O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
The stars hang overhead, on the quiet Bethlehem hillside. The shepherds stand there, spaced around the area so as to keep in sight the many sheep in their care.
I wonder, do they talk among themselves? Or are they tired from a long day? Were they friends, or the kind of coworkers who simply nod to acknowledge each other’s existence, then work in silence?
Did they live on that hillside? Did they ever get to see their families? Did they even have families?
There’s so much we don’t know about these shepherds, or about many parts of the Christmas story. There’s so many details, it seems, that are left out. Sometimes I wonder why that is–why the Bible doesn’t come with more vivid descriptions and specific details. I don’t have a sure answer, but I think maybe it’s because we don’t need them. We can fill in the gaps with our own sense of humanity; otherwise, they’re not important to the message being shared.
What we do know about the shepherds is that they were very much alone on that hillside, not expecting anything to happen. They were outcasts. But more than that, they were human. They were broken humans, whose hearts were crying out for a Savior, whether they knew it consciously or not.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A flash of brilliant light, and the angel appeared. The shepherds must’ve been shocked to their core–no wonder they were afraid! Their minds were probably running through a thousand questions, and here was this angel, telling them not to be afraid.
And then…he gives the news that would change the world.
“Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Think about the shock that would drive into their hearts. The Messiah? The long-awaited one? The very Lord?
And the angel’s words… “a Savior has been born to you.”
I’m sure the shepherds noticed that choice of words. The angel’s message of hope was “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). This message of a Savior wasn’t just for the citizens of Bethlehem. It wasn’t just for the wealthy or the important people.
It was for shepherds, too.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
A new a glorious morning was coming. For Simeon and Anna in the temple, awaiting the Promised One. For the young mother who had carried a baby for months, bearing the shame and the whispers from others. For the world that had waited so long without hope.
And so when the countless angels appeared, bathing the sky in a swath of unbearable light, the shepherds fell to the ground overwhelmed.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
The Christ child had come. He had come to comfort the broken, to bind up the weak (Luke 4:18). To be a tangible evidence of the Father’s great love for the world. He came for everyone–to break down the divide between rich and poor, slave and free, high and lowly, Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14).
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
What is Christmas really about? There are so many possible answers to that question. But the one I would share today is this: Christmas is about the hope that came from the promises fulfilled. God became man, and demonstrated how He was going to restore us to Him and to each other as He had planned all along. He offered His only Son to die, that we might have life if we accept His sacrifice.
Without hope, life is dull and meaningless. It’s a numbness to the world. But with true hope…everything about life changes. There’s a reason to keep living. There’s a reason to get up each morning–there is Someone who loves you, and someone who you love. There is a purpose to your life, and each moment is part of a perfect plan. Nothing is wasted.
Hope brings a brightness to the past, the present, and especially the future. What a precious, priceless gift.
Of course, Christmas is not the only time we should think about these things. What culminated at Christmas demands an impact on our lives at all times.
He who is our hope…are we bringing that hope to the world?
He who has shown His love to us…are we showing His love to others?
He who is our peace…are we living at peace with others?
He who has proven Himself faithful…are we trusting Him?
God who is with us…are we living as though He is closer than a friend by our side, but rather a part of us? The God who is inside us?
How do we respond to Christmas? The answer is clear.
Let all within us praise His holy name.