Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shepherds went back. . .glorifying and praising God

Luke 2:8-20 NLT 
   That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
   13  Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 
   14  “Glory to God in highest heaven,  and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” 
   15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 
   16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

The birth of God's Messiah, the Savior of Humanity was a one-time, unique historical event. It was bound to be different from any other birth throughout time. The birth to a virgin girl was significant enough, but there was to be more. The visits by angels to Mary and to Zechariah were astonishing enough but there was to be more. These shepherds, the nomads of the day, and the lowest class of society just above beggars, were to be the ones honored by an invitation to the nativity by thousands of singing angels. This invitation exemplifies how not one person of any society is to be excluded from the love of God and His salvation.

Doubtless the shepherds were shocked by the sight and sounds but they did not doubt for a second. Higher more 'responsible' levels of society would want to debate with the angel and demand proof, but to these simple shepherds, the angels were proof enough that this nativity was, indeed, an event planned and carried out by God Himself. The spokes person angel, probably Gabriel again, announced the place, the time, and even described how the baby would be dressed.

I once was in a very large concert hall filled with thousands of choir members from everywhere around our area who had been invited to a Messiah Sing Along. We all had our books for Handle's Messiah and were singing our parts. There were hundreds of tenors, and hundreds of Sopranos. There were as many Altos and Bases, as well as a pretty good sized string orchestra. We had all learned our music at our home churches and were now there just to experience the joy of singing the Christmas portion of the Messiah. The glory of the sound was mind boggling to me and the impact was not lost on the others. As I looked around there were hundreds of other bass singers with tears streaming down their faces just like me, as we were singing 'Hal-le-lu-jah! Hal-le-lu-jah!Hal-le- e-e -lu-jah!. . . And He shall reign for ever and ever! And He shall reign. . . . " That must have been something like those Shepherds experienced only on a much grander scale. The Birth of the Messiah came accompanied by the Angelic Choir of Heaven's Temple.

The Shepherds sat mesmerized by the sights and sounds until the choralers departed back into Heaven from whence they had come so suddenly. Next they rushed to Bethlehem as they had been invited to do and worshiped God's Messiah, the Christ Child. The King of the universe was there before them in the tiny body of a new born baby boy and they rejoiced. In fact, apparently they continued rejoicing back to camp and wherever else their shepherding duties would take them for Verse 18 says that 'all who heard the shepherds were astonished.  They were the world's first evangelists to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  That was why they were invited-- because of their simple faith and their willingness to share their faith. They were not hindered by the social standards of the day, they just told about their experiences, probably for decades after. That was why, when Christ began his ministry 30 years later, the people responded as they did. The society had been primed that the Messiah was among them and would begin calling them to Himself.

I wonder if we can be like those simple shepherds, quick to believe, quick to share our faith, and persistent at doing so wherever we go. Maybe you can tell somebody this Christmas season what Christmas is truly all about.
Your servant in Christ's love

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