The First Christmas, Part 1
Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
As we enter into the last week before Christmas, we at Books & Such want to step away from talking about the publishing biz and instead concentrate on that first Christmas, which changed everything thereafter (resulting in the designations, B.C. and A.D). We’ll officially resume with all things publishing on January 2.
Our plan is for each agent to ponder with you some aspect of Christ’s birth. I selected the shepherds because they were people of no special note, going about their jobs with no sense that this night would be different from any other.How often God steals up on us when we least expect him.
These were night watchmen, assigned to oversee the sheep whom some scholars believe were designated to be sacrificed at the temple (because the shepherds were camped out near Bethlehem). The shepherds were to make sure no injury befell the sheep and that they weren’t stolen or preyed upon by wild animals.
While the job was important–and could be dangerous–it was boring. What could be harder than to remain alert throughout the quiet of the night?
This night angels appeared in all their glory, shattering not only the dark but also bursting into song. Can you imagine being startled out of a somnolent state of lethargy by “floodlights” and song?
Luke tells us that the men were terrified. Their shepherd hooks would be of little defense from such an attack. But they must have realized quickly that neither they nor the sheep were in danger.
As the angels explained why they had burst on the pastoral scene, the shepherds received the news with exuberance, joy and action. They rushed off to Bethlehem to see this baby in a manger. And they found him, just as the angels had said.
After seeing the newborn (we all love rushing up to the hospital for a first look at new family members, don’t we?), the shepherds did just what we would do: “They spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” We spread the good news of recent births via cell phones and Facebook, but the shepherds rushed off on foot to report the night’s astounding and life-changing news.
By the way, did it ever occur to you to wonder who they told? I mean, it was night when the angels made their appearance. Maybe by the time the shepherds had raced into Bethlehem and found the child (how did they manage that, by the way, except by checking out stable after stable?) day was dawning. We know that Bethlehem was straining at the seams with all who had arrived for the census so there would be no lack of people stirring early in the day.
After delivering the grand news to as many others as they encountered, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
Back to the flocks they went, their watch apparently not yet over. Imagine how transformed they were from the sleepy shepherds who were aroused by a chorus of angels with a grand announcement, to the deliverers of the greatest tidings ever–not just the birth of a baby but the birth of Christ, the Lord, our Savior. Talk about life-changing. Don’t you know that those men recounted that night to others for the rest of their lives?
May we respond the same.
While the Gospel of Luke tells the story of Jesus’ birth with considerable detail, the other gospels offer little by way of a birth announcement. Yet Matthew writes this about Jesus’ entrance into the world: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will be shepherd of my people Israel.” We, like the sheep on Christmas night, need to be guided, guarded, watched over, and protected, if necessary, with the Shepherd’s very life. As the angels proclaimed that night, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”