That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Saviour – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
Still the night, holy the night!
Shepherds first saw the light,
Heard resounding clear and long,
Far and near, the angel-song,
“Christ the Redeemer is here!”
(Joseph Mohr 1792-1848)
The angels knew what it meant, this insignificant family’s arrival in Bethlehem and the birth of a little boy in the most insanitary circumstances.
The angels knew the other side of the story, knew the plan formed from eternity, in the love of the Trinity, to redeem fallen humanity.
So many years they had seen God working patiently to bring his promise to fulfillment: watched as time and again people distrusted and disobeyed, and yet God never gave up.
They had been his messengers over those years, bringing encouragement and words from God’s heart for his people. But never had they had such good news to tell as today! This was God’s trumpet call, announcing his personal arrival in human form, to change forever the path of humankind. It would not only echo around the hills and in the ears of the shepherds, but would resound through history, reverberating down the centuries, as time marches on towards its ordained conclusion.
Here at last was the beginning of the end for evil and the power which had enslaved humanity since Eden. Here was the hero, the champion against whom nothing would be able to stand, and who would conquer death on behalf of all his beloved children. The angels had known him in his glory, the Son of the Father, one with him and sharing his glory. Now they throng the skies to see him swathed in strips of cloth, tiny hands and feet protected from the cold air, all that glory somehow poured into the miracle which is a human babe…Can this be the same person? How is it possible?! Angelic minds cannot penetrate the mystery of incarnation any more than ours, but they proclaim the glory and wonder of it nonetheless.
Today, let me listen for that angel song again. Let my heart be filled with joy and my eyes with tears of gladness, as I contemplate the glory which is God-made-man, for me, even me.
For he came for me, in my weakness and need, to show me how much I am loved. He came for me, in my loneliness and desolation, to show me the way to the home I have always wanted. He came for me, in my shame and regret, to show me that I am beautiful, the daughter of the King of Kings, and that in his name, I receive a crown of righteousness.
How I love to sing those words, of the shepherds seeing the light – can you picture it? Darkness suddenly rent apart and the rugged hills flooded with glory – no wonder they were afraid! God visited them that night, and surely for the rest of their lives, in times of darkness and fear, they would remember that visitation and be at peace. The light would shine in their hearts – Messiah has come! And the song would ring in their ears and in their memories, the whole host of heaven’s armies rejoicing at God’s outrageous love and plan of salvation.
This is the only thing that really matters today: that song is true. All the rest of the festivities are so much trimming, even distraction. But that song’s truth still shakes men and women today, transforming lives and bringing hope.
Christ the Redeemer is here!!