|And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." |
...15 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."
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (Luke2:8-18)
I prefer the first option.
If Jesus came to seek and save the lost, then it is fitting that the Good News of His birth would be extended to those who were far from God. If these were the elite passover-lambs-shepherds then the implication is that the Good News is only for those that are good enough. As nice as the theological connection with Passover Lambs and Jesus-the-Lamb-of-God is, I think the angel's use of "Good News" (the Greek word is where we get "gospel" from) is a clue to the nature of this encounter.
Look at their journey:
- The angels appear and the shepherds are terrified. The Greek literally says: They feared (with) a mega fear. This is not holy reverence - this is genuine terror. Was it the holy splendour of the angels or their guilty consciences? Maybe a bit of both...
- The shepherds, after seeing the host of angels, are obedient. One can only imagine that the incredible joy of the angels made the shepherds brave enough and hungry enough to "go" and "see."
- They see Jesus and it changes their lives! I just imagine these rough tough men holding the new-born Jesus in their arms, maybe caressing a smooth cheek with a rough knuckle with tears coursing down their cheeks - "God has come to us - He has really come!"
- They start telling others. We should not forget that Bethlehem was full because of the census. One has to imagine that there were some soldiers and representatives of Rome officiating over the census. The disturbance the shepherds cause in the night would cause some ripples - but this does not stop them.
- Others take them seriously. The shepherds are not dismissed as mischievous, crazy or intoxicated - people are amazed at the message of the shepherds and it is in no small part because it is obvious that something special has happened to these men.
The story of the shepherds is the story of every Christian witness:
We did not expect or deserve the Good News of Jesus' coming, but we heard the news and "went" and "saw" and it changed our lives. Now it's up to us to reflect that glory to the world. In a time where "Seasons Greetings" and "Happy Holidays" are the way in which the world wants us to think about Advent and Christ's birth, it is up to us to "go" and "see". And we should "see" long and hard enough that it once again fills us with joy and peace and wonder that we just can't keep to ourselves!
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