Prepare to Listen. Light all the candles, including the white one. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.
Prayerfully Read Luke 2:8-20
8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
We know the scene well. Jesus peacefully lying in a manger in a stable. Cattle soulfully looking at the sleeping baby [he’s always sleeping never crying in our scenes]. Shepherds arriving with a few sheep in tow. It’s familiar and, let’s be honest, sentimental and safe, demanding nothing from us. But that’s not the reaction Luke desired from readers. His story is subversive and demanding. It would have unsettled the political and religious rulers of that day. The Roman Emperor Augustus claimed to be savior, lord, and son of god. The angel’s announcement declared a change in ruler: “to you is born this day a Savior, who is Messiah, the Lord.” It’s not a message Rome wanted to hear. Do we?
The shepherds, a marginalized and underprivileged group were the only ones to receive this subversive message. They symbolized the longing of the oppressed for a righteous ruler who would bring justice and peace (i.e., wellbeing) on earth. The birth of Jesus signaled a new Savior had come, one who was the only Lord, Messiah, King, and Son of God. The world order was radically altered forever. The rich and powerful would have their privileges and authority taken away and shared with the underprivileged masses.
No human ruler, past or present, will save our land and make it great again, not even for the privileged few. The shepherds understood this and left their sheep on the hillside to see and worship their newborn King and Savior. Then, in joyful hope, they “returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.”
Imagine being one of those shepherds and imagine how you’d feel on hearing the angel’s message.
If you can, listen to Handel’s rendition of the angelic hosts singing Glory to God in the highest, and join in.
Lord Jesus, help me look beyond the sentimental and false aspects of your story to see the real you, the One in control of all the earth. I give up my trust in all human rulers to save my country and wait for you in obedience and trust and hope. Glory to you in the highest. Amen.
Live obediently. Give glory to God and submit to Jesus the New Ruler.