It was the night of the Savior’s birth in Bethlehem, and outside the town shepherds and sheep rested in the very place where, centuries earlier, David had cared for flocks of sheep.
An angel “came upon,” or suddenly appeared, to the shepherds. Luke tells us light described as “the glory of the Lord” dispelled the darkness surrounding the shepherds.
The angel assured them they had nothing to fear because he was delivering “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” The angel’s announcement was news the shepherds and all people would forever welcome. This announcement that came first to the hills of Bethlehem is still so precious to us today.
It is significant to us that this message was delivered to shepherds who were considered to be of the lowest class of people in their culture. The love of Christ knows no boundary. Jesus loves people of every class and race, and what we find in the second chapter of Luke affirms this truth.
Perhaps it is also worth our attention to recall how we find shepherds in Scripture. Abel, “a keeper of sheep,” made the acceptable sacrifice to God and was the first murder victim recorded in the Bible. Moses was herding sheep when God called to him from a burning bush to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt. David, whom I have already mentioned, was trained by God to lead sheep before he realized God’s purpose for his life as the leader of a nation. Speaking of Himself, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” People in that day might have overlooked shepherds, but they have been very much in God’s mind.
The gift announced by the angel was the Savior’s birth, “which is Christ the Lord,” the long-awaited Messiah. He was God in the flesh, and became a Savior to everyone who believes in Him as their Lord. The angel said “unto you is born” because He was born for us and not angels.
Such a birth would lead anyone to expect this baby to be clothed in the finest garments, and to be surrounded by the most luxurious accommodations. The angel told the shepherds that the baby would be “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Jesus distinguished himself from the beginning by clothing himself with humility.
Luke tells us that a heavenly choir appeared and sang and then went away into heaven. It was then that the shepherds left to find the baby born in Bethlehem. Hurriedly, they made their way into town where they found “Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.” The shepherds believed everything they heard, and were not discouraged by the lowly circumstances in which they found the Savior. After all, these were poor men but that does not mean they could not have had communion with God. Outward appearances would have been of the least concern to those men.
Once the shepherds had seen everything announced to them, they began telling everyone they saw about the birth of the Savior. People “wondered” at the things they heard from the shepherds because this did not meet with their expectations of circumstances surrounding the birth of the Messiah.
Today, we are thankful for this and find comfort in what we have read. In Jesus alone we find salvation that brings peace to our hearts. Merry Christmas.
The Sunday school lesson is written by Ed Wilcox, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church.