8That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. 9 All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord's glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened. 10But the angel said, “Don't be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. 11This very day in King David's hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord. 12You will know who he is, because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay.”
13Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and joined in praising God. They said:
14“Praise God in heaven!
Peace on earth to everyone
who pleases God.”
15After the angels had left and gone back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let's go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.” 16They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and they saw the baby lying on a bed of hay.
17When the shepherds saw Jesus, they told his parents what the angel had said about him. 18Everyone listened and was surprised. 19But Mary kept thinking about all this and wondering what it meant.
20As the shepherds returned to their sheep, they were praising God and saying wonderful things about him. Everything they had seen and heard was just as the angel had said.
Shepherds. Have you ever wondered why the first people beyond the family to hear about Jesus’ birth were shepherds? It’s all part of the great reversal that Jesus brings. As Mary had said, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” These men were out in the fields at night. Maybe it was summertime – the date of December 25 was picked later to coincide with the Roman festival of Saturnalia, when, (guess what?) the Roman festivities included a game of role reversal, and masters and slaves traded roles for one day.
There may be another meaning lurking here. In many of the languages of the ancient Near East, including the languages of the Bible, the word “shepherd” is also used to mean “king.” Jesus’ ancestor David had gone from being a shepherd to being a king.
Angels. They are always terrifying. The first angel declared the good news. The baby had been born who would be Saviour, Messiah and Lord (v 11).
- Saviour. Today that word is used mainly in religious contexts, but it was an ordinary everyday word in the ancient Greek that Luke wrote in. Caesar Augustus had called himself Saviour.
- Messiah means “anointed.” “Messiah” is the Hebrew word, “Christ” the Greek. The Jews anointed a person with oil when they installed him in a special office, such as priest or king. The “Messiah,” as the word is used in the NT, referred to the person the Jews were looking forward to. (It’s not Jesus’ “surname.”)
- Lord. Augustus had used this term too. Your “Lord” is the one to whom you give your allegiance.
Fighting words! This is the only place in the Bible where these three terms come together. Who is Jesus to you? Is he the one you have been looking for? Is he your Saviour and Lord?
You will find him in baby clothes, lying in an animals’ feeding-trough.
The shepherds had a story to tell! And Mary had something to think about.
Jesus, I am amazed at the way you came among us. I worship you as my Saviour, who rescues me from my sinful self; my Messiah, fulfilling all the longings of the Old Testament; and my Lord, to whom I surrender my whole life.