For most folks, even those with a passing familiarity, the most prominent angelic Christmas message is the one delivered to shepherds. Luke wrote, “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 Savior—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.” (Luke 2:8–14, NLT)
So far in our Advent journey, we’ve seen angels bring answers to prayer, bring a message of God’s grace, and nudge someone towards a different decision. Today we see heaven’s birth announcement of Jesus and the breaking through of God’s kingdom.
There’s symbolism, of course, in the shepherds. The lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world had come as a baby, born in a stable, laid in a manger. Who better for the angelic birth pronouncement than a bunch of shepherds?
In a way, the shepherds in the fields that night were everyone. They were the common folk, the lowest on the rung of success, the outcasts from polite society, the dirty laborers doing a job that few wanted but they were happy to get. The message wasn’t sent to kings, political leaders, successful women and men of industry and business, to the well-connected, or the “A”, “B”, or “Z” list of society. It was delivered with a glimpse of heaven’s glory to common everyday folk like you and me.
That message of good news that brought great joy has been retold countless times. The angelic message has replayed in Christmas pageants, reread on Christmas morning, and repeated year after year. Even recited for all that will hear it by Linus Van Pelt, that sage voice of wisdom in Charlie Brown.
The Angelic messages to Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph were personal, this message was first delivered to shepherds but is also meant to be heard by all. God became human to be our savior. Approachable like a baby, destined to sacrifice like a Passover lamb, yet rose again bringing peace to all that receive Him. This angelic message is open to all, but it is like a Christmas gift with bright paper and beautiful ribbons. It is a gift which must be accepted, unwrapped, opened, and brought into our lives.
For the shepherds, that meant going to Bethlehem to find the babe. We too may start there, but the angelic message also points us towards the cross. It is there under that scarred, blood-soaked wood, where true peace is found. Peace with God, with others, and with ourselves.
Regardless of whether our Christmas is busy or quiet, chaotic or calm, filled or lonely, prone to division or filled with love let’s take time. Time to hear the message of the angels. Take a moment or two to join in their worship. And recommit all our moments to receive, unwrap, and embrace God’s gift of peace given to everyone through Jesus.
May the light of God’s love and the tranquility of His peace be your’s this Christmas and the whole year through.