. But it’s more than that; it is a moment beyond time and space. It is a cosmic event of holy significance and personal consequences. And it moves us all from where we are today to where God wants us to be tomorrow.
The shepherds responded by seeking the manger and sharing all they had seen. The townspeople responded with amazement. Mary responded with wonder and thoughtful consideration. What is your response? Do you react to the story with passionless boredom, or celebrate with joyful enthusiasm the wonderful gift of God?
How does the story move you?
Fairest Lord Jesus,
Ruler of all nature,
O Thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul’s glory, joy and crown.