How would you feel if Elon Musk came to you and gave you a Tesla from nowhere? Wouldn’t that be a surprise for you? It would be an ecstatic experience, and you might pinch yourself or ask someone to pinch you to believe that this is real. What if something similar happens this Christmas season in your life, the Lord comes to you and lets you celebrate and enjoy your Christmas. You might say, oh yes, these things are not real, and they cannot happen!
In the Bible God has given us an account that is something similar, happening in the lives of a few people. Those people never thought in their dreams that they would experience something like that. That the Lord would visit them personally and tell them the whole story and ask them to experience or enjoy it, more specifically to celebrate Christmas.
Shepherds, yes, shepherds in the Bible and especially in the Christmas accounts, we see a very unexpected thing happening in their lives. Shepherds were given a wonderful place in the account of the birth of Jesus in the Bible.
There were so many great people like kings, priests, Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, and many more recognized people but we do not see any account where God communicated the Birth of Jesus to them. Even if the Wise man or Magi from the east knew about the birth of the King, they were not given a special encounter with the angels as the shepherds had it, the Wiseman saw the star and followed the star.
The shepherds' Christmas is a unique and special experience because God sent the angels to them and told the angels to tell the shepherds about it and let them see Jesus, who was just born. Isn’t it an interesting, so humbling, and blessed experience that the shepherds were given an invitation by the Lord to see Jesus? That is why I say that the shepherd's Christmas was a God-given Christmas. It was God who allowed them to see Christmas.
Do you want to have a Christmas that God would give you just like he gave to the shepherds? Let me bring a few observations from the account that Dr. Luke has accounted for in the Gospel. And let us learn a few profound truths and implications from them.
There are many people would suggest that God chose the shepherd to communicate Christmas in a unique way, because of the following suggested reasons:
i. They were shepherding the lamb that was for sacrifice.
ii. They were rejected or low-standard people in society.
iii. God called/liked all shepherds in history, like Moses, David, and others.
There are some truths in the above suggestions, but I do not want to investigate what Scripture does not say in clarity. I would like to bring a few observations and think about the lives and the attitude of Shepherds. The incident that has been written down for us does suggest many truths about the Shepherds and their lives. Let us investigate the uniqueness of Shepherds.
1. Simple People (V.9):
The Shepherds were simple people. When we say simple, we mean to say that they were not very much learned and not very much recognized people in the community, they hardly had knowledge about any additional skill, and all they knew was to take care of sheep. Let us investigate one word to understand its simplicity. Luke tells us that when the angel approached, and the glory was shown to them they were terrified. The Greek word that we find there is “Phobos” it is a type of fear connected to fear of the unknown, which means they were totally without any clue what is this all about, they were scared about it, understanding something clearly at last and the angels. To understand their fear let us see the similar experience that Zachariah and Mary had in the same gospel, which Dr. Luke communicated to us. In Luke, 1:12 & 29, in both instances, we see that a similar experience is given to Zachariah while he was ministering in the temple and when the angel visited Mary with the message of Christ's birth. Both were scared or terrified as well but look into the words that Dr. Luke has introduced to all of us, the Greek word “tarassō” means they were scared of course but they were more confused about what is the message or meaning all about. As Zachariah a priest knew about the angel and that such incidents could be possible, and he wanted to know what the message is all about to him. Same Mary as well, as she was a godly woman, knew all these spiritual occurrences or God’s act, so she all is wondering about the message that the angel gave them.
But the shepherds were very fearful, they had no idea what this was all about, and it was very new to them. They were simple people who did not have much knowledge about spiritual activities and things. God will only give us a Christmas when we realize we are simple people. But if we behave like the Pharisees who said I fast, I pray, and read the Bible, God will not be interested in giving you this Christmas. God is looking for simple people. Who are spiritually naïve, weak, and unlearned. That is why God did not choose to give this Christmas news to any spiritual or political leader, but he gave it to simple people like the shepherds. We need to be simple people like the shepherds, then God is waiting to give it to the Poor in the spirit …
2. Single-Minded People (V.15):
The shepherds were single-minded, what does this single-minded refer to, this refers to the uncritical or undoubted people. In previous verses, we saw what exactly happened. Angel came and told/gave them 3 things:
1. Gospel- Angel said that they have brought the Gospel to them.
2. Sign- They gave them a sign for finding Christmas.
3. Praised- The Angel was joined with the host of angels and praised God for Christmas.
As soon as these things happened, they began to talk with each other, and together in singleness of mind, they decided to go to see the blessed Christmas. There were all possible chances for them to be doubtful. But they chose to be simple and single-minded in accepting and trusting what the Lord communicated to them through the angel. If we must be a people to celebrate a God-given Christmas, we need to be single-minded people.
3. Serious People (V.16):
The shepherds were serious people. They were also people who went the extra mile and were genuine people. Look at verses 10-14, while the angel was communicating the message from the Lord, nowhere the angel told them to pay a visit. It was just information from the Lord about Christmas. But the shepherds were serious people, so they wanted to visit the Saviour. Please note what Dr. Luke has emphasized here; the shepherds hurried and found the baby Jesus. Luke does not say that they started or going to start but he emphasized the perfect action of the shepherds that they did it for sure and quickly, an act of obedience with sincerity and seriousness. We can get a God-given Christmas when we become serious people in taking his words seriously. Today is the day of salvation, it is not tomorrow or the day after. We need to take heed if God speaks to us today, never say ‘let me see’ wait and miss the life of the Lord.
4. Sharing People (V.17&18):
The shepherds were sharing people, what does this mean? They were communicating with people. Let us focus on a few Greek words that have been used by Dr. Luke in this passage. First, what the angel communicated to them was a gnorizo- which means knowledge that is not knowable by natural means unless there is divine intervention or communication. And Dr. Luke says that they made known, and this made known is not something like preaching, neither the word is used here as preached. It was an exact repetition of the thing that the Lord communicated to the shepherds through the angels. Look at another interesting Greek word here the rhema, which means exact words that were spoken to them, there was no alteration or addition, and a mixture of the word refers to uttering a definite intelligible word.
5. Sunny People (V.20):
The shepherds were sunny people, what do these sunny people mean? This simply means people of praise, adoration, and gratitude, they were shining people. Look at the two Greek words that are been used there by Dr. Luke. The first one is amazingly simple and the words themselves are self-explanative. Doxazo which means they gave glory to God, with a sense that they had extremely high opinions or words that glorified the Lord. Notice, the second Greek word that is been used by Luke aineō this has an interesting concept, aineō is a word that is used in connection to praise but notice the word praise relates to a story, which simply means, a story but used in the sense of praise of God, the shepherds had a story to praise and glorify God. Look what the story was, the story that they had heard about, and the story that they had seen or experienced it. When we are given a Christmas to celebrate, we must have a story to praise and glorify God. What is it that the Lord has done in our lives that need to be told to the people and given glory to the Lord? Do we have a story of our salvation?
This Christmas, make it a God-given Christmas, by being simple people, single-minded people, serious people, sharing people, and sunny people.