That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
Dear God, the things we always miss in the telling of this story is the “why.” Why did you have the angels appear to the shepherds? I have a theory, and it’s only a theory. In my mind, much like Hagar after she ran away from Sarai got an angel visit and she called you “the God he sees me” (Genesis 16:13), Mary and Joseph were in a terrible spot. They had agreed to follow your requests and be the parents of this baby, but now they found themselves alone without family, in a stable with their new baby. Was this really your plan? Were their previous visions of angels just weird dreams? Was there any part of Jospeh that was once again doubting Mary’s story?
Then these men show up and tell everyone their story. It was not only remarkable, but it contained a few things:
- Third-party verification of what Joseph and Mary had each heard separately.
- Affirmation of who this child was.
- The knowledge that you knew exactly where they were in that moment (a stable) and that was okay.
So now Mary and Joseph have their affirmation. And not only for the moment, but for the future as well: “Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” She thought about them when the wise men showed up. She thought abut them when they went to Egypt. She thought about them when they lost Jesus 12 years later. She probably thought about them when she doubted Jesus’s sanity. This was a huge gift for her.
So why these guys? Well, maybe I’ll talk a bout that tomorrow. For now, let me just sit with the idea that you see me, you love me, and you send me affirmations I probably sometimes miss. You are so good. I’m sorry for how I fail. I really wish I was better for you, for my wife, for my children, and for everyone around me. Help me to be better.
In Jesus’s name I pray,