Luke 2:8 – 20
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, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
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 them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
And again, the familiarity that comes from reading this passage. The shepherds were doing their job, watching their sheep, protecting them from thieves and wild animals. It was night, but it was no ordinary night. Imagine the shock! ‘An angel of the Lord’ and ‘the glory of the Lord’… The glory of the Lord. God’s awesome style. And it shone.
Necessarily, and as was usually necessary, the angel at first reassures them. Then, without much preamble, he announces why he is there. There is a child, in a manger. And this feeding trough becomes the marker, the sign – how the shepherd’s know which child this is that the angel is talking about. It is this unique cradle which becomes the sign to them. The purpose of the manger is more than just somewhere to put the baby. It shows the shepherds the baby’s identity.
If we had any doubt, we don’t now. This baby is going to be something special. More than that – he is the Christ, the Messiah, a word laden with the longing of the years. And this special news, bringing such joy, is good news for all people. As if such news can’t be left without a response, the scene erupts with angels praising God. As if one angel wasn’t amazing enough – the shepherds are treated with a true angelic spectacle. Oh yeah. The shepherds stayed until the angelic encounter was over, then they rushed to Bethlehem itself. They found it just as the angel had told them. And then they spread the news! Who could keep such news to themselves? (I pause, and think – do I?)
I love the bit about Mary. In Luke we really get a sense of things from Mary’s angle. He gives a sensitive portrayal of the girl mother – obedient, thoughtful, wondering. She ‘treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart’ – who was this beloved Son of hers? And what would he become?