I am not sure if this applies to everyone when it comes to reading the Bible, but it sure does to me! There are certain events that seem to jump off the page to me. Now, realizing I am reading a living document from God Himself, this probably should not come as a huge surprise. Yet, it continues to happen to me. Each year as I read the gospel accounts of the birth of the Savior, I am drawn to those shepherds out in the hills that night.
Much has been written about these guys, so I will not take your time with a long dissertation about them except to say, “You go God! Bringing the news of the birth of your Son first to the lowliest folks on the social scale is so much in keeping with the ministry He would live out.”
Having already written about angelic visitations this season (to Mary and Zechariah and Daniel), noticing again the first human response to an angels sudden appearance comes as no surprise. Luke records it this way: An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Luke 2:9 NIV) I have no idea what it meant to have the glory of the Lord shine around them, but whatever it was, coupled with the angels appearing, had those poor shepherds shaking in their footwear!
As the biblical accounts all show, the angel first has to allay their fears before delivering the message it was sent to deliver. In this case, it is the awesomely spectacular announcement that: Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you (emphasis added): he is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11 NIV).
Those two little words are what jumped at me today. To you. God has put into physical motion His salvation plan for the world and He chooses to reveal its kickoff to some nameless shepherds keeping watch over sheep in the middle of the night. Not only was this a below-the-radar choice of initial recipients, but it was given to them personally (as well as to the rest of the world)!
Then just in case the shepherds were still unsure of what was going on (I would have been!), the angel gives them another personal touch: “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Emphasis added, Luke 2:12 NIV)
Those two little words again: to you! Now the shocked shepherds have not only been told what has happened, they have been given a personal invitation to see it for themselves! The proof awaits them in a dark and dank cave, the very Son of God!
As amazing as the personal invitation that was given to those shepherds was, they were not to be the sole recipients of it. God’s grace is available to all. It may not have been pronounced to you in the presence of the heavenly host, but that does not make it any less true.
To make this a little clearer, and certainly more personal, try reading vv. 10-12 this way:
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you, (insert your name here), good news of great joy that will be for all people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you (put jour name here again): he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you, (your name). You (you again, one last time) will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
I love reading that with my name in those places. For me, it makes God’s loving care even more tangible. Also, we are blessed to be living in a time when we know how God plays out His salvation: The death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. As wondrous as the birth we celebrate this time each year is, the awesomeness of what God did (and continues to do) is mind boggling, to say the least. And all of this, the prophecy coming to be in His birth, the sinless life and substitution for sinners on the cross and His glorious resurrection, are all done with this same personal invitation to believe and partake.
It is my hope, Faithful and Appreciated Reader, that these thoughts in some small way help you to find the joy in your personal invitation. Won’t you join with me and praise Him for His unending love and care. And like our shepherd friends we started with today, once you accept the invitation and find for yourself the reality of what God has done for you, do as they did: The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were jus t as they were told. (Luke 2:20).
Blessings to you and be a blessing,