Written by Vicky Ng, Art by Tammi Yu
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. But the angel said to them, â€œDo 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.â€ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, â€œGlory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.â€ â€” Luke 2:8-14
Have you ever heard Handelâ€™s â€œMessiahâ€? Normally the choir that performs the song will have at least 100 members, often several hundred, and when you add in the accompanying orchestra, the entire group of musicians can number 500 or more! If the conductor and the huge group of highly trained musicians could choose their audience, who do you think they would choose? I think they would want to sing to a vast audiences in large opera houses, to crowds who bought tickets months in advance, to wealthy and important people, to famous and revered musicians who will appreciate the quality of their performance… You get the picture?
To my surprise, the first â€œMessiahâ€ performance ever, two thousand years ago, was performed to a few lowly shepherds whose names were not even recorded in the Bible! Since they worked in the field and couldnâ€™t keep all the tedious demanding Mosaic rules, such as the ceremonial hand washing, they were looked down upon by the other Israelites. Yet this group of outcasts were the ones who watched over the perfect sheep that were used for the Temple offering twice a day. They were not faithful in keeping their hands clean at all times, but they were faithful in handling the sheep they watched over day and night. In fact, it was to the most faithful of the groupâ€”those performing the graveyard shiftâ€”that the angel announced the birth of Christ. So do not underestimate your profession. Whatever you do, do it to the glory of God, and who knows? At one of these unprepared moments, you may meet angels in the middle of your routine task!
Yet, Christmas is not about angels, itâ€™s about our Lord, who wrapped Himself as a human infant and chose to be born in a lowly, stinky manger. The entire drama was so unthinkably low-key, yet so miraculously beyond human imagination. Itâ€™s natural for God to send an entire host of angelic beings to announce Christâ€™s birth in a most glorious way, but itâ€™s puzzling for God to present such a performance to the shepherds, an unknown insignificant people, with no one else nearby to witness such a proclamation. Why didnâ€™t the angels choose Jerusalem for their performance stage? Or the Temple where priests and most Israelites gathered? Why didnâ€™t they include Mary, Joseph, the prophet Anna and Simeon? If you were the shepherds and you witnessed all of this, what would your response be?
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, â€œLetâ€™s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.â€ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to themâ€¦The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. â€” Luke 2:15-18, 20
The shepherds hurried off to find the scene that the angels described, and they then spread the words concerning Jesus the Savior. Do you know the significance of this news? The entire nation of Israel had been waiting for the coming of their Savior, their Messiah (or Christ). It should mean so much to them to hear that their long-awaited Savior is finally born. The Bible said they were â€œamazedâ€ but they did not also hurry off to try to find the baby. In fact, they may have had doubts. Why would news concerning the entire country of Israel be released to the shepherds and not the high priest? Who are these shepherds? Did they make up the whole story? Imagine the risk the shepherds took when they went around to spread the news. They could face ridicule, rejection, laughing, or more severe accusation. Their response was completed in faith to the angelâ€™s words concerning the â€œgood news that will cause great joy for all the people.â€ In other words, these news are not only concerning the shepherds, or the Israelites but all human beings. They could not keep them to themselves. They were meant to be shared, to bring joy, to fulfill the long-awaited dreams, to bring hope and salvation to all.
Like the shepherds, we too are ordinary and insignificant people. But our Lord has chosen us to hear about the good news and to receive the Savior. Letâ€™s also â€œhurry offâ€, â€œspread the wordâ€ and be found â€œglorifying and praising Godâ€ (Luke 2:16, 17, 20). Let us not keep the beautiful music and news to ourselves but share them with everyone. Why not keep the spirit of Christmas going all year round!