In a world and especially a year of constant change and seemingly constant bad news, the unchanging good news of the Gospel remains as true and powerful as ever. That’s why the Christmas story in all its wonder and excitement can never be allowed to take a back seat, but we must present it to others as historic fact and a life changing reality.
The story of the encounter between a bunch of lowly shepherds and, as the Authorised Version puts it, “a multitude of the heavenly host”. We wonder at the fact that God breaks the news that history has waited for to people who are considered untrustworthy, unclean and unscrupulous. Surely there are better audiences that the Publicity gurus would choose than this rather looked-down on bunch. Who would believe their story, and who would believe that such a momentous announcement was given to them first?
And yet of course, Israel’s greatest King was a shepherd, and Jesus Himself would later take that title to describe His heart for the “lost” of this world.
In the past, I have on occasions, received an invitation to a special event. Usually it arrives in an smart envelope, and often the invitation (not invite as is often said today!) is presented in such a way that it would make a lovely keep-sake to remember the occasion by. But these shepherds have no such proof of attendance. They have no souvenir programme, no gift to take away in a little bag; just an invitation to do what God says through His angelic messenger. The choice is theirs. And the sign they are offered as proof is also remarkably ordinary.
“This will be a sign unto you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and laying in a manger”. At the simple human level, why would you travel to see a baby in a manger? Isn’t the fact that he is born in a stable a sign of his poverty and insignificance? Is there anything about these circumstances of his physical birth that point to this child being any more important than the shepherds themselves?
Well, of course the manner of the telling of the story. The Angelic greeting and the fact that the Glory of the Lord shone around them as they heard the good news.
And the nature of the news itself. The child who is born and is lying in that manger is, according to the armies of heaven, both Saviour and Messiah. In fact, the shepherds are invited to be part of the most glorious event that earth has seen. The Messiah has come, and because of this fact all will ultimately be well for those who trust in Him. As Joseph was told, “You are to give Him the name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.”
I would like to have been one of those shepherds. Perhaps you would too? To have seen what they saw, to have heard what they heard, to be able to share it together? And yet like them, in a very simple way, we have also experienced the coming of the Saviour. At the point of our conversion, perhaps we sensed the activity of the Holy Spirit, a sense that God was real and that He was working in us at that moment? We too understood, at least to some extent, that a Saviour had been born to us and that we were invited to go and see if it is true. To trust Him, to gaze on Him to worship Him for who He really is.
That’s why, in an unsettled and unsettling world, the true message of Christmas is both light in the darkness and Good news to all men. Because even this time of year, it is possible for the miracle of Christmas to take place in the hearts of those we have been praying for wherever they are in the world.
It’s possible for the Glory of the Lord to shine around them and for them to hear with their spiritual ears that this Messiah is their Messiah too!
So, keep praying, keep thanking God for your own story of His Grace, and keep turning back to the good news of Christmas. And let “Glory to God in the highest“ be our song too!
God bless you.
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