Both passages today are about new babies. Galatians tells us about being received into a new family by adoption and Luke tells us of the birth of the baby Jesus and something of his first eight days of life.
When the shepherds were looking after their flocks during a normal working night, they experienced an unexpected, extraordinary experience.
“An angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were terrified.”
They were extra scared. We can only imagine what they saw and experienced that night. Most of us haven’t seen angels. Some of us may have experienced something of the glory of the Lord but my guess is that we haven’t seen it. If you have seen either an angel or the glory of the Lord, please encourage me by talking to me about it.
The angel then spoke to the shepherds. He told them not to be afraid. I guess at the time that probably didn’t make much difference.
He them spoke to them of good news for all people. Unto them, personally was born this day in the city of David, a Saviour who is the Messiah, the Lord. A sign for them would be that they would find a child wrapped in bands of cloth lying in a manger.
When the shepherds got over the shock, they must have had great difficulty in believing what they were seeing.
They were in a field that was probably full of sheep poo. They worked in the dark when most people were asleep in their beds. They were despised by the ordinary people of the day because they were unable to keep the details of ceremonial law, the hand washings and the rules and regulations even though the flocks near Bethlehem probably provided the sheep from which the Temple sacrifices were chosen.
William Barclay writes, “It is a lovely thought that the shepherds who looked after temple lambs were the first to see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Whilst the shepherds were still recovering from their fright, suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying as we will later in our communion liturgy, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours.”
The experience of the shepherds shows us that God can reveal something of his glory everyone.
Most of us however don’t talk about these experiences. We’re afraid of not being believed or of appearing to be proud. We don’t want to be thought of as special because we are only as special as everyone else for whom Jesus died.
The shepherds didn’t seek a special experience. What they saw and experienced left them in fear and changed their lives. They had a decision to make. What had happened to them might have been mass hysteria, a hallucination, a message from the evil one. To find out if what the angel said was true or not they had to act on what they heard, leave their flocks, with all the risks to their safety that meant and travel to Bethlehem.
They went with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the baby as the angel had said.
They immediately started sharing the good news.
Jesus was born to be Saviour and King not just for the Jews, but for everyone. Whatever our background, status or gender, Jesus came to save us from our sin.
He was called Jesus, Yeshua from Joshua which means Saviour.
As unlikely as it must have seemed, the tiny baby in the manger was the Messiah the Jewish people had been waiting for, the one their scriptures pointed to.
Jesus came to save those shepherds and he also came for you. What wonderful news!
All who heard what the angels told them were amazed. We don’t know whether they believed as a result.
Mary, however treasured their words and pondered them in her heart.
The Shepherds confirmed what she had been told by the angel.
When God reveals something to us, it is for passing on.
Our words may challenge or encourage. People may come to faith through what we say or think we are bonkers. Good news is for sharing.
The shepherds returned to their flocks changed. They glorified and praised God for all they had heard and seen. They may never have seen angels again this side of heaven, but they knew that Jesus was their Lord worthy of our love and praise. The more we praise and glorify God, the more we will want to share him with others.
It’s vital that we share both our experience and knowledge of Jesus sensitively with others. Paul says in Galatians that God the father sent his only begotten son, born of a woman under the law, to redeem us, to set us free from the slavery of sin.
He also sent his son so that we might be adopted as his children and have a tender relationship with our heavenly Father. Under Roman law, adopted children had the same legal status and inheritance rights as biological children. Paul does not identify Jews with biological children and Gentiles with adopted children. We are all adopted. None of us have any prior claim on the father. Our adoption as God’s children is pure gift. Jesus alone is Son of God from birth, but he deigns to share his kinship and inheritance with us.
Because we are children (huioi = sons), God sent has sent the Spirit of his Son (huios) into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!'” The Spirit links us with God’s Son as fellow children of God, and enables us to call upon God with the same intimate language Jesus used.
Being a child and an heir of our heavenly Father means that the tiny baby born is Bethlehem is our brother. We belong to the same family.
When we accept Jesus as our Saviour we are loved and forgiven even though we don’t deserve it. Like all children, we continue to be loved and forgiven as we remain in relationship with our heavenly Father.
Our relationship changes our attitude to worship and service. We no longer serve because we have to. We do it out of love.
Everybody should have the opportunity to become part of our wonderful family. Like the shepherds, let us give our personal testimonies of what God had done in our lives, let us share the story of Christ coming to earth to save us and lets glorify and praise God for all he has done and will do in the future.