December 19, 2016
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Our featured Scripture is Luke 2:8-11:
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night. And, behold, an angel of the
Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be
afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be
to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a
Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
We know the Shepherds Stood At The Cradle because the angel told them in Luke 2:12, “You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And they immediately went and found the Christ child! But what significance do the shepherds bring to the Christmas story?
• The shepherds give us a more accurate time of Jesus’ birth – and it was not on December 25th! December is a cold and rainy month in Palestine, and shepherds would not have had their flocks in the field at this time.
So what time of year was Jesus born? Two evidences of one major view is as follows:
✞ John the Baptist’s father, the priest Zacharias, who was of the priestly “…division of Abijah…” (Luke 1:5), was serving in the temple at Jerusalem (see Luke 1:8). It was then that the angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son (see Luke 1:13, 19). Historic calculation shows that this time of service was in the middle of June. If Elizabeth became pregnant around the end of June (a distinct possibility), then John would have been born at the end of March. According to Luke 1:26 and 27, “…in the sixth month [of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Gabriel]…was sent to a virgin…whose …name was Mary…” to announce the coming birth of Jesus. So Jesus would have been born toward the end of September!
✞ John 1:14 (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible) tells us “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” Some Bible scholars say it makes sense that Jesus’ birth would coincide with the Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23:34). That would be in late September by our calendar.
• Levera Levi in Together In Christ, Form 2, Teacher’s Guide, page 19, writes, “The shepherds were despised by the orthodox good people of the day. Shepherds were quite unable to keep the details of the ceremonial law; they could not observe all the meticulous hand washings and rules and regulations. Their flocks made far too constant demands on them; and so the orthodox looked down on them as very common people.”
So it was that to these lowly (and often despised) shepherds the privilege of the great angelic announcement came giving the invitation to come and behold the new-born King! But isn’t that what Jesus tells us in Mark 2:17? “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Paul adds this in I Corinthians 1:26 through 29:
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the
flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chos-
en the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has
chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are
mighty; and the base things of the world, and the things which are des-
pised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing
the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
• But shepherds were the logical choice in another way also. Is not Jesus described as the good shepherd in John 10:11-16? And, of course we have Psalm 23 – “The LORD is my shepherd…” (verse 1).
• The shepherds are a good example for obeying God’s leading! It says in Luke 2:15 and 16, after “…the angels had gone…the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this…which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they came with haste….” Do we obey now and with haste?
• They also show us how to be dynamic witnesses for Christ! Luke 2:17 tells us, “Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying with was told them concerning this Child.” We, who have Jesus as our Savior, have ‘seen’ Him! Do we tell others what we have experienced, what He has done for us – saving us from our sins, and giving us life eternal and abundant ? (See John 10:10).
Yes, the shepherds may have been lowly, but they can teach us high and mighty truths!