During this time of year churches abound with reenactments of the events that surrounded the birth of Jesus. Much of what really happened is glossed over with traditional interpretations. The pageants and plays do not conflict with Scripture, but they do not give the entire picture, at least in my observation. Let us look at the Shepherds and see if we can maybe understand a little more of what really happened. Shepherds spent much of their time in the fields with their sheep. Their living arrangements were limited to whatever would sustain their physical needs. On one particular night, near the city of David (Bethlehem), there appeared an angel silhouetted by the “glory of the Lord.” What transpired in the next few minutes would change the shepherd’s lives forever. The angel, seeing their fear, told them not to be afraid for he was bringing “good tidings of great joy.” He told them that “today in the city of David” the long awaited Messiah was born. He then told them that the “Babe” could be found wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manager. The finale was a glorious production filled with a multitude of “Heavenly hosts” praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:8-14) The extravaganza ends with the angels ascending into heaven.
I imagine the shepherds sat there trying to figure out what has just happened. When the reality of the news sank in, they decided to go into Bethlehem to see the child who was destined to change the world. The question arises as to the time of night that the angel appeared. I doubt it was in the middle of the night; for if it was, it would present a problem for them. They would have to leave the sheep vulnerable to the nightly predators and travel in darkness to an unlighted, sleeping city, and try to find a special manger amidst dozens of stables scattered throughout Bethlehem.
I believe the angelic visitation was around sunrise. As the dawn arrived, the paths to Bethlehem would become negotiable and the city would be awaking. Markets would open and shopkeepers would be open for business. The shepherds would be able to seek help in locating where popular stables would be located. Finally, they were able to discover the right “barn” where the Christ Child was. The Bible states that they began to tell, not only Mary and Joseph, but anyone who would listen, what had been told them by the angel. (Luke 2:17) The city had awakened from an uneventful night to a day of astonishing news. (Luke 2:15-18) The shepherds then returned to their camp “glorifying and praising God.” (Luke 2:20) The shepherds heard, believed, acted, and praised God for what they had “heard and seen” that day.
It is amazing how many times in our lives God has revealed His Word in the most unlikely places. Sometimes it takes us by surprise and even influences our emotions. If we believe what He has revealed to us we must then make the decision to either act or not to act on His Word. If we chose to act, we should be ready to share with others what He has put in our hearts. When we have proclaimed His truths, we need to glorify and praise God for what has transpired, and then prepare ourselves for both the expected and unexpected truths that will surely come!
I believe some of the greatest spiritual truths are given to simple believers who have learned not to rely on their own understanding, but to acknowledge God in whatever situation the find themselves. Jesus thanked God that He had hidden many things from the “wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes.” (Matthew 11:25) As the religious leaders looked for the coming Messiah, the simple shepherds saw the Christ first!