“Then an angel of the Lord stood before the shepherds, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:1-20 NRSV
So far, it had been a normal day in the fields. Sure, a few of the flock attempted to wander off, but as seasoned shepherds, they simply expected some of that. The quietness of the night began to envelope them, and the flocks had finally settled in for an evening in the fields. As the night droned on, the shepherds kept watch for anything that might threaten the flock. Little did they know that they were about to play a significant role in the life of the world. Little did they know who was coming into the world and how they would help to bring that message to others. After all, they were simple shepherds that played no significant role in the life of society. Why should they expect anything amazing to happen to them?!
Suddenly, as they sat with their flock, a mysterious messenger appeared before them. They shrank backwards from this being that was now in front of them. Fear seized them. They couldn’t move – much less protect the flock. And then, the whole, amazing truth was spoken by an angel of the Lord. “Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11 NRSV).
As the shepherds sat and listened to the words of this strange messenger, the night sky was filled with the glory of God and the heavenly host appeared praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, good will towards all persons.” The good news began to sink in slowly as the shepherds watched in amazement; the fear that initially seized them began to fade and was replaced with awe and joy. Instead of running from the place and hiding, the shepherds take on a central role in the birth narrative of Jesus. They receive the message of God with willing hearts, and they respond to that message by seeking out the love of God made real in his incarnate Son, Jesus. The shepherds, regular everyday working people, take the heavenly message that they have received, and they go to Bethlehem to see this baby wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. They go to Bethlehem to share the good news that they have received from the heavenly host and to tell others of what they have seen and heard. The earthly messengers of God are shepherds – regular, working people caught up in a mystery so large that it continues to be incomprehensible to us.
On this day, we, like the shepherds, are recipients of good news of great joy. Though we may be only everyday, regular people, we are the earthly recipients of what is happening on this very day. Today, on this very day, we are the people receiving the words of the angel of the Lord – “Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11 NRSV).
On this very day, we can rest in the hope of Christ and the love of God for today we are given a Savior. He comes not in the form of a great political figure or wealth or from a great family. Instead, he comes to us as a baby wrapped in bands of cloth, and he is lying in a manger waiting for us to greet him as our Lord. Today, God shows us just how much God loves us. The love God has for us is so great that he sends his only son into the world not in the form of a great heavenly figure but as a lowly human being. God’s love is so great that God takes it upon God’s self to enter into our lives in a way that we can greet him, touch him, hear him. God enters into our lives in such a way that we are able to behold the goodness of God in the form of a child, and God showers that mercy down upon creation on this very day – December 24, 2015.
The words of the angel of the Lord ring in our ears and remind us that we need not be afraid for on this day is born to us a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord. Today, we are the earthly recipients of a message of great joy, and we are the ones that are to go forth and share this news with all that we meet. On this very day, we are given a gift of which we are not worthy; we are given a gift that brings God’s love and mercy into real life, and we are given the opportunity to turn towards this baby and to give thanks to God in the highest heaven. Today, we can, like God, turn outward towards another to spread the good news of the one that has come into the world. We are able to join the the prophet Isaiah, the angel of the Lord, the heavenly host, and the shepherds in the field; we are invited to share this great news of joy and to proclaim unto all of creation, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests on his shoulders’ and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 NRSV)
Within the bounds of creation, God takes action and brings unto us peace and teaches us not to fear. On this day, we are the recipients of the overwhelming generosity and love of God in the form of a baby born and laid in a manger. Through this small baby, we are taught of a new way of living our lives. This small child, wrapped in bands of cloth, will lead us on a path that rejects the fears fanning the flames of hatred and a path that teaches us about the abundance of God’s love. This small child will become for us a great light inspiring us to live for each other. The great light given unto us today teaches us to welcome the refugee, to share the abundance of wealth in creation, to celebrate the great diversity of God’s children, and to see our world as a gift that deserves our protection and care. Through a small child in a manger, we are taught to respond to the needs that are in front of us, to live in the present moment, and to pray to God through our daily lives.
Today, a small child envelopes us in the warmth of God’s love. Today, God sends heavenly messengers to us to say, “Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Today, we are made earthly messengers of a heavenly proclamation, of good news filled with great joy and for that we can say with every fiber of our being, “Merry Christmas.”