The story of the shepherds is a pretty familiar one for many during the Christmas season. The story of these sheep herders has been told in church pageants, Christmas parades, songs, and even movies. And yet, while there is familiarity within the narrative towards many, there’s still a lot that we can take from this Christmas season with their story.
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” -Luke 2:8-9
It never really hit me until this past week but when you open up Luke’s account we see that the shepherds are out in the field, watching over their sheep, when the angel arrives. But then these two little words strike me. The shepherds weren’t just doing their normal duties, they were doing them “by night.” Maybe you’re a more keen observer than I am but I never noticed that, or at least paid attention to it, until this week. But as I began to think on those two short words, it struck me a little deeper. The shepherds are out in the dark. There may have been some moonlight and stars and maybe they had some lanterns or something but they’re going about in the dark when the angel appears to them and the glory of the Lord shines around them. And yet, that’s not unlike how the people of God were in that moment. There was spiritual darkness all around them. They were longing, expecting, waiting for a Messiah in the midst of a great darkness. There may have been a few small pockets by which they could see, or by which they thought they could see, but there was an absence of light, spiritually speaking, in the hearts and minds of many. And then, the glory of the Lord shines. And then, light comes and pierces the darkness. Isaiah prophesies of this when he writes,
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” -Isaiah 9:2
Christ arrives on the scene and everything changes. Light steps down and lives are forever changed. Where there was spiritual death, now there is life. Where there was hopelessness, hope has arrived. Where love and peace and joy were in short supply, a weary world rejoices as Christ comes to Earth. And out of the deep darkness comes light. Out of the depths of this darkness, a great light shines bringing a message of good news for great joy! As you keep reading the story of the shepherd’s account, you see three things that the good news of great joy leads to.
Worship. As soon as the message is delivered, a heavenly concert breaks out as the hosts rejoice at this good news. Good news leads to heavenly singing, not only amongst the angels but amongst believers as well. We ought to sing loudly, to sing often, to sing with words and with action, to worship God with every breath of our being. The gospel message renders hearts towards worship of the living God. After verifying the truth of the message themselves, the shepherds return home glorifying and praising God; they worshipped. Not only that, the shepherds were changed. They didn’t just return home to their jobs, their routines, their families, and their friends. They were changed by this message of good news. Their lives were transformed because of this awe-inspiring encounter. The good news of the gospel changes us, the truth of who Christ is and what He has done changes everything. We may return home, we may go back to the routine of life, but we are never the same.
And lastly, this good news leads to proclamation. The shepherds begin telling others of this good news. They don’t keep it to themselves or lock it away or only share it with a few. They take the angel seriously, that this is a message for all people, and they go telling others. This Christmas season, may we follow the shepherds’ example. May we worship, may we be changed by Jesus, and may we proclaim the good news of great joy that Christ has come!