Luke 2:9. “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.”
I’m taking, perhaps, a somewhat whimsical approach this morning. I didn’t have anything in mind to write about, really, except that it’s the Christmas season, so I chose to write about the Christmas story in Luke 2, verse 9 because today is December 9.
I was delighted to see that it was one of my favorite parts in the story.
The “they” in verse 9 refers to the shepherds who were camping out in the fields, protecting their flocks of sheep during the night.
These were not the educated elite of Israel who wore fine garments and held themselves away from the rabble so they would not be made unclean. They were men of the earth, of hard work, of sometimes long cold nights watching over a bunch of smelly sheep. Of course, they were used to the smell, so I’m sure it didn’t bother them.
So all was normal. The sky was star-filled, and I’m sure some of the shepherds were wrapped up in their cloaks trying to get some sleep while the others kept watch for predators or thieves. Just sitting there, perhaps warming themselves at a fire, wishing the long night weren’t quite so long as they knew it would be.
If those who study these things are right, it was much more likely that Christ was born in the spring, more around the time of the passover. Our tradition is a combination of pagan celebrations and church tradition, but let’s put all that aside for now. It is true that we do not know the exact date, and I believe God arranged that we would not. The main thing is not the date, but the event.
The event changed the history of the world, and was the beginning of the earthly life of Jesus, Messiah, The Holy One of Israel, Yaweh, Elohim, Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, King of Kings!
And who got the message directly from the Angel of the Lord that night? Poor shepherds, that’s who. Of course we know the Magi were on their way from their lands in the Orient, but the shepherds had no knowledge of that. And they would not see the Magi by the manger. That incredible privilege was reserved for the poor, hard-working shepherds, who would be in company with Joseph the Carpenter, his young wife Mary, an amazing infant, and whatever animals were there to help warm the air.
But before they went to Bethlehem, they experienced the awesome, unearthly, holy light that accompanied the angel, and was the glory of the Lord. This overwhelming light “shone round about them,” illuminating the fields in a way I can’t even imagine.
Think about it. How often do you suppose they had seen a real, gorgeous, brilliant angel? Never! I think they were struck speechless. And, the Bible says, they were sore afraid.
Yes. They were terrified. I don’t blame them. I can’t imagine what they must have thought about during those moments. Maybe they were too terrified to think.
Dipping into the next two verses, the angel said “Fear not.” Right. I wonder if they immediately stopped being afraid.
But then they heard the wonderful news that all Israel had waited to hear for centuries: “Unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” And the angel made it clear that this was not just for the Jews, but for ALL PEOPLE!.
Christ, the Savior, is born!