The Message of Christmas
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us–Luke 2:15
Find Out What God Is Doing in Your Neighborhood
It was a great thing for these shepherds to be in the same country with the new-born Christ. There were many other folks in that countryside. There were the merchants of Bethlehem and the shopkeepers. There were the Roman officers taking the census, and the Roman soldiers in their garrisons. But they never dreamed that the crisis of all history was being enacted at their very doors. The shepherds knew it; God had revealed it to them; out on the hill-pasture under the stars, they learned it. And it was a great and glorious thing for them to be in the country of the newborn Christ. I trust it will prove so to all who read this page. For not in a manger and not in swaddling clothes, but in all revivals and in all righting for the right, Jesus is mystically born again. And to be awakened to the new life, and catch the meaning of it, is to join the company of these simple shepherds. Do not be self-centered anymore. Find out what God is doing in your neighborhood. And in a wider horizon and a glowing heart, and a song from above like the music of the angels, it will be a great thing for you, as for the shepherds, to be in the country of a newborn Christ.
God’s Greatest News Is Revealed to Humble Men
Note first, then, that God’s greatest news is revealed to humble men. There were many great men and many wealthy men in Palestine. There were scholars of the most profound and various learning. There were lean ascetics who had left the joys of home, and gone away to pray and fast in deserts. But it was not to any of these that the angels came, and it was not in their ears the music sounded; the greatest news that the world ever heard was given to a group of humble shepherds. Few sounds from the mighty world ever disturbed them. They were not vexed by any ambition to be famous. They passed their days amid the silence of nature, and to the Jew, nature was the veil of God. They were men of a devout and reverent spirit, touched with a sense of the mystery of things, as shepherds are so often to this day. is it not to such simple and reverent spirits that God still reveals Himself in amplest measure? Must we not become as little children if we would know the secrets of the Kingdom? Whenever I read the beatitude of Jesus, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” I see the shepherds chatting on the hill. How fitting it was, too, that shepherds should be chosen, when we remember how the twenty-third Psalm begins, and when we reflect that the Babe born in Bethlehem was to be the Good Shepherd giving His life for the sheep.
The Shepherds Were with Their Flocks
Again, note that when the glory reached them, the shepherds were with their flocks. I like to think that when the heavens shone, and the air thrilled with that magnificent music, these humble men were at their humble duty. I dare say that on the highway over the hill there were fast young fellows going rioting home. Do you think they caught one whisper of that heavenly chorus? I dare say one shepherd had turned lazy and was asleep at home when he should have been at his herding. Do you imagine he had any vision of the angels? It was to the shepherds who were at their posts, and who were toiling faithfully at their appointed work, that God revealed the birth of Jesus Christ. Could there be any better Christmas message than that? There is an open heaven above simple duty. It is not through the pageantry of idle dreams that life becomes a great and noble thing. It is through the fine heroism that sweeps moods aside, and takes up the cross, and grapples with daily work. it is on simple duty that the glory falls, it is the shepherds at their posts who see the angels.
The Manger Proves the Music True
For the same purpose is this other lesson: it is the manger that proves the music true. This was a night of wonder for the shepherds. It is not remarkable that they were sore afraid. When the darkness of midnight flashed into glorious splendor, and the silence of midnight rang with an angel’s voice, it is no marvel that the shepherds were dismayed. Was it a dream? Was it the work of magic? Would the splendor pass, and leave things as they were? “This shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” You note, then, what a mean and sorry thing was to be the proof that the vision was from God. No cradle enriched with ivory or gems; no palace flashing with a thousand lights, it was a lowly cave that confirmed the tidings. it was the manger that countersigned the music. What does that mean for your life and for mine? it means that we may put our visions to the proof. It means that God intends us to prove them true in spheres as lowly as the manger cradle. No vision of love, if the love is truly God’s, will pass away and leave us to our midnight. It will be verified in the round of humble toil, and in the drudgery of every common day.
The Angels and the Vision and the Music May Go, but the Lord Was with Them Still
Lastly, the angels depart, but Jesus Christ remains. It would be a little while before the shepherds realized that the angels had actually gone. Then the darkness would be deepened a thousandfold. Yet it was not while the angels sang their hymn that the shepherds found the place where Christ was laid. it was in the moment of the angels’ going that they rose up and made for Bethlehem. And is it not often when the angel departs (and the angel may be a child or sister) that the heart for the first time sets out for Christ? The angels went, but Jesus Christ remained. The music ceased, but the Lord was with them still. They would never hear again these heavenly strains, but the Savior was never far away. It is in that faith we all must live and work. The angel and the vision and the music go. The dreams and the hopes of our childhood may depart, and we may seem to be left under a cheerless sky. But though the glory fade, Christ Jesus still remains. He is always with us to hearten and cheer and keep us. Better than any song of angels is His fellowship. It is the true secret of a happy Christmas.
+ Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div