Summary: The story of the encounter of the shepherds with the angel at the time of Jesus’ birth and how they reacted.
In The Still of the Night
In the movies if the director wants to produce a dramatic effect, many times he will have the event happen at night. It seems that in the movies, the monsters (remember Jurassic Park?), criminals, and enemies always attack at night. Likewise many great events in the movies were set against a night sky. “Titanic” “E T” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” It is no different in the Bible. Many of the great events in the Bible happened at night. The Passover (Exod. 12) and Gideon’s great victory over the Midianites (Jud. 7). Many of God’s visitations to His prophets and other leaders such as Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Solomon, and Daniel occurred at night. However, one of the most spectacular events to ever occur during any night, is recorded in Luke 2:8-20, when the angels appear to the shepherds in the field to announce the birth of Jesus.
Near Bethlehem “in the same region” Not in the city but not far away.
II. Time of year
Probably sometime between April and September. Sheep give birth to their lambs in the winter or early spring. During that time the sheep are kept in pens to protect them from predators. The sheep are not taken into the fields until sometime in the spring and are removed from the fields before the weather turns cold.
III. The scene: The shepherds
A. Are abiding/living/staying in the fields.
Most of us live in one place and work in another. But these men lived where they worked . . . in tents . . . in the field. Today sheep are often confined by fences and do not require a shepherd with them 24 hours a day. But then, there were no fences and sheep without a shepherd were easy prey for wild animals and thieves.
And a word about shepherds. They were at the bottom of the social ladder. Herding sheep was a 24 hour a day job, so shepherds had little time to mix and mingle with “normal people.” And, oh yes, since they lived with sheep, they SMELLED like sheep. When a shepherd came into town, there was no doubt in anyone’s nose, what a shepherd did for a living.
B. Keeping watch
The shepherds worked together as a team. Someone was awake and watching the sheep at all times. With sheep, disaster is always just around the corner.
C. At night
Luke does not tell us what time of the night the event happened. This doesn’t matter. If it was night it was dark. No street lights, no automobile lights, no lights of any kind. The only possible exception would be light from a camp fire.
It was quiet. They are in the pasture away from any city and the noise that would be found there. The only possible sound would have been from the occasional bleating of the sheep or the snoring of sleeping shepherds.
It was really, really dark and really, really quiet.
IV. Lights, camera, action!!!
WHAM! WHO TURNED ON THE LIGHTS???
B. An Angel of the Lord stood before them.
Flying in the air above them? Probably not. This angel STOOD before them like any other normal human being except...as he stood before them...
C. And the glory of the Lord shown round about them.
Glory...The presence of God manifested in light, fire, clouds, or all of the above.
One minute the shepherds are enjoying a quiet night out in the field with the sheep. The next they are confronted by an angel and surrounded by God’s glory.
Talk about a wake up call.
D. “And they were terribly frightened”
The shepherds could not have been more frightened. Their teeth chattered, their knees buckled and no doubt they hid their faces from this awesome sight. Throughout the Bible men have cowered before the presence of God.
Moses (Exod 3:6) Before God at the burning bush. “Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”
Isaiah (Isa. 6:5) When he saw God sitting on His throne. “Woe is me, for I am ruined...for my eyes have seen the Lord of hosts.”
Daniel (Dan. 8:17) Before the “holy one” “I was frightened and fell on my face...”
Daniel (10:9) Before the “man” “No strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength.”
Peter, James and John (Matt. 17:6) At the transfiguration. “They fell on their faces and were much afraid.”
John (Rev. 1:17) Before the vision of Christ. “I fell at His feet as a dead man.”
V. The message
A. “Do not be afraid”
Peter, James and John (Matt. 17:7) “And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, ‘Arise, and do not be afraid.’”