witness

The Shepherds' Example

‘Tis the season for nativity scenes.

Front and center in most is a group of shepherds. The story of the shepherds who came to see Jesus after His birth is as universal and almost as central to our Christmas story as Jesus Himself. I’m sure you remember, but let’s go to the source in Luke 2:8-18.

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.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

If someone asked you to outline the main points of this story, how would you respond?

You would note the angels, both the individual spokesangel and the great company. You might mention “peace on earth,” as this is a common Christmas theme. And, of course, the shepherds went to Bethlehem and found Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

All of that is good, but the best part of the story happens after they find the baby. Many would consider going home after that as very anti-climactic. Not so for those men.

After they left Jesus “they spread the word.” They didn’t have much factual information. They had been told He was the Savior and Christ. This they could understand. They had seen him with their own eyes. With this part of the angel’s testimony corroborated, they had confidence his other words were also true -- this was indeed “good news of great joy . . . for all the people.”

Today we call people like this witnesses. They see, hear, and/or experience something, then tell others.

If you are celebrating Christmas as more than a season or civil holiday, you are probably among those described by the adult Jesus with the words “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jon 20:29), and by Peter “though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).

If so, we are witnesses in a way the shepherds could not have imagined. We have not seen the baby in the manger, but we have received His grace, His salvation, and are living now by His power.

Let’s then follow the example of the shepherds and spread the word about what we have experienced so that many may do more than just marvel, but trust, believe, and follow.