Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
The heart of Christmas is mysterious joy. At every turn the wisdom of the world is turned upside down and confounded. Here is the treasure of God placed into an earthly vessel. Step back and wonder at the wisdom of God in this passage.
An Angel and the host of heaven, herald the arrival of Prince of Peace and the God of Goodwill. They rend the fabric separating heaven from earth so that the glory of the Lord shone all about the place. The attention of the Omniscient, Omnipotent Triune God was focused like a laser on – shepherds?
Like so much of the Advent of Christ this seems incongruous with what we think we know about God. For instance, He is an Infinite Spirit, filling space and time while existing outside that same space and time, yet the Holy Spirit overshadows a small girl in an insignificant village and God becomes local. The God of the universe is wrapped up in the womb of a virgin.
Here, the angel tells the shepherds that this news was to be for all the people – kings and prophets, rulers and teachers, judges and magisterium, but the lowest class of working man is granted this greatest of favors, they were told where to find the Savior of the World. The good tidings of great joy were placed in the earthiest of earthen vessels, keepers of sheep.
This is the message of Joy… There is a baby in Bethlehem, wrapped tight in swaddling cloths, lying in a food trough and all of that is a sign that unto you is given a Savior who is Christ, God’s anointed, the Lord of the Universe.
That is the sign of a visit from God? A poor family – living with animals – at a public inn? How can this be the same God? The hope of all the world, past, present and future, is mysteriously cooing and feeding at the breast of teenager. Who would look for the Savior of the world in a baby?
Ah, but there was treasure there. That earthen vessel of low reputation and common birth contained the Lord of all the universe. Look with the eyes of heaven. Look at that child with God’s eyes! Here is Jesus the Christ, Savior of man, the Son of God and of Mary Glory to God in the highest!
That Christmas conundrum continues today. Who would look for the Savior in me and you? All of our inconstancies and frailties; our flesh marked with sin, frame a poor dwelling for the Savior who is Christ the Lord.
1 Cor 1:26-31
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”
Born to you this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Glory to God in Highest and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men!