“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.” Luke 2:8-10
“They were sore afraid:” we are able to readily grasp the element of shock here. We do not wonder at their being seized with fight, as the Heavenly Message broke the stillness of the night, with the overwhelming splendor of the light and the surprising suddenness of that sight. Yet another factor should be realized. This was still the Age of the Law, a time when often a supernatural presence meant danger. But, glory to God! Into that Age of the trembling servant came the rejoicing Son. That marvelous light must have been indeed an amazing, exciting, and yet frightening sight. But here was an announcement of “better things” to come, “the wisdom that is from above” descending “from the Father of lights.”
“Fear Not:” the messenger’s sweet comfort calmed them and enabled them to understand the Message, in order to enjoy its benefits and to share its joy. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” – Lk. 2:11. God’s good news told of deliverance for mankind, and of the Saviour who is able “to save to the uttermost” – the Christ, He is the One especially anointed and supernaturally empowered to fully carry to completion the Father’s will and purpose. He is the Lord, the Son, who is to be the supreme Controller.
“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men” – Lk. 2:12-14.
Oh, what a happy Message! The “good tidings of great joy” moved the heavenly host to great rejoicing, giving “glory to God in the highest.” The wise men had their sign in the star, but these shepherds were to find theirs in the stable, Verses nine to fourteen record what they heard from heaven. Verses fifteen and sixteen record what they saw on earth – “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.”
The reaction to this Message, after they got over the initial shock, was to check it out, to go and look unto what they heard. Therefore, by experience, they knew their Message was true. They relayed the news, they published it, made it “known abroad” – V. 17. Now, they were not chosen to carry this good news, because of their education or religious authority. They were not kings nor part of the Sanhedrin, but just common working people. They were not doing anything unusual or especially worthy of note. They were just “abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”
When the Message came, they put the Lord first. It is very evident that they left their flock to the Lord’s care, and fulfilled the ministry at hand. In their message, they did not tell what they thought or imagined. They did not preach themselves or their feelings or how it affected them. But the effect their testimony had on others showed that it had moved and excited them.
“They wondered:” “And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen as it was told unto them” – Lk. 2:18-20.
They that truly hear today also wonder. I would to God that all would wonder more. The “good tidings of great joy” are still awe-inspiring and amazing. Throughout the history of the world, many have been struck with awe; but most of them have not been moved to true adoration. What a wonder. The revelation of the riches of God’s glory and goodness and grace when received into the heart of man, must result in worship.
“Mary pondered:” Mary weighed these things, turned them over in her mind, dwelt on them, and gave them due consideration. Before that she “kept,” treasured up the things told about the Christ Child. The psalmist wrote “Selah.” Paul said, “Think on these things.” God’s people are often made to wonder, but are also prone to forget.
The Bible is such a treasure chest of God’s testimony of Jesus. It is just marvelous. Let us not just wonder at its Message but digest it, pondering its meaning for us personally. Treasuring up in our hearts that which we have heard and seen, we are caused to wonder at that which we have been given to ponder. God’s good news requires faith of its beneficiaries. Believing God’s Word leads to beholding His works; and, hence, blessing His worthy Name.
The Shepherds returned to their fields and flocks, to their business, rejoicing. We also do well to glorify God for each opportunity given us to hear God’s Word and see His work, and for its agreement in our experience. We, too, praise God for the things happening just like we have been told.
“Good tidings of great joy:” God said it. They sought it. They saw it, They shared it. They shouted it.