The Angels and the Babe
And, Lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them; and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid–Luke 2:9
God Speaks Your language
One of the messages of this beautiful story is that God speaks in ways we understand. That is part of His fatherly compassion. The wise men from the East had spent their nights observing the stars, it was no chance, then, that it was by a star that they were led to the feet of the Redeemer. But the shepherds, devout and humble Jews, had been familiar since childhood with the angels, and it was through angels that God drew near to them. I believe that the divine voice has a different accent for every differing heart. His voice is as the sound of many waters. There are things He says to every separate child which probably no one else could under-stand–His secret is with them that fear Him. That was so with the voice of the Good Shepherd. in what different ways He spoke to different people. He never dealt upon the scale of thousands; He always dealt upon the scale of one. And today He is on the throne, the very same Jesus, still touched with a feeling of our infirmities.
Vision Comes Along the Line of Duty
Another lesson of this story is that vision comes along the line of duty. it was when they were busy in their lowly toil that the shepherds heard the music of the skies. I wonder if any of them had stayed at home, leaving the work to be done by someone else. I wonder if any of them had slipped away to spend an hour in the tavern of the village. Then for such there was no music, nor any glorious singing of angels. That was given on the line of duty. There is an old story of a monastic porter, who in his cell had a vision of the Lord. Then came the clanging of the monastery bell. Must he leave the vision to go in answer? He went, and returning, the vision was still there, saying, “Hadst thou remained, I should have vanished; but thou wert faithful, and lo! I am still here.” We are all tempted to flee away sometimes. We crave for liberty from common drudgery. We seem to be missing so much in the routine. We long for a larger life. But the angel music never comes that way. Heaven has never a song for those who shirk. It was on men who were faithful to their appointed task that there broke the glory of the Lord.
What Interests Heaven, Earth Disregards
One notes, too, that what interested heaven was something which all the village disregarded, it is a strange contrast to pass from the hillside to the crowded caravansary of Bethlehem. There were men from every neighboring village, and some who had traveled from long distances. One subject alone was on their lips; they were all talking of Caesar and his tax. But I do not think that the sharpest shepherd’s ear, listening to the singing of the angels, caught a single whisper of the topic which was absorbing the travelers in the inn. The theme which was agitating everybody was not the theme which agitated heaven. Nobody gave a thought to Jesus’ birth, and heaven that night thought of nothing else. So are we taught, that what the world makes much of may be insignificant in heaven, and what the world neglects may be supreme. To grasp that is one secret of fine living, it helps us to readjust our scale of values. The relative magnitude of things is altered when we live under the aspect of eternity. Some unnoticed and interior victory may be like the birth in Bethlehem, and set the angels singing in their courses.
Angels May Go but Jesus Remains
And then this exquisite story teaches us that angels may go, but Jesus Christ remains, in a little while the hillside was all dark again, but the Baby was still lying in the manger. The angels went, but Jesus did not go. The glory departed, but the Lord remained. He grew in wisdom, and lived within their borders, and toiled as the Carpenter of Nazareth. The vision of the angels was a memory, but the Babe they heralded was more than that–He was a living power in their midst. Now, for many, Christmas is a sad time. it is a season when memories awaken. We cannot help thinking of those angel faces that we have loved long since and lost awhile. But for us, as for the shepherds, Christ remains, a living presence, a Saviour and a friend, the same yesterday, today, forever. He offers us His peace. He wants us to be sharers in His joy. He is here to break the tyranny of things, and in life and death to make us more than conquerors. With such a Saviour, pardoning and powerful, who will never leave us nor forsake us, cannot we all enjoy a happy Christmas?
Sir Godfrey Gregg