And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified… Suddenly a great company of the heavenly hosts appeared with the angel, praising God … When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, …
Why did the angel choose to take the message of Christmas to the shepherds? There were many, many others in Bethlehem, amongst them many theologians!
It may be that only the shepherds were able to fully comprehend this message. Perhaps all the others were sitting on the couch debating the heavenly appearance, or they may have been at the cinema or the theatre, not wanting to be disturbed, or possibly the theologians debated this appearance to the point that nothing miraculous remained … the people were not ready!
There are several passages in the Bible that speak about Heaven being open. Jacob saw the ladder going into Heaven, Stephen saw Jesus sitting to God’s right hand, and John wrote the Revelation. Several saw angels and Heavenly beings, Elijah, Mary, Zachariah, Peter, Paul and others. The Heavenly World permeates our world. But sometimes the curtain is lifted and we are able to see and hear the invisible, the Heavenly. But we need to know that we are always surrounded and permeated by this Heavenly World. That is why it is so easy for God to intervene in our lives;- He is never far removed!
The shepherds were simple people. They lived with their herds and probably smelled similar. But when the angel came, they reacted instantly: they recognised their unholiness and were afraid. They obeyed the angel instantly, left their herds and hurried to Bethlehem. God knew that they were like this, so straightforward, so truthful, so childlike, so …? And that is why they were allowed to hear the Christmas message. They yearned for salvation, integrity, for the Kingdom of God and fairness. They knew life and knew in their hearts that the Kingdom of God is different, filled with peace and joy, fulfilment and glory! That is why God came to them, and not the others.
God’s Kingdom and glory comes into our world, bringing with it peace and boundless joy. The shepherds accepted His word instantly and hurried to Jesus. In many congregations and Christian meetings clever, good and wise words are spoken, but the glory of God is lacking. And then there are meetings between street people, plain, simple people. But when they start to pray, God is moved to action. Many are saved, healed and freed, many encounter God and are filled with the Holy Spirit. They radiate the magnificence of God. He acts on our faith!
Jesus, we want You! Not just clever words, but Your strength and magnificence! We want to see Heaven opened, and angels bringing Your blessing down to us! We want to be Your people, and for You to be our powerful God! Sanctify us, so that we may become worthy of You!
Bible study for today: Psalm 37,1-11