“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger.” Luke 2:16
I wonder if the shepherds truly expected to find a babe wrapped is swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. What was running through their minds as they headed into Bethlehem? Did they grasp the significance of the event? Did they know that the promised Messiah had arrived in Israel?
I can only imagine the look of astonishment on their faces as they arrived at the stable behind the inn and found exactly what the angels described. A baby wrapped up and lying in a feed trough. Did they bring up the subject of him being the Messiah with Mary and Joseph?
“Ummmm…this might sound crazy, but earlier tonight some angels, well we think they were angels…they were really shiny and they sung incredibly well, told us where to find you and your baby. They also said something about him being a Savior and Christ the Lord. We know, we know, sounds totally crazy, but, ummm….anyhoo, is he? We mean is he really the Messiah all of Israel has been expecting? Is he the Savior?”
As they stood in wonder before the manger, or knelt as we like to believe, did they understand that God had become man? Did they worship him as Lord of all or just offer their congratulations and go and tell their wives about the unbelievable night they had just had? I wish we knew more about what became of the shepherds. Did they follow this child as he grew? Did they hear the stories from Nazareth as he started his ministry and wonder if it was the same person? Were they there when he was crucified?
What did the shepherds believe?
What do we believe?
Do we believe that the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us? (John 1:14) Or do we just think it is a nice story to tell at Christmas? Do we believe that he came to save us from ourselves, to redeem us from our sins? (Titus 2:14) Or do we believe he was a great teacher that gave us some great ideas on how to play well with others? Do we believe that he grew up and offered himself as a living sacrifice so that we could have eternal life? (John 3:16) Or do we equate him with the Easter bunny, a nice myth that we enjoy talking about during December and around March or April?
We have the privilege of seeing a much bigger picture than the shepherds did. We have the whole story written down for us. His whole story had not even unfurled when they met Jesus. We have read from his birth to his death and how his church began. All they knew was what the angels had told them, and that the sign God gave them was true; they did find a baby lying in a manger. And it seems that was enough for them to go and spread the good news to everyone they met.
Is that enough for us? Is the sign of a baby in a manger and a man on a cross and an empty tomb enough for us to believe He is Lord? Do we believe that Immanuel came to earth for us? To be with us?
That is the point of the whole Christmas story: to tell the world that God became flesh, so that he could live among us, love us, shepherd us, then die for us, conquer death and finally redeem us.
In a world where so many have no idea what they believe, we must be a shining light of faith. We can tell the world of the Messiah that was born for us so that He could die for us. We can tell them the Christmas story. The same one the shepherd’s told so long ago.
Angels from the realms of glory
Wing your flight o'er all the earth
Ye who sang creation's story
Now proclaim Messiah's birth
Come and worship, come and worship
Worship Christ, the newborn King
Shepherds in the fields abiding
Watching o'er your flocks by night
God with man is now residing
Yonder shines the infant Light
Angels, from the Realms of Glory