What did the shepherds see that night?
We are being told that on Friday, December 21st, a cataclysmic event that was foretold by an ancient culture will befall upon our planet causing mass destruction. The end of the world as we know it may be right on our doorstep. Some are taking this quite seriously, while most are dismissing the news. Of course, some are giving this as a great reason to have a party.
End of the world projections or predictions of when Christ will return have come and gone. Even the disciples fully expected Christ’s return in their lifetimes and may have often looked up into the heavens waiting for Jesus to descend and take his rule. Expectations are a good thing. There will be a time when all people will meet with Christ face-to-face. Some with joy and many with fear. And like the Bible teaches, those who trust in Christ can wait with expectation and preparedness.
In creation, God openly displays Himself, yet remains hidden or veiled to those who choose to look the other way. Yet, sometimes God does amazing things to get our attention. The Christmas story is a great example.
When the heavenly hosts appeared to the shepherds on that night the Christ child was born, I wonder what that experience may have been like. When the “glory of the Lord” shone around them and the message of good news that was proclaimed, I can appreciate the shepherd’s reaction. They were so terrified at the sight, that the first words from the angel’s mouth was to not be afraid. That was a good thing to do, because the shepherds probably would have passed out when the heavens opened and the heavenly host proclaiming praise and adoration at this wonderful event.
This magnificent appearance by the angels has caused me to wonder if anybody else saw this amazing event. Cities on a hill can be seen from miles away. A large spotlight attracts attention. Fireworks causes oohs and ahs. In the dark night with minimal light except from the moon and the stars, I would think that the glory of the Lord and a great company of heavenly hosts would light up the sky in a way that no man could ever emulate. It must have been too amazing to behold, even frightening. One would even think that perhaps the world was about to end.
I wonder if a traveling caravan several miles away saw what the shepherds saw. I wonder if people in Bethlehem saw this wondrous sight. We don’t know, but God seems to reveal to whom he wants to reveal, and remain veiled to those whom he wants to be veiled. All we do know is that God got his point across that something amazing happened and he is right now lying in a manger. And the shepherds were chosen to go and check this out.
The Good News that the angels proclaimed wasn’t that the world was going to end, but the promises have been kept. The Good News is that salvation has come, that God became man, and by His substitution for us on the cross, we can be 100% assured and confident that we will be with God forever in heaven. This is not a prediction, but a fact. It’s something we can bank on while we watch the world respond foolishly to their own devices. Especially tomorrow, Friday, December 21st. And like the shepherds, the wise men, even Simeon and Anna who beheld this child at the temple and immediately knew who this child was, we, too, can respond with joy and thanksgiving for all that God has done for us. That’s what Christmas is all about — a reminder of the goodness of our Lord who takes care of all His people.