The Shepherds Got an Angel Show

Just outside of Bethlehem, shepherds were on the watch over the sheep under their care. It was an ordinary night. They were likely cold and weary. They sat by a fire and made sure they kept their eyes open.

This keeping work of theirs was constant. Long, hard, tedious hours would pass. Among the animals were wanderers – ones that were drawn away and stubborn and determined to be on their own. The straying ones often became stuck fast and immobilized, their wool tangled in the dry, jagged brush, sheep in need of rescue. 

Wolves, bears, or lions could strike at any moment. The loss of even one lamb pained them. At least it pained the ones who were shepherds at heart.

Hirelings, the mercenaries among their ranks, were in it only for the money. They dithered payday to payday. Such as these ran off and hid away when predators were about.

The true shepherds knew their sheep and their sheep knew them. Their work was no small thing to them, nor was it small to the Lord who made them for it. 

It was a shepherd whom God anointed king of Israel. And when God called that king, he slew a giant and saved a nation, just as he had protected frightened lambs from lions and bears.

King David got his leadership training and testing in these very fields, while on guard over his father’s flock. He learned his lessons well and discovered that music and song helped him pass the time and stay alert. He praised God. He complained to Him, too. He cursed his enemies and those of the Lord. He groaned and grappled with the doing of his duties. He strummed and rejoiced and danced. 

The Good Shepherd met David here. As he watched over the “ewes great with young,” this man heard the Voice from Heaven and gained courage and conviction (see Psalm 78:70-72). He put God’s heart into all that he did with “those few sheep” left to him (see 1 Samuel 17:28).

And so David was prepared for royalty; God readied him for the great task of leading a nation of millions; a vast people descendant from Jacob’s 12 sons, who were also as stubborn and stiff-necked as sheep when it came to following the Lord and His rules. 

The Son of Promise

Centuries passed.

The promise of another King, the Son of David, was on the minds of God’s people. The throne at Jerusalem was no more, for many of the kings who followed David had no heart for God and no heart for the ones they were to care for. They followed after gods formed by human hands and vain imaginations. The people ignored the Truth given by God and so they reaped the consequences – the curse of invasion, defeat, and captivity fell upon them. 

Wolf-like rulers raided and occupied the Beautiful Land and brought oppression with them. The Romans stood in charge of this part of the world when this holy night came. This Empire was efficient, organized, and ruthless.

Did Heaven choose to parade might and dominion down the streets of Rome? Was there a blast of power delivered to shove Caesar and his forces out of the way?

Not at all. 

The coming of the King, for the most part, was quite a small affair. It happened, as most of us have heard, in a little village, in a place where beasts rested and fed.

Some wise ones saw His Star. Others dreamed dreams. Quiet, still things. Secret stuff. 

To the shepherds, however, the Lord announced the Son with heavenly pomp and circumstance and choruses. On this evening, they would see something marvelous and historic and eternal.

A moment of glory came to them.  Angels were heard on high. They brought news of great joy. 

The Son had arrived. The Most High, He who is our Savior, Christ the Lord was here and He was near. 

The Source of all peace and goodwill toward men could be found in a manger in Bethlehem. This they were told, punctuated with an anthem of praise:  “Glory to God in the highest” (see Luke 2:14).

These workaday/work-a-night men were treated to grandeur and majesty. No one else was privy to this manner of display. It was given to them because they were so down to earth, for down to earth the Son had come. Click To Tweet

This wonder, the shepherds had to see. And so they went to find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. These workaday/work-a-night men were treated to grandeur and majesty. No one else was privy to this manner of display. It was given to them because they were so down to earth, for down to earth the Son had come. 

Shepherds understood the miracle of life better than most. They witnessed often the sign and marvel that is birth when they beheld fresh born lambs wet and new. They watched the mothers nudge their young close to feed and to shield them, to nourish and protect. What could seem very mundane remained precious to them. They rejoiced to find pastures green and ready amid the barren wilderness.

And there was the dew, splashes of refreshment that fell unseen during the night. Just before the sun burned it away, the earth got watered somehow.

It mattered not to the shepherds from whence the dew came. They needed no explanation. They chose not to reason it out. They refused to grab from the Tree of Knowledge. The dew was both a delight and a provision. The sheep lapped up these droplets to quench their thirsts.

These men appreciated such common graces for the miracles that they were, and to these, the angels were sent. Close to the earth and its rhythms in the way of life, shepherds at work could appreciate this Angel Song for the ages. They would not fall into calculations about how to make profit from the spectacle. 

They would go and see Him. They would tell Mary and Joseph of the host seen. They would go back to work, back to watching over their flocks.

True Worshippers

From the throne of glory, from the presence of God in the highest, the Son came to this world. Like the dew, He would be there —quiet and real, a Baby like every other baby and yet so unlike any other. 

The shepherds heard with their ears and jumped to their feet. Take note that these watchers in the field did not bow themselves down there and then to those angels.

Oh, they were sore afraid, but they reserved their reverence for the One spoken of. The bright beings that filled the sky were marvelous to behold for sure. As majestic as they appeared, they were not worthy of praise.

Praises go to Him who is Heaven’s perfect gift, to the One come from the line of David, to the Good Shepherd, the Son, the Savior, the Prince of Peace, the mighty God. All government shall be upon His shoulders (see Isaiah 9:6-7).

Him did they worship.

Common people hear Him gladly. And they also hear these things distinctly and correctly. They are moved by the music behind the story they are being told. They listen well. They truly sense what’s being said and they act upon the words.

Let us listen again and again to the story. Let us hear gladly.

Watch for Him, the Good Shepherd who is coming again. Be like the shepherds of Bethlehem where you are.

Watch over family and friend and neighbor and – yes – enemy. Watch with eyes of love and faith, with hearts that see and sing, and mourn, pray, and praise.  

Come all you faithful, joyful and triumphant. Behold the Son. Behold Him today – the Spirit will fill us.

Adore Him who is our God and King.