The Shepherds of Bethlehem

The night was crisp and cool but the sky was clear and dotted with a million points of light. The shepherds were in the high pasture keeping watch over their flocks by night. They were living out in the field at this time of year with their flocks. Some of these sheep were destined for the temple altar in Jerusalem. These shepherds and their forefathers had kept sheep and provided sacrificial animals to the temple for generations. They were common Hebrew men by blood and tradition.

They has just bedded down the sheep, and the first watch of the night begun when an amazingly bright and penetrating light wrapped around them like a warm blanket on a cold night. The shepherds were stunned and shocked, silent and motionless. Confusion and intense fear flooded their souls. The light was emanating from a mighty angel of the Lord who stood before them. It was the glory of the Lord that shone around them. They were gripped with his amazing presence. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; look, I am bringing to you good news of great joy which will be for all the people, because today there was born to you all in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you men, you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

As the shepherd’s eyes were beginning to adjust to the bright light, suddenly there was a vast multitude of heavenly angels all praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” The shepherds were in rapt silence as their hearts were pounding in their chests. Their minds raced to make sense of what was happening to them, and yet in their great excitement there was a strange sense of peace.

Then – as quickly as the angels and the divine light had come, they were gone. The hillside was eerily silent and dark. They looked at each other in stunned disbelief as if to say to one another, “Did this really just happen?” After a few moments of silence while they collected their thoughts, they all began to talk at the same time. They finally sorted it out that they should go into Bethlehem to see this incredible event that the Lord had revealed to them through his angels. The shepherd’s field was only a few miles from Bethlehem, so they immediately made their way there with haste.

After they scoured the entire city of Bethlehem, they found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger just as the angel had told them. There was a palpable sense of awe about this common place. There were animals and dirt and straw as well as a common man and woman. Then there was the baby. Their eyes and their hearts were drawn to the child as if to a strange and wonderful sight, but he looked as any other newborn would look. They knew that something significant had happened. They knew in their common unintelligent minds that the long awaited Messiah had come into the world. The Lord God had heard their prayers and visited them with his mercy and presence.

They found it difficult to part from this holy place. But after some time they left Mary and Joseph and the baby and began to spread the good news to all they could find. Such good news was to be pondered, but also to be shared with everyone. They went around to all the people of Bethlehem that they could roust out of bed to tell them what had happened. All those with whom they talked were stunned and amazed. It was hard to wrap ones mind around all the incredible things the shepherds told them.

God had chosen then to see this wonderful sight and to share it with everyone they could. They were common people. They were everybody in some ways. There was nothing special about them other than they were shepherds, and God had sent His Son to shepherd His people. Jesus was the good shepherd, the great shepherd and the chief shepherd. He cares for the souls of his people by nurturing them and laying down his life for them. All their pain and sorrow and suffering is put in a new perspective. They can rest in peace because of their shepherd.

Have you seen with the eyes of your soul the sight the shepherds saw with their physical eyes? Has the truth of the Savior, Christ the Lord penetrated your heart? Are you telling others about what you’ve seen and experienced? Christmas time is the time to focus on Jesus, who he is and what he has done. But every day of the year is the time to focus on Jesus. His love for you and his plan for your life is what the Christmas story is all about.

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