Shepherds –  The Gift of Presence

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, 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. Luke 2:8-20 NLT

Let’s set the scene here – Mary just gave birth to her first child in a very very rustic, unfamiliar place. She and Joseph are probably dazed, Mary’s in some pain, and Joseph is cleaning stuff up. They aren’t surrounded by family to celebrate with them. They made this trek alone. The reality of all they’ve had to deal with for the past nine months is hitting them hard. Probably some tears, some wonder, some awe, maybe even a few really human moments of “Can you believe this is happening?” Just the two of them.  

Then some shepherds show up, with crazy eyes, running from their fields, and they share what the angels told them. Other witnesses to God’s great plan; it’s happening, and it’s bringing joy to all people! The Savior, the Messiah, has been born! Imagine what that meant to Joseph and Mary’s hearts. The encouragement that came from their presence and proclamation of the good news!  

How did they bring such joy and astonishment to Joseph Mary and anyone else who would hear?  

The shepherds gave three gifts: 

  1. They gave the gift of their presence. If you notice in the above passage, the angels didn’t tell the shepherds to go. They simply decide to go (they are the originator of the saying, “Let’s go!!”). They showed up for Joseph and Mary’s biggest moment of their lives with excitement and celebrated with them!
  2. They gave the gift of good news by sharing with everyone they saw what they SAW and HEARD. It’s like they couldn’t keep this incredible experience to themselves. They shared the details—what they saw and heard—with anyone who would listen. The hills probably echoed with the tale of the heavenly encounter.
  3. They gave God the gift of praise. They celebrate with the Creator of the universe and rescuer of humanity that HIS PLAN was happening. They joined in, not just as witnesses but as participants, praising the Creator of the universe.

What gift do you bring?

For each of us this Christmas season, let’s take a cue from the shepherds. Take time to celebrate with God the fulfillment of His plan of rescue! Let’s praise the Creator of all and the Rescuer of humanity! And, inspired by those shepherds, let’s go a step further.

Let’s give the gift of our presence to those around us. Just as the shepherds showed up for Joseph and Mary, let’s show up for others in our lives. Be present in their biggest moments, share in their joys, and lend a supportive shoulder in their challenges. Sometimes, the simple act of being there can be the greatest gift.

In the midst of the festive chaos, let’s not forget the power of encouragement. Like the shepherds who brought excitement to a manger, let’s bring encouragement to those who need it. Your words and actions can be a source of light and hope, just like the dazzling radiance that surrounded those shepherds on that extraordinary night.

And as we celebrate this season, let’s share this good news with others. God loves humans and still rescues us from the messes of our lives! After all, the story of Christmas is not just a tale from the past; it’s an ongoing narrative that we continue to write with our own gifts of love and grace.