The shepherds who came to see the child born in Bethlehem that chill winter night would never be the same after that experience. What they had heard and seen that night beginning with the awesome, overwhelming presence of the angel and the joyous news of the birth of the Messiah, the one who had been prophesied for so many hundreds of years, would have shaken the very foundations of their familiar, daily lives. Something only dreamed of and hoped for by generations of Jews was being announced to them by a messenger from God. We can imagine them wondering after the angel had left their presence, “Why us? We are mere shepherds. We are as nobody in the world. Why would we be so privileged to hear this good news?” And yet, how they must have been filled with joy and excitement too.
After seeing the child laying in the manger, their wonder would have only increased. The infant would have looked like any other infant. But this one! This one, whom they had now seen with their own eyes, had been announced to them in the august form of an angel. Hadn’t they heard the heavenly choir filling the whole sky, it seemed to them, with the most wonderful sounds they had ever heard in their lives, praising this child? Simple men as they were, they were faithful Jews. They knew the prophecies. Did not such wondrous events strongly imply that this child was the one?
We do not get any of the follow up details on what happens to them after the events of that night, but we can imagine that they would not have been able to stop thinking about it. Some of them might have lived long enough to have encountered Jesus in his public ministry in their old age, but some of them may have died before that could happen. After all, that would be thirty years down the road from that night. We can imagine that their lives went on as the lives of poor, simple shepherds would, but each of them would have thought about what they had experienced often. We can imagine them sharing their memories of that night with each other when they were in the fields. Their faith in the Messiah would have been reinforced by those wonderful happenings. With the passing of time, we can imagine that they would have struggled with impatience at not seeing the effects of salvation first hand. We can imagine, too, that their faith could have been tested by this.
Are they not like ourselves, after all. We have seen the Messiah. We know what his life turned out like. We know the facts of his public ministry. We know how his life ended. And we know the reality of his resurrection and what it all means for us. We know that Christ came not only for humanity in general, but for each one of us individually, that he desires a personal relationship with each one of us. Does not that thought still stun us? And yet our lives, like those of those shepherds long ago, continue to have their share of trials and tribulations, boredoms and temptations to struggle against. Do we not, at times, feel as though God has forgotten us? It cannot be of course. God never forgets us. He is always with us. Though we have our down moments, even moments of doubt, by the grace of God, something always draws us back to that awesome reality that God is with us and we realize again that his promise is true. So we, like those shepherds, return to our places in life glorifying and praising God for all that he has done and continues to do with us in our individual lives.
Lord, during this Advent season, help us to remember again that you have come into the world with the unconquerable power and force of love. Help us to see in the Christ child, the promise and the hope of our salvation as the shepherds did that night. Keep our hearts strong in faith. Let our lives be songs of praise to your glory in and through our loving service to one another and to those who have been forgotten by our society. We pray in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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