This Christmas season maybe you need to appreciate that God bestows his favor on you personally? Maybe you’ve been feeling discouraged or insignificant and need to lift up your head to Christ? I did. So God led me to meditate on the shepherd’s place in the Christmas story as it’s recorded in the Bible (Luke 2:8-20).
In Jesus’ day, shepherds were poor and disregarded. In public they hung their heads or stood off to the side. Isolated from the rest of society, they lived out in the fields caring for sheep day and night, rain or shine, heat or cold. They had to be constantly on the lookout for predators and thieves. They took turns staying awake through the night.
Imagine being a shepherd on a cold winter night. It’s so cold your bones ache and your teeth are chattering. It’s dark and you’re struggling to stay awake and keep watch over the sheep. You never know when a lion might pounce out from the bushes to attack a sheep. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a blinding light shines in your face and something appears!
You scream in fright. Trembling and squinting in the bright light, you scurry to pick up your rod to protect yourself and the sheep. There’s panic in the camp as the other shepherds are awakened and the sheep are bleating loudly.
The Shepherds Lifted Up their Heads
“Do not be afraid,” a heavenly voice reassures. Its an angel! “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people,” the angel proclaims. “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” (Luke 2:10-12).
Then the angel is joined by a whole company of angels. You lift up and your head as they praise God and proclaim his favor upon you! The angel says that you’ll find the Christ child wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Wow! It’s all so incredible. You try to take it in: The Messiah has come and he’s come for me! He’s the Savior of the world and he’s lying in an animal feeding trough?! If God would humble himself that much maybe he does love a lowly shepherd like me.
You hurry off to Bethlehem to see the newborn Savior. Sure enough, just as the angels said, there is the baby lying in a manger with his mother Mary and Joseph in a cave full of animals. Overjoyed, you spread the glorious news of what the angels told you about the Christ child, first to Mary and Joseph, then to the people of Bethlehem and whoever would listen.
Let’s Treasure Jesus!
Luke concludes this part of the Christmas story by saying: “All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:18-19).
Are you amazed by Jesus like the people of Bethlehem were? It’s easy to be amazed by Jesus — his birth, his holiness, the miracles he performed, all his words of wisdom, his resurrection — until something else catches our fancy and Jesus fades back into the background of our lives.
We need to be more than amazed by Jesus. Our real opportunity is to treasure him in our hearts as Mary did, to lift up our heads in God’s presence and hurry to behold Christ in our hearts as the shepherds did.
Precious Jesus, yes, we hold you in our hearts. We lift our heads with pride because you have come to us. We ponder your birth, your holy life, your sacrifice of love, your resurrection, and your presence with us now. We delight in knowing you. We rejoice to serve you in all that we do. Amen.
“Advent Breath Prayers” features prayers of the heart themed on different Bible characters from the first Christmas.
Devotionals and Prayer Cards for Advent includes an Advent passage of Scripture, picture, reflection, and Breath Prayer from the Bible. This is designed for personal devotions, small groups and holiday gatherings.