In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.
Up until now the scene and events from an outsiders point of view are fairly ordinary. A Jewish girl gives birth to a son in a crowded town and he husband looks on is a pretty ordinary story unless you know the background of the angels appearances to both parents. But perhaps there is no way that the birth of Christ can ever be truly normal in appearance to the outside because the child’s Father, like all fathers, wants to tell of the birth of his son. What is about to make the story extraordinary is the angels appearance to the shepherds.
The first thing to note is that normally when you see angels in the Bible as a host of them together it is usually because they are about to whip some butt. Your se hosts of angels referred to in more military terms as the army of the Lord. They are either there to fight for God or threaten to fight for God. This time however their mission is a peaceful one and that indicates a shift in relationship between God and man because of the coming of Christ where the hosts of God no longer promise war but peace.
Secondly, shepherds are simple but rough men. Shepherds are extremely dedicated to their work. The give their all for their sheep and never leave them unless there are truly extraordinary circumstances. The life of a shepherd is one of long nights and days and sleeping only when another shepherd agrees to watch over their sheep for them while they do so. These shepherds were taking their rounds so other shepherds could sleep but there would be no sleep for anyone tonight. When the shepherds come to Bethlehem, they themselves become the message as what would be so extraordinary that shepherds would leave their flocks. When it is a message of angels and a child who seems normal to all outside observation, the people are astonished and the shepherds are believed because of the nature of who they are.
The final player in this is Mary who keeps all these things to herself and ponders them in her heart. Her baby boy’s secret is now known to many and she had nothing to do with it. The angels and the shepherds have confirmed her knowledge to herself and to others.
The message to us today is that the ordinary becomes extraordinary through the actions of God alone. We provide the things that are normal to life but it is god who ultimately is the one who provides the divine spark and take ordinary shepherds and makes them in extraordinary things by a simple visitation of angels. It is a good lesson to remember.