During Advent, we not only remember how Christ first came into the lives of the individuals at the nativity, but how he came into our own lives and continues to transform us. We invite you to read the gospel account of the shepherds and reflect upon how these humble, ordinary people witnessed glory in Bethlehem.
Full Scripture passage: Luke 2:8-21
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
When the angel of the Lord shows up in the Old Testament, we often think about the people he visited as pillars of our faith, like Abraham or Joshua. And yet, at the time of the encounter, there was nothing special about them or what they were doing in their lives. We see the same thing with the shepherds. There was nothing unique or noteworthy about the work they did. They were ordinary people going about their ordinary lives. And they experienced the ordinary, human emotion of fear when faced with interruption, surprise, and change.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
How generous and kind of God to send the introduction of “do not fear,” a reminder that He knows us and our human emotions. No matter how unknown, surprising, or life-altering the message from the Lord, we are invited to enter His presence with confidence (Hebrews 4:16) because His perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). And because God is love (1 John 4:17) and fear cannot be in the same room as love, instead of fearing God’s interruption, we can expect to experience the fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).
God could have chosen men or women in powerful positions to make known His mighty work, but He chose those faithfully going about the mundane. To the faithful, God shows Himself faithful, and in this moment His faithfulness is a glimpse into His redemption masterplan.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”
Talk about a celebration. I sometimes forget that up to this point, it’s just one angel. And then the whole sky lights up with a glory choir. Can you imagine? Could you ever go back to life in the same way? For the shepherds, they will never be the same.
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
Scripture doesn’t say how long they talked, but motivated by a visit with the incarnate God, I don’t imagine it took much deliberating for the shepherds to navigate what to do with the sheep so they could confirm what they had witnessed.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
The good news of God coming to earth now has human hearts and hands carrying the message through the streets and pastureland of Bethlehem. It is to the ordinary whom God chooses to bring the first message of glad tidings. And, after seeing Jesus, their lives changed forever, they return with a new perspective, a whole new mission and purpose. They maintain faithfulness to their work and at the same time, they bring the best news to the waiting world.
This is the brilliance of God that we can only hope to understand: what we see as dull and unremarkable, an ordinary night out with the sheep, can literally be an eternal, worldwide, history-changing moment.
Is there something in your life that seems mundane or annoying? How might the Holy Spirit be guiding you this season to faithfully offer Him these moments, tasks, or experiences? How might the Lord want to use them to bring about His Kingdom’s goodness in the lives of those who need hope and the gospel?
Ellie Grace Hughes