Summary: As we peek at the shepherds out on the hills of Bethlehem that first Christmas night let’s see what we can learn from them.
Christmas through Their Eyes
“Christmas through SHEPHERDS’ Eyes”
Luke 2:8-9, 15-17, 20
Introduction: What time is it? It is Christmastime of course. But what is Christmas a time for? For many of us it is a time of decorating, baking, cooking, cleaning, singing, sending cards, buying presents, going to parties, eating, family, etc.
For the shepherds it was really quite different. There was no baking, family, and gift buying or card sending. But as we look at their experience perhaps we can be influenced in how we celebrate Christmas and what Christmas should mean to us.
As we peek at the shepherds out on the hills of Bethlehem that first Christmas night let’s see what we can learn from them as we see “Christmas through SHEPHERDS’ eyes.”
To the Shepherds, Christmas was a time of…
1. Terror. (vv. 8-9)
“living out in the fields” - Not under the stars, but probably living in tents.
Shepherd’s Field was about 2 or 3 miles from Bethlehem. The shepherds would keep their sheep there from April until the fall. These were the sheep that would be used in the sacrifices throughout the year at the temple in Jerusalem.
“keeping watch over their flock by night” - Literally “keeping the watches of the night” or “keeping the night watches”. They were working the night shift.
These sacrificial animals needed to be protected from wolves and thieves.
v. 9 – “behold” – Suddenly with no warning an angel was there. First he was not and then he was! Perhaps this was the third appearance of Gabriel.
“glory of the Lord” – This would be the Shekinah glory that was a sign of the Lord’s presence in the OT.
It is interesting that the Shekinah glory had left Israel in Ezekiel 10:18 and 11: 23.
Then the glory of the LORD departed from over the threshold of the temple… Ezekiel 10:18 (NIV)
The glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it. Ezekiel 11:23 (NIV)
It had departed and not returned…until NOW at the birth of Jesus (Emmanuel – God with us)!
“Very afraid” – terrified, scared out of their wits, freaked out, however you say it they were beyond scared.
What are you afraid of? For the shepherds, it was fear of the unexpected (appeared out of nowhere), fear of the unknown (angels did not regularly appear to people especially shepherds), fear of judgment (angels usually came to pronounce God’s judgment).
Perhaps you are the same way. You fear the unexpected, the unknown, perhaps even judgment. Maybe there are other things that you fear besides these.
Let me first remind you why this angel was there. He was not there to announce judgment, but joy! He was there to announce the birth of the final sacrificial lamb to those that were watching the sacrificial lambs!
For us today, God’s Word is this:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)
He is here to remind us that Christmas is not a time for fear or terror, but something entirely different.
2. Trust. (vv. 15-16)
Angels leave and their response? “Let’s go now…”
There was a sense of urgency. Why dawdle? Why waste time? Why put it off? Let’s do it right now!
The angels had brought “good tidings” or “good news”. They had brought the gospel and the shepherds had an immediate response to it!
There is no hesitancy nor is there any doubt in their minds – “See this thing…Lord has made known to us.”
Did not say let’s see IF this is true, but rather since it IS true let’s go see it. Their faith preceded their sight!
They walked by faith and not sight. Their faith would become sight soon enough.
They went where they were told and looked where they were told even though it did not make sense.
The King in a cave? The Messiah in a manger? The Savior in a stable? Get real! Come on now. No one could possibly believe that!
"This was a revolting sight, and was sufficient of itself to produce an aversion to Christ. For what could be more improbable than to believe that he was the King of the whole people, who was deemed unworthy to be ranked with the lowest of the multitude?"
– Calvin's Commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke
God still operates this way today. He puts His Treasure, His Son in unlikely places – us!
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7