“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” Luke 2:15
How differently, the God who truly is, executes His plans and purposes in contrast to the sons of men. All but one current and past living U.S. Presidents joined by many, many more Heads of State, flew to South Africa to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral in a massive World Cup soccer stadium, which was broadcast world-wide; the world went genuinely gaga over the birth of Prince William’s and Kate’s baby’s birth; yet only poor shepherds came to see the Lord of all creation on the day He was born in an animal stable in the obscure town of Bethlehem. Is this merely a function of the modern world’s communications and transportation? Possibly, but that misses the point. Messiah’s coming was promised and prophesied for centuries, yet only a few living at the time were ready for it, or waiting for it, when it occurred; the Lord’s Second Advent will take place in this modern era of communications, amidst the spread of the Bible in massive world-wide sales and free give-a-ways, in almost all the world’s languages, multiplied by global television and radio programs proclaiming the gospel; yet the eager expectation of the return of the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, is not universal by a long shot. In fact, it appears rather meager when you scan the world’s media for any reference to the long anticipated climax to human history.
Just last night, at least as we celebrate it, over 2000 years ago, a group of poor shepherds left their sheep, to walk through the winter night to nearby Bethlehem, all to see a newborn baby in a most unusual setting. They did not balk at the birth-announcement, somewhat grander than our various mailed-photograph-announcements today. Admittedly, it was a majestic night show in the sky that would cause the most spectacular fireworks display to blush. Yet as you read about these shepherds you sense a devout spirit among them that preceded the presentation of the angels. By no means did they blow off the message brought by angels. Though the Lord was not among those angels, their immediate response was “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. Furthermore, these shepherds were not in bad company historically seeing that Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and David had experience as shepherds, and the Lord has chosen to call himself the Good Shepherd. Nevertheless, from what we have gleaned from antiquity, the profession of a shepherd did not appear to be a profession of great repute. In fact, there is much disreputableness associated with it in secular descriptions of those times. Still these particular shepherds were honored by God above all their fellows, even the high society of Jerusalem nearby, in being so gloriously invited to see the new born God in the flesh, in swaddling clothes, and bedded in hay lying in a manger. It is such a common story to many of us that we may fail to see the wonder of it all, nor give meditative thought to the actual fact of such a wondrous birth, full of detail to enrich our thoughts.
If the truth of this birth penetrates even a small portion of your brain, it cannot help but astound you at what occurred in such a small corner of the world with its myriad inhabitants with only the parents, some shepherds, and animals to welcome the Messiah. What further amazes is the poverty and humbleness of the whole scene; the exact spiritual condition which the Lord chooses to come into anyone’s presence! He will come as a Judge into the presence of Pharaohs, Caesars, Kings, Presidents, and the pretentious, but he only comes as a Savior into the presence of those who are poor in heart. The continuing arrogant, proud, spiritually independent, and those who eschew telling the truth, have no place before Immanuel’s crib, or his throne. The lessons of the nativity should not be lost on those who truly claim this Savior as theirs; not only their Savior from numerous sins, but the Master and Lord of their life.
The most important birth ever? Nothing else comes close! The most important birth led to the most important death. Without it there is nothing to hope for, nothing to live for, and we are of all men and women, miserable, and only to be pitied. The lesson for each of you in the historical facts of the nativity is to be as the shepherds in your spirit, both in your immediacy to come to the Savior’s side, and in your gratefulness to spread the good news with great joy, just as these “poor shepherds. How have you imitated the shepherds during this season of the year? How will you imitate them in the new year?
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