Friday, December 21, 2012
By the time the shepherds arrived, it was all over but the crying of baby Jesus. History reports them as the first ones to visit and worship the newborn Son of God. Like the men from the east who would come later, the shepherds of Bethlehem brought a gift. It was the gift of external validation. Verse 18 of Luke 2 tells us that Mary and Joseph were amazed at what the shepherds told them. Without even looking at the page of the Word, we know what the shepherds told the parents of Jesus.
They told them about the angel who shattered the darkness of the night and the mundane routine of their lives with his presence and a Word from God which said, "...Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people; to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is the Messiah, the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)
Mary and Joseph were surely amazed for as far as they knew, no one else knew about the special nature of their child. Before Mary had become pregnant an angel had appeared to her telling her that she was going to conceive the Son of God in her womb and he would be named Jesus. A short time later Joseph had an angel come to him in his dream life telling him that Mary's child was of the Spirit and should be named Jesus for He would save His people from their sins. For the first time Mary and Joseph heard what had been revealed to them from someone else who could only know because it had been heard from heaven.
The witness of those shepherds was the gift of external validation. Their words must have caused the new parents to be overwhelmed with an assurance that what they had dared to believe in their hearts was indeed the reality of God's plan. Any doubt was at that moment replaced with wonder and amazement. There is something about the reading of this story every Christmas Eve which causes us, no matter how many times we have heard it, to catch the excitement and wonder of that moment in the incredible story which is beginning to unfold. A Savior. God knew. Mary and Joseph knew. The shepherds knew, too. Soon, very soon now, we will hear the story once again and we, too, we will swept away afresh by its wonder.