Luke 2: 9-20
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.
Let’s take another look at those shepherds for a couple of days:
Are you the sort of person who wants to change the world? Do you like to put the world to rights over a pint or a cuppa?
I wonder if the shepherds were like that. They spent hours in the fields watching sheep, there must have been lots of opportunities to talk about life, the universe and everything. Perhaps they discussed together how they would put the world to rights; what they would do to make Israel a free nation; maybe they even discussed what the promised Messiah might be like, what this Anointed One would do when he came. Perhaps in the early hours out in the fields they shared good ideas about how they could change the world.
So I wonder how they felt that night that first Christmas when perhaps in the middle of their usual talking they are interrupted by the opportunity for action by messengers from God. One angel and then a whole host appear and tell them about this amazing thing that is happening, the Messiah has come in Bethlehem.
At first they are terrified but then, perhaps, as they are reassured they begin to soak up this amazing experience. Wow! God spoke to us. We have seen angels!
This vision of the heavenly host would almost have been enough for one night – this really was a story to tell their families not only that night but in the future to their grandchildren and then passed on to great-grandchildren ‘Do you know what happened to great-grandad when he was watching the sheep?’
There were no mobile phones at the time or Twitter or Facebook or Instagram to share this experience instantly so it must have been very tempting for the shepherds to run home straight afterwards to tell their families and friends about this amazing thing that happened to them. They must have been on a spiritual high praising God and thanking him that they were chosen to be visited in this way. This encounter may have seemed detached from actually doing anything.
I wonder if you have had encounters with God that have surprised and excited you (not necessarily accompanied by the heavenly host of angels!), moments which have felt highly significant and spiritually intense. Perhaps God spoke to you through prayer, in church, through the Bible, through the words of someone else at a Christian festival, I wonder how you responded? I find it easy at times to delight and marvel in the encounter with God, to share with my friends, to feel encouraged and uplifted, but not necessarily to jump up and act in response.
At least one of the shepherds wanted to go beyond simply basking in the spiritual experience. At least one of them said ‘Come on let’s go and see this thing that the Lord has told us about’ and so they did. They just did it! They responded by action.
I pray that we all encounter God this Christmas and beyond, but more than that, I pray that we go beyond the experience into action, let’s ‘just do it’ – maybe we will go beyond talking and become part of God’s plan to ‘change the world’!
Lord I pray that we would join in with the of the enthusiasm of the shepherds to ‘go!’. Take us beyond spiritual encounters into world-changing action, fill us with your courage to just do it. May your kingdom come! Amen