The Light from on high, long foretold has now arrived bringing the opportunity of life for all. Peter continues the story of the Light in the Darkness as he helps us reflect on the events of that first Christmas Eve.
The Joy of the Light
(Luke 2:8-20) Peter Davey
It’s night-time and all around is dark! Not the dark of our 21st century cities nor our present-day countryside with the distant glow of city lights but the deep dark beyond the scope of a small wood ‘campfire’ around which shepherds huddled to keep warm. Fire light and oil lamps were the limited illuminators of the time!
The Mishnah (rabbinic oral tradition) specifically restricted shepherds and sheep to the wilderness. It was believed that these animals were not just any flock; they were selected for sacrifice. The shepherds who kept them were specifically trained for this royal task. They were educated in what an animal, destined to be sacrificed had to be and it was their job to make sure that none of the animals were hurt, damaged, or blemished (see Alfred Edersheim; Jesus the Messiah). New-born lambs were possibly wrapped in (swaddling) cloths and laid in the manger to protect them from injury.
Near Bethlehem, the accepted birthplace of the Messiah, was the Migdal Eder (tower of the flock). Micah prophesied this to be the place from where Messiah was to be revealed and His kingdom restored (Micah 4:8, 5:2).
Suddenly this unremarkable dark night is transformed by a dazzling light! A light that envelopes the shepherds filling them with great fear, surprise, and awe. Just as their eyes began to discern the majestic angelic figure, they heard an awesome voice declaring, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’ (verses 10-12).
As the angelic message unfolded the shepherds would have been both astounded and exhilarated at its momentous, implications; the King is coming to His Kingdom as prophesied by Micah!
Then, as if they had waited for the signal, the sky is filled with a multitude of heavenly host who burst forth in praise singing, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’ (v13 ESV).
Once before such sounds had filled Isaiah’s ear when in a vision of heaven’s courts he heard the heavenly declaration, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts…’ and its sound shook the threshold of the door (Isaiah 6:4).
Can you imagine how they felt after the light had faded and the song had subsided and the shepherds were alone again! How still, quiet, and awesome it must have been! Did they whisper to each other at first as they began to digest what had just happened? There could have been only one united response: ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened.’ (v15).
At the stable they found a simple gathering of Joseph the carpenter from Nazareth, Mary the new mother and the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in the manger.
Immediately, excitedly, the shepherds began to tell everyone what they had heard and seen. This truly was ‘good news of great joy’ (v10).
They had not just seen the light, now the Light had come! A new day of joy had dawned with astounding implications to those who had waited with eager anticipation!
Am I more excited with presents at Christmas than the presence of Jesus every day?
Ask God to give you the words, joy and courage to follow the example of the shepherds and take any opportunities to tell someone about Jesus this Christmas.
Song: Light of the world
XplosionTV Bitesize: a video for children and the young at heart
A craft activity is available for the whole blog series. Please download the star instructions