Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“I press on to lay hold of and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus, the Messiah, has laid hold of me and made me His own…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the supreme and heavenly prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.”
“Till, as each moment wafts us higher,
By every gush of pure desire,
And high-breathed hopes of joys above,
By every sacred sigh we heave,
Whole years of folly we outlive,
In His unerring sight, who measures Life by Love.”
Today’s Study Text:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men.’ And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, ‘Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.’ And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning the child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”
“He Came to Them First” Part 5
The Shepherds Who Watched And Witnessed At Night
“Know Him! Let Him be known!”
Have I made it a purpose of my life to share the love of Jesus?
How would I have felt if I was in a field in the dark of night and angels from heaven came down to sing and bring great news?
“The smallest light still shines in the darkest night.”
“Our power in drawing others after the Lord mainly rests in our joy and communion with Him ourselves.”
J. G. Bellott
The Shepherd Speaks
“Out of the midnight sky a great dawn broke,
And a voice singing flooded us with song.
In David’s city was He born, it sang,
A Saviour, Christ the Lord, Then while I sat
Shivering with the thrill of that great cry,
A mighty choir a thousandfold more sweet
Suddenly sang, “Glory to God, and Peace –
Peace on the earth; my heart, almost unnerved
By that swift loveliness, would hardly beat.
Speechless we waited till the accustomed night
Gave us no promise more of sweet surprise,
Then scrambling to our feet, without a word
We started through the fields to find the Child.”
It would have been quite a moment in a shepherd’s life. Just think if you were out in a large field, watching over the sheep who were in your care – protecting them from prowlers and wild beasts. There in the dark of night, you recognize that these vulnerable animals depend upon you for safety. So you watch very carefully for any unusual disturbance.
When all of a sudden, without any warning at all, the dark of night turns into day as light shines all around. The Bible paints this amazing picture – “the glory of the Lord shone round about them.” This glory which was spoken of by Dr. Luke is also referred to in contemporary times by poet and author Ann Weems who writes, “The silence breaks the morning. The One Star lights the world…Let it begin with singing and never end! Oh, angels, quit your lamenting! Oh, pilgrims, upon your knees in tearful prayer, rise up and take your hearts and run.” The shepherds obeyed immediately as they ran to Bethlehem – on a quest for a baby in a manger.
How many shepherds? We are not told. But history shares the fact that groups of shepherds, each with their own flocks, would often congregate together, assisting each other. Although we might think the sheep would get mixed up in the wrong flock, what really touches my heart is the fact that as people who are acquainted with sheep reveal, the voice of each shepherd was recognized by his flock. This is why Jesus in His lesson the “Shepherd and His Flock” so lovingly stated: “Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good – a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice (John 10).
On this dark night, the shepherds were startled by a great light which illuminated the field where their flocks rested. Obviously, the brightness of heaven’s glory made them afraid for I doubt they had ever seen light so bright. We are told that the angel had an immediate message to the frightened shepherds: “Fear not!” Isn’t it wonderful to know that God’s glory is something that while brighter and more overwhelming than anything we know or have seen on earth – it is not meant to make us afraid. Why? Because as the angel said, he came with a specific message to the inhabitants of the earth – “I bring good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Good tidings…great joy! This was the message the universe had waited long to hear. And now, a group of humble shepherds who were minding their own business and watching over their own sheep, became the angel’s “message bearers” as they raced toward Bethlehem and the manger where Jesus lay.
But before they left to find Jesus, heaven gave them one more taste of glory for we are told a heavenly host of angles began to sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”
This my Garden friends was heaven’s joyous refrain – carried by regular, everyday workers – shepherds – who were ignorantly thought to be rather common men. Nothing special about them except their glorious words of communication – “Heaven is come to earth delivering peace an goodwill to all of us.”
It was not the wealthy and worldly whose lips first carried the angels’ news. It was the common shepherds, frequently seen on the hills, who now bore their testimony to anyone and everyone. How often I’ve thought about the wonderful gift given to the shepherds to share. And yet, you and I have been given the same message to share everyday, as a witness to our belief in the gift of Jesus Christ to a sin-sick world – to our sin-sick hearts! Indeed, this Christmas Season should bring us with the shepherds to bow before the babe of Bethlehem, now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. The Lamb who was slain. The baby who came brought God’s glory to earth. The manger’s gift of peace, joy and goodwill, at just the right time in history. Oh, how our world needs the shepherds news this year. “They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed…The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!” (Luke 2: 17, 18,20, The Message Bible).
Isn’t it about time we shared the story that the sheepherders carried on their lips? Isn’t it time we let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything He has done for us when Jesus came to earth so long ago?
May we be inspired today by the words of Francis of Assisi, “If God can work through me, He can work through anyone.” This is the message of the Shepherds one dark night in a field, as they heralded the joyous refrain, “Jesus has been born. Heaven has come to earth!”
“Our purpose is to be Christ in the world and display God in His fullness through our witness as individuals and communities. As we do that we join God’s unrelenting quest to be known in all of His fullness, in the glory of His complete revelation.”
William R. L. Haley
“As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.’ They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about the child.”
The Message Bible
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night
“While shepherds watched their flocks by night
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
‘Fear not,’ said he; (for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind);
‘Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.’
‘To you, in David’s town, this day
Is born of David’s line
A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord;
And this shall be the sign,’
‘The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid.’
Thus spake the seraph; and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels, praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song:
‘All glory be to God on high,
And on the earth be peace;
Good-will will henceforth from heaven to men
Begin and never cease.’”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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