When royalty is born today we know every detail. Even across the seas in England the babies born to the royal line of Queen Elizabeth makes the news throughout the world. But this night over 2,000 ago, the King of all Kings and the Lord of all creation is lying in a feeding trough in a cold, damp cave. There was not a royal procession to usher Him into this world. There were no dignitaries present at His birth. The streets didn’t ring with the news that the One who had come to rescue the world was born.
Who heard the news? Simple shepherds out in a field watching their flocks at night.
It was just a quiet evening on the hillside of Bethlehem. The sheep were sleeping and the shepherds were sitting by the fire to keep warm as they watched out for harm that might come. It was customary that the youngest boys in the family were to be the ones to watch the sheep but these were not sheep of someone’s family inheritance. These were Passover lambs owned by the temple. They would be offered as sacrifices for the sins of the people. Those watching the sheep were men hired by the temple to watch over these sacrificial lambs.
These hired shepherds never even suspected that they were about to be invited to see the One who would become the ultimate sacrifice for all the sin of man. Soon, they would take a journey that would lead them to “watch over” the very lamb of God.
In the dark of night an angel appears to them and tells them the news. Again we are told in the Christmas narrative that fear struck when the angel appeared. I can just imagine these men cowering as they fall to the ground as well as with the sheep going completely crazy from the bright light in the sky. I wonder if their bleating was heard by those who lived on the outskirts of town.
The message of the angel was good news, in fact it was the best news ever… the Savior has been born. The angel used three names of Jesus to describe this One who was lying in a manger.
He is the Savior, the One who will rescue the world of its sin. He is the Christ, which is the Greek word “Messiah”, a title which references the One who will deliver His people. And, He is given the name Lord referring to God Himself.
Just when the shepherds had found the strength to stand to their feet they were startled again by the multitude of angels that appeared in the sky singing praises to God.
This was a night these men would never forget.
They heard the good news of Jesus but what would be their action? Would they stay on the hillside and recall what they heard trying to make sense of it all? Would they ignore the invitation to see the Messiah for themselves as they rationalize the unlikelihood of the events that just occurred? Or would they seek out this baby that is lying in swaddling clothes in a manger for themselves?
The invitation has been given. Will they choose to go?
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”