That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:8-14 (NLT)
We talked last week about the shepherds. (http://thedigitaldisciple.net/the-shepherds/) This week let’s about the angel.
You have seen paintings of the angel telling the shepherds the good news of Jesus’ birth. In ones I have seen, the angel looks like a guy in a bath robe. Based on their reaction, I doubt the shepherds were greeted by a guy in a bath robe. According to Luke, the shepherds were “terrified” by the angel. Now, that says something because these guys had seen a lot. They lived in the wilderness and fought off wild animals to protect their sheep. They had to be strong, self-reliant, and brave to do what they did every day. Yet, this experience on the hills near Bethlehem left them terrified. What did they see?
The shepherds saw a real angel, not some artist’s interpretation of an angel. So, what does a real angel look like? The Bible doesn’t give us a lot of information about angels. We are told that angels are spiritual beings who, like people, were created by God. Angels are superior to humans in strength and intelligence. In the Bible, when people have seen angels, they usually appear in human form. There are times, though, their appearance results in awe or fear. Like when the soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb saw the angel who rolled away the stone (Matthew 28:2-4) or here, when an angel appeared to the shepherds. This angel probably looked like a warrior in the “armies of heaven.” Whatever he looked like, his appearance captured the shepherds’ undivided attention. God sent an awesome and unforgettable messenger to deliver an awesome and unforgettable message.
This leads to a point I didn’t make about the shepherds last week. The shepherds weren’t just delivery boys. The shepherds were called as prophets and given a message from God along with a sign from God to verify its truth. The message is that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem. The sign? “You will find the baby wrapped snuggly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
The story of Jesus’ birth is full of rich theology and reflects a pattern we see first in the Old Testament, with an important exception. The main characters are not Judges, Kings, Priests and other powerful and important people. Joseph was a carpenter. Mary was a young woman who, people believed, was pregnant before she was married. The shepherds were a motley crew who were unwelcome in polite company.
In this dramatic scene that begins Jesus’ time on earth, God sent heaven’s most awesome messengers to earth’s most humble characters. Don’t miss what this means for you. God wants us to see that we don’t need a special title or position to be part of his redemption story. He has written us into the story just as we are. He gives us the angel’s message and invites us to go with the shepherds to Bethlehem to worship the child in the manger. Go now and welcome him.
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