“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:15-20)
We take time away from our study of the Gospel of John in order to remember the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. In light of our recent study of the glory of God and how believers ought to glorify Him, let’s turn in our Bibles to the familiar account of the heavenly angel’s announcement of the birth of the Christ to the shepherds abiding in the field. Today, we examine the immediate response by the shepherd’s upon hearing the good news of great joy, which shall be for all types of people that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem.
When the angels departed from the shepherds and went back in to heaven, the shepherds decided to go to Bethlehem and actually see what the angels had told them. They acknowledged that the message they had received was indeed from God.
The text continues by saying that they all went in a hurry to Bethlehem. We presume they took their sheep with them for not to do so would have been irresponsible and would have subjected the sheep to probable predators. How appropriate for the shepherds to search for the One who is the Good Shepherd, and to bring sheep to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
The shepherds indeed did find Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus who was lying in a manger. Perhaps they searched every stable they could find before coming upon the correct one. Upon seeing this scene, they made known what the angel had told them. All who heard the news were in awe, amazement and wonder. We do not know if the “all” included other people besides Mary and Joseph. While the others wondered about everything that had happened, Mary kept these matters in her mind and presumably to herself.
When the shepherds returned to the fields to continue grazing their sheep, they were glorifying and praising God. Both words, glorifying and praising, are present active participles. The shepherds did not just praise and bless God for a moment but continually as they went back to the fields. The reason they were glorifying and praising God was because of all they had heard, seen and been told.
On this Christmas Day 2018, what can you recollect hearing, seeing and someone telling you which resulted in you glorifying and praising God? What memories, near and far, can you recall which prompted you to respond in such a way?
For me, it has been Christmas cantatas over the years that have contained some wonderful creative songs declaring the good news that Jesus Christ has been born. My favorite Christmas cantata continues to be Agnus Dei featuring the music of Michael W. Smith.
It has also been one particular Christmas message by Dr. R.C. Sproul entitled “Out of the Ivory Palaces,” which I listen to every year on my Ligonier App. His message begins with the words, “Don’t you love Christmas?”
It also has been the sound of laughter and excitement by young children, and those young at heart, upon receiving and giving a special Christmas gift.
It is seeing the first snowfall of the season and recalling Isaiah 1:18 which says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
It is remembering the old traditions of annually going to my grandmother’s house each Christmas Day along with the rest of my extended, family of aunts, uncles, and cousins. What a wonderful time we had.
It is also establishing new traditions of friends visiting our home on Christmas Eve and enjoying a good meal and then playing board games until the wee small hours of the morning. Then, when the friends have gone home, it is watching the Christmas Carol featuring George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge before venturing off to bed.
All of these traditions, and many others, of sight and sound prompt me to glorify and praise God for all that I have heard and seen.
May the spirit of glorifying and praising the Lord be what fills your soul this Christmas Day, and the days which follow.
Merry Christmas and Soli deo Gloria!