“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2.8-15
Preparing for Christmas. What does this mean? How can we prepare for the coming of the Christ child?
The shepherds who were living out in the fields nearby Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, were actually nomads. Bedouin’s perhaps living in tents, tending their flocks, guarding them again predators, thieves and danger. They were living in these fields because this is where the sheep were. And they were keeping watch over their flocks even at night.
Now we could stop there and not even finish the rest of the story and make a case that they were preparing for the Christ. They were doing what they were called to do, their jobs were to tend the sheep. Jesus would come on the scene and identify with these shepherds as he would call himself the “Good Shepherd” who “lays his life down for the sheep.”
The shepherds who were in the fields were keeping watch over their sheep. They were minding their own business, faithfully executing their life’s vocation when an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shown around them.
Have you ever noticed when God shows up so does his glory? When people start talking about God, and the Holy Spirit fills the room, angels begin moving and people start giving God glory. This seems to be the case here for the shepherds who were just tending their flocks and before you know it an angel descends upon them and tells them — “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
After this one angel speaks, a whole host of angels show up and church begins! They start praising God and causing quite a raucous singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” And it’s after this, after the singing, the worship, the glory, that the angels leave that the shepherds are left by themselves in the stillness of the night. And its then and only then that their preparation to meet the Lord is complete and they set out to search for the Messiah.
Sometimes we need a hint, a nudge or a reminder that God is near. The shepherds didn’t have a clue until the angels announced Jesus’ arrival. Now they could have appeared to any one in any place, but they chose these shepherds. Were they faithful? Were they Jewish (most likely)? Were they expecting the Christ?
Were they receptive?
Preparing for Christmas means preparing to meet the Messiah. Are you ready to meet with him? Are you tending your own flock in hopes that God will appear with a heavenly host and lead you to the Christ?
“O Lord God, you are good. In my waywardness you direct me home. In my distress, you save my sins. In my weariness you bring me life. Come now, Holy Spirit, I invite you to take control. Strengthen my soul and body that I might glorify your name. I praise you for being the everlasting God, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. You are beautiful and I glorify your name. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen