GETTING THE MESSAGE/Salvation is the gift of God
We can never look at this wonderful passage too much. Whenever I consider seeing certain people from biblical history in heaven, I can’t help but think of the shepherds in Luke chapter 2. You can wonder if they were still alive when Jesus began his ministry, and did they see and hear him speak. Here we see that they are the first witnesses of the glory of the Lord Jesus.
It had to be an extraordinary experience on the hills that night watching sheep when an angel of the Lord appeared suddenly. No wonder we read that they were “sore afraid” (Luke 2:9). Literally, this translates to they had “mega fear.”
What a delightful command it must have been to hear “fear not!” And then to hear the amazing message that followed from the angel: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The angel spoke of a Savior who was no less than God.
What a Savior Christ is -- and he is a necessary Savior. Being given good news of a Savior implies you need saving. This is the love of God to us in our dismal state. We are prisoners of sin, the devil, a corrupt world, and the greatest enemy, death. Only one can save us: Christ the Lord.
Years ago at large theme park in Ohio, I witnessed a powerful struggle of a young lady trying to make a decision. The decision was whether to venture on to a ride that used a harness and cables to allow one to sore through the air at great heights. Her friends used every encouragement and humiliation tactic they could. Finally, she agreed. They put the harness on her and she waited her turn. But as she saw the person ahead of her go flying to the air, she quietly began to disassemble the harness apparatus, deaf to any appeals hurled her way. She opted out.
You can’t opt out of God. You were made by God and continue to exist by God. You have to return to God. You can either do that as a friend or an enemy. The only way to become a friend of God is through Christ. The appearance of an angel was frightening to the shepherds not only because they sensed their helplessness, but because they also sensed their sinfulness in the presence of holy splendor. How we need the light of the Lord to show us our need!
The shepherds then witnessed a multitude of the heavenly host that responded to the announcement of the angel of the Lord (Luke 2:14). They praised God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”
They proclaimed glory to God in the highest, not only because God is the most High God, but because his glory is revealed in the highest way in the coming of Christ the Lord to save sinners. The experience of heaven and the message from heaven go hand in hand: both are about knowing God through Christ our Lord. He opens the gate into heaven.
When the angels went away the shepherds didn’t just dwell on such an experience. They left to go see the child (Luke 2:15) for the same reason Zacchaeus climbed a tree: to see the Lord. All who truly come to Christ are constrained to go to him with an affectionate drawing, longing to see him.
The angel of the Lord had told the shepherds the child would be in a manger, which narrowed down the search area. They find him along with Joseph and Mary. Christ the Lord, born of a woman, lying in a manger. Can any despair of being rejected by such a Savior as this? His willingness to take a low condition conveys welcome to all who would come to him.
The shepherds relate to those present all that was said from heaven about the child. You wonder if they took him in their arms like Simeon (Luke 2:28) or bowed low to the ground and worshipped like the Magi will later.
We read in verse 20 that the shepherds returned to their sheep. It must have been difficult to leave, but they left “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been said to them.” The phrase “as it had been said to them” points to God’s faithfulness. Salvation is the gift of God in Christ the Lord. What the shepherds bore witness to gives us reason to glorify God with them.