The shepherds to whom the angels appeared that night near Bethlehem were carrying the same weight of misery that we as modern Americans are carrying. Did you ever wonder who they were and why they were gifted with the greatest angelic light show the world had ever seen?
That question is more important than you may realize, because their story is our story. Their situation is our situation. We share a common threat and a common enemy. The terror that stalked their night is the very one that preys on Americans today.
The leaders of Israel had taken the Word of God and had replaced it with the traditions of men—what we now call ‘political correctness.’
Every line between right and wrong had been blurred in order to keep them in power. They used guilt to extract money and to help them maintain their control over the people. Our 21st Century Pharisees use boycotts, cancel culture, and shame anyone who doesn’t use the right pronoun, or who doesn’t share their political faith.
In the first century, Israel’s national debt mortgaged their future to a foreign power, Rome. For them it was Rome, for us it is China.
Caesar Augustus was their globalist threat—a threat that was absorbing their sacred values, freedom, and the faith of their fathers. All of which is happening right now in America.
Why were these “certain poor shepherds” abiding in the fields? Because the convulsions in their culture had resulted in widespread robbery and murder. Even shepherds had to respond to the raised threat level and protect their sheep.
Why do we in this nation live in a perpetual state of high alert? Because lawlessness has increased, just as Jesus said it would. Our cultural obsession with deviance and drugs has resulted in chaos.
Why did God choose shepherds, those who were considered the lowest of the low in Jewish society? I believe it was because they were utterly believable. Our impression of shepherds is skewed. They were not ‘90 pound weaklings,’ they were battle hardened by life. Remember that David, the boy shepherd, had killed a lion and a bear.
When the shepherds told the story of seeing angelic messengers, the people of Bethlehem believed them because their first reaction was to say to themselves, “Why would men like these tell such a lie?”
Let’s reread the word of God:
Luke 2:8 Now, there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
What is the Christmas story trying to tell us in 2019? Let me answer a question with a question. What do you think those men were like after the angels visited them? The angels brought them into a reality that nullified their daily grind. The stage lights went up and suddenly they were aware of the ‘real world’—the spiritual realm, inhabited by angels.
God skipped the theologians, the priests, and even the king. He sent angels to lowly shepherds. How embarrassing! None of those in power, not one professional student of the Law and the Prophets received this visitation.
Every year, Christmas returns with a vengeance. How puny are man’s efforts to destroy this annual celebration. This year, Christmas comes to pull the plug and drain our fears.
The angels turned their priorities upside down.
We know the Bible says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things will be added unto you,” but in our daily grind it can seem to be an impossible task. Moments before the angels appeared, these men were on high alert and were so protective of their herd that they would have gladly fought to the death to protect their flock. Now, they are completely oblivious to the fate of the sheep they left behind, and are hurrying to see a Baby that had been laid in a feeding trough.
Christmas beckons us to see through the lies and the boasts of evil, and remember: this will all be over soon because, in Christ, we have already won.
In the words of the timeless carol, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, “Joyful, all ye nations, rise, join the triumph of the skies; with the angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Modern pulpits have ruined us by preaching a “how to” Christianity. It seems so right to get practical teaching on relationships, money, and handling emotions. And that is the very problem—we learn to “handle our lives” and “fix” ourselves. This is not wrong if it subsequently leads to a glorious encounter with God, but what we need most at this moment is the Glory of Christmas. Glory will make our soul gaze at God, and while we gaze and are distracted by His splendor, God Himself will fix the issues of our life.
The shepherds took off in a glory-fueled sprint to the manger. It was an act of total defiance against all their fears. And that, my friend, is how we celebrate the birth of Christ—in defiance of all of our fears, and in spite of all our circumstances. We must leave behind our “sensible selves” and become like little children.