Angels and Shepherds – the First Christmas

The visitors to the manger were not religious people or priests or even a king. How ironic that the first visitors were shepherds. In the open fields around Bethlehem were the shepherds, watching over their flocks of sheep, just as, a thousand years before in the same fields, the young shepherd David had cared for his sheep, guarding them from wild beasts of the wilderness and from robbers.

Suddenly a great, dazzling light flashed upon the shepherds as a glorious angel step out of the darkness and stood before them. The shepherds were filled with fear and fell upon their faces on the ground, not daring to look up at the shining form. But the angel spoke to them kindly and graciously, saying:

“Do not be afraid, I come with good news, which will make you glad, news for all God’s people. On this very night was born in the yonder city of David, one who shall be the Savior of the world, even Christ your Lord and King. Go and see this child. I will tell you how you can find him. Look for a newly born baby wrapped in such clothes as babies wear, and lying, not in a cradle or in a house, but in a manger yet he is the King of all the earth!”

While the shepherds were listening to the words of this angel, they saw that the entire midnight sky over them filled with a multitude of heavenly beings. The shepherds heard them say: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men to whom God is well pleased.”

Then the vision faded away, the angelic host passed out of sight, and in the dark sky only the stars were shining above them. Then the shepherds said to each other: “Let us leave our sheep for a little while and go to the village to see this wonderful thing that is come to pass. How good it is that the Lord has given his word to us, that we may be the first to look upon our King!”

It did not take the shepherds a long time to find the right stable and the manger, for Bethlehem was only a small village. They came and found just what the angel had said they would see, a tiny baby lying in a feed trough, his mother hovering near, and Joseph watching over them both with tenderness.

They saw the Royal little one, and bowed low around his manger cradle, then went again to the flocks in the field, praising God for his goodness and sending the long-promised King. The people to whom the shepherds told the story, wondered at it, hardly knowing whether to believe it or not; for this was not the way in which they looked for the King of Israel to come. They were expecting a prince to be born in a palace, not by a working woman’s child in a dark cave for cattle to be kept.

Mary, happy with her little one, clasped him to her heart and said nothing to anyone of the angel that come to her in Nazareth, and of the promises given her about this child. When the day came to name the child, she simply said, “His name shall be Jesus,” but she told no one why the name was given. It was a common name among the Jews, however no one in the family had that name. The name Jesus is the New Testament translation of what is said in the Old Testament. That name was Joshua meaning Savior.

There is no other prophet, religious leader, founder of a religion, teacher, or clergy in all of history that had a miraculous birth as did Jesus. Similarly, only Jesus died on the cross and three days was resurrected as a living person. When you give your heart to Jesus, you are giving it to the divine one-of-a-kind individual that has no equal among any religion, sect, or leaders. If there was but one person that needed salvation, Jesus would have still died and been resurrected.

As you observe Christmas, keep in mind that you are observing the birth of the divine Jesus who entered human flesh in a miraculous way through a young woman. As you observe Christmas, keep in mind that the birth of that baby came into this world for one purpose and that was to die for our sins so that we would have our relationship with God healed and have the promise of eternal life.

Will you accept him today? Will you ask him into your heart? Tell him that you recognize you like everyone else is a sinner and you are sorry, genuinely sorry. Ask his forgiveness and to enter your life so that it might be changed as a new creation living to honor God. Let Christmas joy this year be your joy.

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