In the third sermon of our Advent series (Mark 1:1-8), John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the promised Messiah. He boldly called people to repent of sin and to prepare for the Holy Spirit. You read last week about John leaping in the womb of Elizabeth in response to Jesus in the womb of Mary (Luke 1:39-45). The promise was being fulfilled! Joyful praise was the response to God’s activity. Proclamation immediately flowed out of praise. Mary told Elizabeth and then Elizabeth’s son, John, grew up to be the prophetic voice in the wilderness. The Lamb of God had come to take away the sins of the world (John 1:36).
In this week’s devotional, you’ll read the birth narrative from the Gospel of Luke. Angels proclaim the Good News of Jesus’ birth to the first witnesses—humble shepherds. Read this text slowly and prayerfully. Allow yourself to visualize this historical account. These are real people, just like you. Allow yourself to identify with their experiences.
Devotional: Shepherds & Jesus
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.
Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them.
In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to people he favors!
When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger. After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2:1-20 (CSB)
All Scripture references are taken from the Christian Standard Bible. http://read.csbible.com/
What in so many ways was ordinary, turned out to be extraordinary. Mary and Joseph needed to register for taxes. They had to go on a long road trip. All of the rooms in town were booked. Mary was pregnant. Joseph was doing the best he could. The baby was coming whether the circumstances were convenient or not. Nearby workers clocked hours during another late shift.
This was the night that changed the world. It’s the dividing line in history. While we don’t know the exact moment Jesus was born, our calendars literally measure life in relation to this event. Each time you check the date, you’re experiencing a subtle reminder of the first Christmas.
Over 2,000 “Christmases” have come and gone, in addition to over 700,000 “regular” days since baby Jesus was wrapped in swaddling cloths. Although our lives continue in relative normalcy, nothing has ever truly been the same. That night, God became a man so that men and women from every nation could be with Him. God was glorified in heaven and peace was on earth because baby Jesus lay in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem.
This holy night was anything but silent. The dark sky erupted in glory as a triumphant choir heralded the newborn king. It’s no wonder the shepherds were terrified by this supernatural proclamation. The word “host” in Scripture refers to an army. Imagine the sight and sound of that choir—a vast angelic army—singing praises to the King of heaven and earth.
Look at the shepherd’s response. The simplicity is beautiful.
They “hurried” to “go straight to Bethlehem.” They took immediate and decisive action in response to what God has made known to them about Jesus. And what did they find? Once again, God’s promise was proven to be true—“just as they had been told.” Every detail was trustworthy. These common shepherds praised God and told everyone they encountered the Good News.
Promise. Praise. Proclamation. Presence. This is the story of Christmas. This is the Christian life.
God is with us. Even today.
Pray for a joyful enthusiasm to proclaim the Good News of Jesus. Worship God this week through singing and quiet reflection on God’s Word. Thank your heavenly Father for His faithfulness to make his glorious presence known to you and through you.