December 25, 2013
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
It is early Christmas morning, and so I write about this very day and hour long ago. Our scripture is Luke 2:8-12, but for the sake of space, we will shorten it a bit, although it is still lengthy:
And there were…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. And this will be a sign to
you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host
praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will toward men.” …when the angels were gone away…the shepherds
said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem….” And they came with
haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now
when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told
them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those
things which were told them by the shepherds….Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God….
This passage has always encouraged me because I wonder, “Why, Lord, did you choose me? You could have done a lot better!” But the first to hear the good news of the Messiah’s arrival were lowly shepherds!
In the first century, shepherds in Palestine were not held in high regard. Dr. Willis Britt, from the Jerusalem Institute for Biblical Exploration, in a paper entitled “The Good Shepherd,” wrote the following:
Today’s pilgrims to the Holy Land are fascinated by the figure of the eastern
shepherd….This estimation of shepherds was not shared by religious leaders
in the first century CE. Shepherding was considered a despised trade. Joachim
Jeremias tells us that shepherds were thought of as thieves. The oral law
actually forbade the purchase of milk and wool from shepherds for fear that they
had been pilfered. Jeremias further reveals that fathers refused to teach their
sons this trade. The trade too easily lent itself to dishonesty and thievery.
But then I read what Paul said 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 chosen 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 things which are despised 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.
It is not a flattering picture of Christians! But it is generally true! Those who are considered by the world wise, mighty, noble – the movers and shakers of society – are not the most likely candidates to follow Jesus Christ! For if you have all the resources you need, and you think you have all the answers to life, why in this world would you need a Savior?!!
But the “high and mighty” of this world are in for a rude awakening! Remember what the angel said, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11). And He is not just “a Savior”! He is the ONLY Savior! As Peter told the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Yes, the shepherds were honored by God to be the first to be told about the birth of Jesus the Christ. And they were the first to witness that fact to others, for it is written, “Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.” (Acts 2:17). And what made them so effective in this endeavor of telling others? They were “…glorifying and praising God…” (Acts 2:20). Now that catches other people’s attention!
What about you? You may think you are nobody special, but you are special to God! Have you responded to His call to seek out the Lord Jesus? And then are you – as you give praise and glory to God – telling others about Him? He is calling you – maybe not by the appearance of an angel – but He is calling you none the less! What will be your response?