Text: Luke 2:8-21
Theirs was a thankless job, devoid of all glory.
They spent all their time in the fields, doing the dirty work of watching the flocks and keeping the sheep. Some of the lambs were special—set apart for sacrifice. And though the shepherds would keep those consecrated lambs safe and clean until their time came, the men themselves were considered perpetually unclean, unable to keep ceremonial law and unfit to be in the presence of the people, much less the priest. They lived on the margins, literally and figuratively.
You can imagine their surprise when the angel of the Lord appeared. And not just surprise, but terror. Surely this was bad news.
But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”
- Luke 2:10-12
No, this was not bad news. This was good news—life-changing, world-changing, eternity-changing news. A Savior had been born! For them. For the unclean, the outsider, the marginalized and misunderstood.
These men, so despised and distrusted in their culture that their testimony was not even admissible in a court of law, were called to bear first witness to the birth of Christ.
This was indeed good news for the shepherds. This is indeed good news for us.
A Savior is born for you today. You, the sinner. You on the margins. You, the one who cannot bridge the gap between yourself and God. You, the forgotten, the heartbroken, the empty, the angry. You, who is incapable of producing true and lasting peace in your own heart. Christ is born for YOU.
John describes it in his Gospel this way: “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us” (John 1:14). The phrase “took up residence” is the Greek word skēnoō, which means “tabernacled.” God was coming to live, to dwell, to “tabernacle” with His people. This is the same God with whom Moses pleaded, “Please, let me see Your glory.” And God replied, “You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live” (Exodus 33:18,20). This is why Moses built a tabernacle in the wilderness: so that God’s presence could dwell among the people without utterly consuming them.
John continues, “We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus Christ is the fullness of God’s glory made seeable, touchable, accessible to us. As pastor and theologian Tim Keller explains, “the un-scalable majesty of God and the transcendent holiness of God has become a baby.”
The fiery holiness of God is made flesh and has come to live—to make His holy dwelling place—here with us, the sinners He has come to save.
After the angel of the Lord made his announcement to the shepherds that night, Luke tells us this happened:
“Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people He favors!”
- Luke 2:13-14
“Host” here is the Greek word stratia, meaning “army.” An actual army of heavenly beings filled the sky, not to wage war but to proclaim peace. Peace in the hearts of men, women, and children, who make the Savior in a manger the Lord of their lives (John 14:27). Peace in the hearts of nations as they submit to the King of kings (Psalm 86:9).
The shepherds did not waste any time. Once they saw the Christ Child’s glory displayed in the song of the heavenly host, they went to Him. And when they saw the child Himself, swaddled in cloths like their sacrificial lambs, they worshiped (Luke 2:15,20).
Let’s follow the shepherds to the manger today.
May our hearts pause to hear the worship of the heavenly host as they declare the good news. May we run to the Savior, the Lamb of God, who wrapped Himself in flesh and made His tabernacle among us. And may our response be worship, this Christmas Day and every day.
Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!