Shepherds. Have you ever thought about shepherds? Have you ever thought about the shepherds out in the fields watching over their flocks at night on that first Christmas morning? Living out here on the plains of Colorado at Soaring Wings Ministries I have thought about shepherds quite a bit. I think of shepherds often because we live in an area where it is very common to see sheep grazing on the plains. I also think of shepherds because at night it is very, very dark out here in northern Wellington. There are no street or city lights to illuminate the sky. The only thing to light the sky at night are the stars and the moon. I think about the shepherds because we have animals to take care of and I often find myself outside at night with them. This time of year, when I found myself outside at night caring for our animals, my thoughts turn towards the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night on that first Christmas morning.
I love reading about that first Christmas morning in Luke chapter 2 verses 8-17. From the New International Version it reads "and there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see thing thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them."
Living out here on the dark plains with sheep nearby, I can clearly imagine the shepherds in the fields at night watching over their flocks. It must have been very dark, quiet, and very, very peaceful for the shepherds living out in the fields. Out here on the plains where Soaring Wings Ministries is located we are not near any cities or highways so we hear no street noises nor do we have any city or street lights. It is very quiet, still and peaceful here just like it was for the shepherds caring for their sheep out in the fields at night........and then "an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified". I love that the word "terrified" is used to describe the shepherds...not scared or not afraid, but terrified. I can tell you without a doubt that if I was outside here at Soaring Wings Ministries at night and the angel of the Lord appeared and the glory of the Lord shined around the angel, I would be terrified to the point of near death! But the angel was there to tell the shepherds good news, not to scare them to death and so the angel quickly told the shepherds "don't be afraid". The angel had good news for the shepherds and the good news was of great joy for all the people.
Do you ever wonder why the angel appeared to the shepherds with this good news of great joy for all people? After all this was the greatest event in history! The Messiah had been born! For years and years and years the Jewish people had been waiting for their Messiah and when it finally happens the first people the angel tells are shepherds. It just doesn't make sense. Why didn't the angel make this grand announcement to a large crowd of people during the daytime in a public place? Why shepherds? The shepherds were alone by themselves with their flocks. The shepherds probably didn't smell very good from hanging out with sheep all the time. The shepherds were just plain, ordinary people doing their job of caring for their flocks and God chose them to reveal the good news of Jesus' birth. Plain, ordinary, smelly, alone.....I am beginning to see a picture.....a picture that God perhaps does not care how people smell, or how they look or how much money they earn. What God really cares about is their hearts and I believe that God chose the shepherds to reveal the good news of Jesus' birth because He knew their hearts. God loves ordinary, plain and even smelly people and will pour out His love and shine His Glory on them and He will also use plain, ordinary people, like shepherds, to spread the good news of Jesus.
This good news of Jesus' birth was so great, so amazing and so fantastic that a "great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, to men on whom his favor rests." Honestly, my mind cannot picture or or even remotely imagine the greatness, the majesty and the magnitude of this moment. It is something that is beyond my worldly experiences of what "a great company of the heavenly host" would sound or look like, but, I do know one thing...some day I will know and the older I get the more I look forward to that day.
The angels proclamation of the good news of Jesus' birth that first Christmas morning had a profound affect on the shepherds. It was so profound that they could not carry on as usual. The shepherds had just seen an angel and a great company of angels proclaiming the good news that a Savior had been born to them in the city of David and they knew they had to "go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened". The shepherds "hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them". I love this part of the Christmas story. The shepherds left everything and hurried off to see the Savior who had been born to them. They had to go see Jesus for themselves. They had to go have a personal experience with Jesus, the savior who had been born to them. I can remember having such an experience, that first experience with the Savior who had been born to me. It was way back in 1972. I was attending Barrington College in Barrington, Rhode Island and I was in my dorm room by myself. I was on my bed and I was thinking about whether or not I really believed in Jesus or did I just believe in Jesus because my parents believed in Him. I was not satisfied with only hearing about Jesus from my parents and other people. I knew that I had to go and find Jesus and see Jesus for myself. I remember reading my Bible on my bed, in my dorm room all by myself and that was the night that I gave my life completely to Jesus. I gave it to him not because my parents believed in Him but because I wanted to experience the good news of Jesus by having a personal relationship with Him myself.
Giving your life to Jesus changes everything. The shepherds "when they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them". After that personal encounter with Jesus, the shepherds could not keep this good news of their Savior's birth to themselves. This Savior, this good news of great joy was meant for all people. The shepherds immediately began "spreading the word concerning what had been told them about this child". The shepherds had gone from caring for sheep to an encounter with angels which led them to a personal experience with Jesus which changed their lives forever. This was such good news that the shepherds had to share it with others and "all who heard it were amazed".
There is no doubt, from reading about the shepherds on this first Christmas morning, that what is required of people, after hearing about the good news of a Savior, is to go and see Jesus for themselves. The shepherds did, I did and you can too. It isn't hard. You don't have to be special or beautiful or wealthy. You can be ordinary. You can be plain. You can be yourself. The shepherds were themselves when they went to see Jesus on that first Christmas Day in Bethlehem and I was myself when I gave my life to Jesus in my dorm room back in 1972.
My prayer is that you will take some time during Christmas and go to the manger and to see the Savior of the world who has been born for you. He loves you and he longs to have a personal relationship with you. Christmas is about "a Savior who has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord". Don't miss out on this very special gift. Like the shepherds did on that first Christmas morning, take the time from your normal routines to hurry off to see Jesus for yourself. You will be amazed.
Merry Christmas to each and everyone of you!!!!
Soaring Wings Ministries
Anita Rennells is the author of this blog. She and her husband have moved to Colorado when Ed retired and are in the process of opening a ranch to help homeless young adults.
Soaring Wings Ministries