Angels lighting northern stars
Guiding shepherds from afar
Unto Bethlehem to see
The King of Heaven
Wrapped in light and lying low
God incarnate has come close
Born a humble child and yet
The King of Heaven
Ivey and I were on our way home, singing along to the Christmas music playing on the radio—as I love to do this time of year—when suddenly the playlist stopped and the clip from A Charlie Brown Christmas began to play. It was the scene where Linus gives his speech about the true meaning of Christmas...
And there were in the same country, shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone ‘round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.’
This picture painted from Luke’s gospel is one I’ve seen and heard a thousand times. But as I’ve dug a little deeper into this familiar nativity story this Christmas, I don’t think it will ever be quite the same for me. Though I tend to focus more on the earthly side of things, this year I have found myself imagining what the perspective of the angels was that night. All of heaven surely knew that this moment was coming, and the angels understood the full weight of what Jesus’ birth meant for all of humanity. His coming would change the world forever, making right what sin had stolen and offering every single person the opportunity to be reconciled to God once again.
I don’t know of more exciting news than the news of a new birth. When I was pregnant with Ivey, I wanted to tell everyone she was coming. And when she finally arrived, I could barely contain my excitement! Can you imagine how the angels felt about Jesus’ birth? My anticipation times a billion! I’ve tried to picture the celebration of that night when Jesus arrived, wrapped in flesh for the first time. A baby so small and fragile and yet the King of Heaven! No earthly delivery room party could come close to the praise and pure elation of Heaven on that Christmas night. The angels must have been bursting at the seams as they readied themselves to be summoned by the Father to declare this glorious news to the earth!
And so God gathered His angel armies and sent them to tell the news. But to whom did He send them first?... To the shepherds. I’ve often wondered why God chose to send this earth-shattering announcement—this Gospel—to the lowly and outlying shepherds. But I know that God has purposed every detail of His story, and the angels coming to the shepherds gives us a glimpse of the Father’s heart for ALL people. No matter how unseen, unwanted or simple you and I may feel at times, our loving Father comes for us. And that is good news. But still, He could have chosen so many others who felt like outcasts. So why these shepherds? Well…God is in the details, and He has purposed everything according to His plan.
Scholars believe that these shepherds were the same shepherds that cared for the sacrificial flock that was used for the daily sacrifices in the Temple. These shepherd boys, whose entire lives had been spent looking after the lambs that Jesus—the Lamb of God—was coming to replace once and for all with His Calvary sacrifice… these were the ones God chose to announce His coming to first. I can just feel the Father’s heart in all of this. It’s as if He was saying to them, ‘This is the end of an era. The days of sacrifice and the slaughtering of precious, innocent animals over and over again to atone for the sins of man has come to an end. All the brokenness and bloodshed and hopelessness is over. I have sent my Son—the King of Heaven—to BE the sacrifice and make all things right once and for all.’
Now when I sing about the angels and I read about the shepherds, I see it all lit up in new light. And I hope these few revelations can help breathe some fresh life into this Good News again this Christmas for you. I have SO loved reading the Advent story from the Passion Translation in this season, and so I pass it on to you. Take a few minutes to read it and breathe in the mystery and wonder of the infant King who came for us.
May His fresh light come to you this Christmas,
An Angelic Encounter
That night, in a field near Bethlehem, there were shepherds watching over their flocks. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared in radiant splendor before them, lighting up the field with the blazing glory of God, and the shepherds were terrified! But the angel reassured them, saying,“Don’t be afraid. For I have come to bring you good news, the most joyous news the world has ever heard! And it is for everyone everywhere! For today in Bethlehem a rescuer was born for you. He is the Lord Yahweh, the Messiah. You will recognize him by this miracle sign: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough! Then all at once, a vast number of glorious angels appeared, the very armies of heaven! And they all praised God, singing:
Glory to God in the highest realms of heaven! For there is peace and a good hope given
to the sons of men.
When the choir of angels disappeared back to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go! Let’s hurry and find this Manifestation that is born in Bethlehem and see for ourselves what the Lord has revealed to us.” So they ran into the village and found their way to Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in a feeding trough. Upon seeing this miraculous sign, the shepherds recounted what had just happened. Everyone who heard the shepherds’ story was astonished by what they were told. The shepherds returned to their flock, ecstatic over what had happened. They praised God and glorified him for all they had heard and seen for themselves, just like the angel had said.”
(Luke 2:8-20 The Passion Translation)