It began as just another ordinary night shift on a Judean hillside.
The shepherds were attending to their business of watching over their flock of sheep. Vigilant oversight coupled with careful, keen listening for unusual sounds, was their specific skill. They were often confronted with the danger of thieves, wolves, inclement weather, and injury. Shepherding required exceptional talent. While the work in daylight was challenging; the darkness of night made their work more perilous.
The shepherd was “ceremonially unclean” in their Jewish faith. Their exposure to dirty animals and dung prohibited them from participating in the rites and rituals required by the Law of Moses. They were poor and usually illiterate. They were despised and rejected, socially. They were outcasts! However, these shepherds performed their work faithfully, with dignity and profound humility.
It is incredible to note that the shepherds would be “the chosen” audience of the greatest announcement in the history of the world. Almighty God selected these lowly, outcast shepherds, rather than the esteemed Pharisees, as the recipients of the birth of the Messiah. Obviously, the loving heart of God is revealed to this class of people.
That night, in the fullness of God’s predetermined time, the darkness was quickly pierced with a bright light from Heaven. The Angel of the Lord came upon the shepherds and the glory of the Lord shone all around. They responded in tremendous fear. However, their fears were quickly quenched by an affirmation from the Angel of the Lord. There was a message from the Almighty they needed to acknowledge. The Angel heralded this message:
“…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.” (Luke 2: 10-12).
The Heavenly host soon joined the Angel of the Lord and praised God, by declaring, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14).
With haste, the shepherds made their way to Bethlehem to see the One of whom they had heard. There they saw Mary and Joseph and the babe, Jesus, who was lying in a manger. Once the shepherds had seen the incarnate Son of God, Israel’s newborn King, they departed and shared the news with all whom they came in contact. The people all wondered at the report of the shepherds.
Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
To hear that the prophecies of the ancient writers had been fulfilled that night. To hear that the promised Messiah of Israel had arrived without pomp and circumstance. To hear that their King was born in a manger. To hear that His name was Emmanuel, “God with us!” To hear that He came forth from a virgin’s womb. To hear that He was the Savior of the world. To hear that the Angel of the Lord had declared this arrival to ceremonially unclean shepherds. Yes, Mary kept these things, and pondered them in her heart!
The most unlikely, incredible and miraculous event in history, had occurred that night. It had unlikely characters. It had an unlikely location. It had an impossible, biological miracle. It had an unlikely human father. It involved God becoming man and coming into this world! Mary kept these things, and pondered them in her heart.
The miracle of miracles is celebrated across the world tomorrow. Let us take the time to ponder in our hearts the unspeakable gift offered to each one of us by Almighty God. The gift of eternal life, by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ! Have a great holiday and remember, God loves YOU!
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