The shepherds said…

It’s Christmas Eve: the day perched on the edge of our holiday to celebrate the incarnation of Christ. A friend recently asked me to briefly define the incarnation…in a text message…heh. It’s always fun to make an attempt to boil down a universal truth of eternal significance down to 160 characters. I didn’t quite make it, and had to use a second text to finish the thought. It was something along the lines of this: the incarnation is the essential teaching of the New Testament that the divine Jesus became truly human, just as the doctrine of the Trinity declares that the man Jesus is truly divine. The incarnation is what “Immanuel” means – God with us. He is God in the flesh; fully divine and fully human.

So, taking a step backwards, what are we talking about with the incarnation? Simply: the virgin birth of the Christ in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 which said that the virgin would conceive and bring forth a son, whose name would be Immanuel. Christmas time is our celebration of the fact that God came to walk among us and live as one of us for a time – the incarnation. God WITH us! Consider the Luke 2 passage:

“8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”

The reason I point to this passage is for the reaction of the shepherds. It says that immediately after they heard the news brought by the angels they agreed with each other that they should go with haste to Bethlehem to see what the Lord had done among them.

What else could they have done?! Here are the shepherds, sitting out in a field on a regular night, and they’re greeted by an army of angels telling them that God is among them. How could they have done anything except say, “Well…let’s get going!” To sit and stay would have been ridiculous. To ignore the news that the Creator of the Heavens and Earth had come to walk among that which He created would be unthinkable. The same would apply to us today! If we were awakened by ranks upon ranks of glorious angels declaring the praise of the Christ who was walking among us, it would be absurd to the point of insanity to sit on one’s hands and do nothing.

There was nothing else for the shepherds to do but to go and see for themselves the glory the angels had just declared to them. Today, for us, though we have not seen the glory of shining angels, we are called to turn our attention to the Christ, the Immanuel, the God who is even now with us. We celebrate tomorrow the incarnation of our Lord, and it would be absurd, unthinkable, outrageous to let gifts and Christmas movies and cookie baking distract us from adoring Him! Do not ignore the declaration of the angels, the beauty of the Scripture story…do NOT ignore the God who is with us on the very day we have set aside to worship Him! Rather, make decided efforts to adore Him today, tomorrow (and every day); set aside time to sit and consider the God who is our Lord and Savior, to read the stories in Matthew 1 and Luke 2.

I hope that there is nothing else you can do this Christmas but say “Come, let us go now…and see this thing which the Lord has made known to us.” Do not be distracted from this.

May our Lord Immanuel bless you mightily in this season of family and joy.

Merry Christmas to all, and to God be the utmost glory for the eternal favor He showed to mankind with the incarnation! Immanuel, Maranatha!

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