Go, Tell It

18 Dec 2017

At the peak of the Christmas story, just after the Christ-child is born, we are introduced to some very ordinary guys who are about to have a very extraordinary evening. Shepherds. Not the ones portrayed in our nativity plays, you know the ones I mean with the stripy tea-towel hats. Real, down to earth, uneducated men, who were probably dusty, dirty and more than a bit smelly.

God had been planning to send Jesus to rescue us for a long time. Right back in Genesis 3, God gave Adam and Eve the first hint of what was to come. So, it’s safe to say that everything about the Christmas event was well planned. The shepherds may have been unimportant in their own communities, but they had caught the eye of God. He knew that they were just the kind of guys who would see things as they are, hear what was said, and tell it like it is.

What They Saw

The shepherds were used to being on the lookout. They were already watching over their flocks of sheep and goats that night. They would not miss seeing a fox, a wolf or a thief, and they certainly did not miss noticing the angel that appeared before them, radiating the dazzling glory of God himself. These tough guys were instantly terrified, but they hung off every word that the angel spoke to them.

What They Heard

The angel told them ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’ (Luke 2:10-12).

A surprising, but very specific message. Succinct, and yet full of detail. Other more learned people may have tried to analyse what was said, looking for the metaphors and the hidden meanings. But the shepherds knew straight talk when they heard it.  They took the message at face value, just as God knew they would.  The angel that first appeared was joined by more angels than the shepherds could count (and they were used to counting sheep).  The skies above the fields were filled with praise to God, and we can only imagine what that must have sounded like.  I imagine it being richly harmonious and very loud!

What They Did Next

Again showing their practical side, as soon as the angels left, the shepherds decided to go into Bethlehem (AKA the town of David) and see this baby for themselves.  With only the clues that the angel had given them, they searched the town until they found Jesus.  He would have been the only baby in Bethlehem that night who was sleeping in a manger, not the usual place to lay your baby. I wonder if God set things up so that Mary and Joseph had no place to stay that night, just to make it easier for the shepherds to find them?

What They Did After That

The shepherds then did what they had been handpicked for.  Luke tells us ‘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’ (Luke 2:17-18).

This was the biggest story of their lives, miraculous and divine.  The angel had told the shepherds that this news was to bring great joy to all the people. They spread the word, loud and clear, high and wide, near and far.

This Christmas, we each have a fresh opportunity to respond to the story of the birth of our Saviour, Jesus.  As we reflect on the events of that first Christmas, what will we see, what will we hear, and who will we tell this good news to?


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