ANGELS AND SHEPHERDS. How far apart can two groups be? The dwellers of heavenly realms and messengers in God’s service and the dwellers of lonely places and lowly service would seem to be so far apart they would never meet. But it is just like our great God to bring them together the night Jesus was born. After all Jesus came to breech this great divide between a glorious God and sinful man. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, 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.” (Luke 2:8-9 NIV) Put yourself in their place, if you can, and you will understand not only how unusual this event would be but how terrifying it would be. When you are used to looking into the face of sheep during dark nights all the time and suddenly the brightest and most glorious light you have ever seen lights up the sky and this angel in His glory stands before you and begins to speak you can understand why they were terrified and probably not only not able to speak but also too scared to run. And then imagine, if you can, standing in the glorious presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords when our turn comes.
That God decided to announce the birth of the King of heaven and earth to these lowly shepherds is amazing but also revealing about our glorious God. God is the God of all men from the most lowly on earth to those of the highest social order (as mankind sees things). And God is not afraid or hesitant to entrust His life changing message to the lowest of mankind who will believe in Him. “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 Savior 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 2:10-12 NIV)
The shepherds were terrified. Still today the world for the most part lives in fear, even in a place like America. But God’s message is, “Do not be afraid.” That is always God’s message. “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) “So do not fear, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV) Jesus does not come to produce fear but rather to “cause great joy for all the people” because He is the Savior and the long awaited Messiah of the nation of Israel and also of all mankind. Terrified people, people living in fear whether for the things of this life or the things concerning eternity that awaits them, need to hear the good news that comes with finding Jesus. People need to be pointed toward Jesus and they need to know how to identify Jesus. And God has given us His message in the bible to help us. And the angel gave the shepherds the clues they needed to identify this baby as well.
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14 NIV) To use an old expression, “this would blow your socks off.” If one angel puts you into shock can you imagine a large group of them suddenly appearing and breaking out into song? Sometimes God just does the unexpected and shocks and amazes us. That really does seem appropriate when you consider that the birth of the King of the universe is being announced.
So it seems appropriate that at this time of year we do everything we can to make people aware of what this season is really about. Strike up the band, bring out the choirs, roll out the drums and the music team, break out the old hymns and the new worship songs, front stage with the children’s groups, put up the trees, the stars, the nativity scenes, the live nativity scenes with the folks holding live sheep, trot out the camels, and the donkeys, and the wise men. And in the manger place the baby and remember why he is there and proclaim it loud and clear. And let the Pastor preach his best messages of the year as he extols the Savior because there will be people in the audience who need to hear the true message of Christmas.