Luke 2: 8-20

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
 and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”

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.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

C S Lewis once wrote, ‘Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important’.

If it is true, as Lewis was asserting, then the Advent story is one half of the most awe-some story in the world (literally so). And if so, then this passage is the high-point of that half-of-the-story. Who would have dared to place angels (messengers of God) and shepherds (irreligious outsiders) in the same scene – both as models of worshippers in the events of the incarnation?

The angel of verse 9 announces the wonder-full event and his ‘colleagues’, a multitude of them, are caught up in the joyful celebration announcing glory to God (gazing upwards) and peace among men (reaching downwards). The shepherds’ contribution, at first, seems more earthy, but on closer examination, reveals that God has shown up, as his glory envelopes their evening experience, and the natural response is to go quickly to check if this can be so. They go in search of this new-born child; we presume, they worship him and then begin to spread this amazing message – that the hopes of their people, even the religious people, have been realised, in the birth of a baby. Immanuel, the Saviour of the world has come! The response of these model worshippers – is to sing the praise of God (‘O Come Let Us Adore Him’), to ‘check out’ the Saviour, and then to ‘glorify and praise God for all they had heard and seen’ and tell of this wonder to the people they met.

When someone encounters God it’s not surprising that God makes an impact on their life and they respond by worshipping him and telling others of what God has done/what a difference God has made.  As you journey through Advent this year, how will you let this awe-some story make an impact on your life? What might help you to respond to this story – as if it was ‘new’ to you?

  • Let me invite you to a period of quiet reflection – to set aside 10-15 minutes and meditate upon each aspect of the angel’s words in verses 10 & 11. How might these verses translate into life-affecting actions for you – and for your friends and family (‘Don’t be afraid..’ and so on)?
  • In addition to attending your own carol service, why not take the opportunity to attend a Christmas service in a tradition that is far removed from your own? And invite God to reveal himself to you in the ‘strangeness’ of the experience?
  • Who can you tell this story to? Or to put it another way, how can you demonstrate the awesome love of God found in this story – his generosity, and his promise of peace, joy and hope to your neighbours, friends, colleagues and family during Advent?

Dear Lord, thank you that I can enter into the miracle of the Advent story today. Overwhelm me with the wonder and significance of your incarnation. May my Advent worship this year bring joy to you and your continuing transformation in my life. Amen.


Alisdair Longwill

Alisdair is a Regional Minister with the West of England Baptist Association and is also part of a small missional community near Stroud in Gloucestershire.