Shepherds – The gift of priority

Seeing Shepherds by Daniel Bonnell

It was nighttime in the hills outside of Bethlehem. The shepherds were hard at work keeping their flocks safe. You could hear the sheep bleating occasionally and the breeze across the fields. As they watched over the flock, talking amongst themselves, there was suddenly a great brightness with a man in the middle of it. Iā€™m sure they reacted like I would, with a startled jump and a scream. As the man spoke, they felt an unexplainable sense of peace and calmness as God’s angel told them not to be afraid. As this heavenly messenger continued to tell the shepherds about the long-awaited birth of the Messiah, a great company of angels appeared, singing praises to God. Then, as suddenly as they appeared, the messengers of God ascended back into heaven.

The shepherds responded immediately. They went to “see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” (Luke 2:15-16). They not only left the sheep, they also immediately believed what God, through His angels, had told them. Something so grand and momentous that angels were heralding; they just had to see it!

 I can see them talking among themselves as they searched for the manger; “Did we really see that?” “Can this truly be the Messiah?” “He is supposed to be born in Bethlehem according to prophecy.” “Why did God choose us to tell? We are not royalty or Temple Priests?”

After the shepherds experienced Jesus in person, they left changed and excited. Scripture tells us that they returned to their field, “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:20). Their experience that night had a radical effect on them. Can you see them walking back to the pastures, singing, and praising God? Can you hear the excitement in their voices as they tell those they meet on the way? Can you see the amazement on their friends’ and families’ faces as they share the experience with them when they go home?

As God gave us the greatest gift ever given, His Son, the Messiah ā€“ our Savior, the shepherds gave back to God with their response. They responded with trust and belief. Not only did the shepherds believe the angel’s message, they also trusted God to watch over the sheep as they left the fields to see the miraculous event. Even if they went to see the manger in shifts, the sheep would only be partially protected. They made Jesus their number-one priority that night.

After they experienced Jesus, they responded to God’s gift with the gifts of their praise and exaltation. Not only did they honor God through their praises, but they also honored God through sharing their experience with others.  

As we think about the birth of Jesus so long ago, take a few minutes to picture the scene as the shepherds were surprised by God’s heavenly messengers. Picture the stillness being broken by the chorus of angels. The darkness giving way to light. How would you respond to the message that the long-awaited Messiah had been born?

Now, picture yourself standing before a manger with a baby lying in it. The angels said this was God’s promised Messiah. What are your thoughts as you look upon the hope of mankind lying in a stable in a manger? Like the shepherds, having encountered Immanuel ā€“ God with Us, would you tell others your experience? Would you praise God for allowing you to be a part of His plan?

Now, let’s think about today. God gave us the gift of a Savior that first Christmas day. Jesus went on to die a horrible death on a cross and pay for every bad thing that you, or I, will ever do. How do we respond to that? What gifts do we give back in thanksgiving to God? Is God a priority in our lives or a convenience? Are we willing to make time for Jesus? Are we filled to overflowing as the shepherds were? Do we go about praising and thanking God? Do we share our experience of God with others?

What gifts do you give back to God? I challenge you and myself to follow the shepherd’s example. Make Jesus your top priority. Believe the message you have been given and respond with praise and thanksgiving. Like the shepherds, go investigate. Read God’s word. Spend time in His presence. Then, tell others about how you have experienced God in your life.

“All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully.” Ignatius of Loyola