Originally published Sunday, 27 December 2015.
They were sitting outside the city, watching their sheep.
"And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." Luke 2:8
Maybe these shepherds looked over the hills at roof tops and felt the pangs of loneliness. This life, this shepherding of dirty animals, required them to stay on the fringe. And so, they stayed on the outside and watched the town from a distance – day after day, year after year.
But, that night, that glorious, world-changing night? The latest news didn’t start in the center of town. It didn’t reach their ears last. It didn’t shy away from their smelly, woolly companions.
Glory exploded in angelic proclamation before their eyes, in their midst! Glory came up-close, as close as skin that night.
"And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.'" Luke 2:9-10
A message for all people – brought to them, mere shepherds.
"'For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'" Luke 2:11-14
And suddenly, the sheep would have to wait. Glory had beckoned them, and these shepherds could not, would not, stay away. They dropped it all and set off to see this baby King.
My heart is moved to realize - what if the angels had told them the Christ child had been born in a palace? I wonder if the disgrace of their dirty clothes and smelly sheep may have been too much. I wonder if they would’ve gone at all.
But a manager? These shepherds knew stables, understood animals. This Messiah was speaking their language! It was as if He were one of them. In mercy and great, unspeakable humility, God had met these shepherds on their own land – in an animal-filled, dusty stable.
"When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.' And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger." Luke 2:15-16 (emphasis mine)
Yes, Jesus Messiah had bowed low, and Glory Himself nestled among animal food. Barriers of social class and economic status dropped to their knees, and the outsiders of all outsiders approached His manger-throne with confidence.
And you? Fellow disheveled shepherd, sitting out on those lonely hills, watching the lights of a far away place. Know today, your Savior has been born, and Glory has been offered to outsiders. He longs to draw your near - you the one whose sin has caused eternal separation and shame.
"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." Ephesians 2:13
The smell of sin, associations, lifestyles, socioeconomic status, education level, race, gender or any other means no longer has the power to separate us from the Shepherd of our souls. His birth has been proclaimed, Glory has been shouted by angels –not to kings or the powerful or the rightly religious – but to the needy, to you and to me.
This Christmas, and this year, may you run to him, knowing He has come to meet you right where you are, as you are. And, when you are face to face with Glory, bowed low before His manger-throne, may you rest securely in His presence. For you will never again be separated. Never again be on the lonely hills outside the city. Never again be removed from His love.
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39
Yes, His Glory has been offered to us. Today, let's go with haste to find this Jesus and to worship Him.