Read Luke 2:8–20.
The overwhelming tone of this passage is joy. God had sent his Son to earth, and heaven’s celebration spilled down to the world with praise and stunning glory. And to whom does the joyful announcement come? Not to the most glorious of humanity, but rather to the most normal, mundane, and even earthy. The text reeks of animals, from the sheep being watched by the shepherds to the feeding trough that cradled Jesus. Christmas is a stunning picture of the gospel: God did not abandon his creation, but went a great distance, at great cost, to personally redeem it.
Luke records a variety of responses to the proclamation. Understandably, the first feeling of the shepherds is fear as they are confronted by creatures so unlike themselves. But their fear was soon replaced by eagerness. After all, this first coming was not like the second will be. While the second coming of Christ will usher in the judgment of all, this first was an offer of joy to all people, which would result in true and lasting peace for those who responded to it (vv. 10, 14).
The shepherds’ diligence to seek out the sign was rewarded with finding the family, just as the angels had said. But the shepherds did not keep the news to themselves. They were just as diligent in reporting what they had been told as they were in seeking out the child. This is the heart of gospel proclamation: hearing it for ourselves, experiencing that God has kept his word, and sharing the very good news of sure salvation with others.
Those who heard the shepherds’ testimony were amazed (v. 18). This doesn’t necessarily mean they comprehended the full gravity of what the angels had told the shepherds about the infant: Savior, Messiah, Lord. Perhaps, hearing only average shepherds (and not an angelic host) and seeing only a common newborn, the glory was too obscured for some. Yet God calls us to live by faith in him, not by sight.
Mary, for her part, took it all to heart, turning it over in her mind. And the shepherds rounded out their spontaneous missionary journey by praising and glorifying God. Christ the Lord, our Savior, took on human nature for us and came to be our peace. May our response today—like the shepherds—resound in joy, praise, and glory!
Rachel Gilson serves on Cru’s leadership team for theological development and culture. She is the author of Born Again This Way: Coming Out, Coming to Faith, and What Comes Next.
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