“When they [the shepherds] had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about the child, and 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. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2: 17-20)
At this point, Lord, you had let just a few people in on your secret: Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah. And, oh, a band of shepherds. I love the way the shepherds heard. It was almost a “rocks cry out” moment. Jesus was born, an event upon which history would forever turn, and no one knew but Joseph and Mary. Bethlehem, and the rest of the world, continued with business as usual absolutely unaware of the unthinkably, unfathomably wondrous event of the night — God had become a man. No, God had become a baby!
But it seemed it couldn’t be like that; this couldn’t pass unnoticed. The angels couldn’t take it. They were watching this unfold and struggling to keep it to themselves. The news was begging to be told, threatening to spring from their lips. The rocks of earth trembled to cry out.
And then, in a remote field, away from the lights and crowds and eyes and ears of the city, they burst forth, first one and then the multitude, making the news known to a band of shepherds.
Why them? Why there? Why anyone that night? What good did it do for the shepherds to hear this news they could not possibly understand? It would be years before they could make sense of it. But the angels wouldn’t keep quiet. They had to proclaim it and someone had to hear it. So, an angel gave the announcement and the choir burst into praise celebrating the glory of this God who had come as a Savior in the form of a baby boy.
Was the announcement wasted on this lonely band of men? What could they do with the news? They held neither power or position in their government or society to do a thing about it. Except this: they could hasten to check it out, to see if what they heard was true. And then they could spend the rest of the night spreading the word and glorifying and praising God for what they had just heard and seen. I believe it was the reason they were told. The angels knew, on this night, the name of the Lord and his mercy and glory simply had to be praised. The shepherds, as far as we know, played no other role. This may have been the very reason they were born at that time and place. For, as it had to be, on that very night of his birth, God’s arrival as a baby boy, a human savior, was spoken among the shepherds and then person to person to person around that little town. People heard. They started to wonder. They didn’t understand it yet. But they heard that God favored them and the Messiah had come to bring peace. They treasured up the shepherds’ news and they pondered it in their hearts. They looked up and asked what it meant. They asked if this peace might even be for them. And the name of the Lord was praised. Because the angels couldn’t keep the secret and the shepherds didn’t keep the news to themselves.
It could have been no other way. It couldn’t have waited even until morning. Or the rocks themselves would have burst forth!
Oh, Lord, so often I am like Mary. I’m good at treasuring up what I see you doing. I love to ponder! I love to watch what you’re doing, to grab new nuggets of truth, to read scripture with a new understanding, and then to tuck them away in my mind, treasuring them up to enjoy and to ponder, rubbing them over and over with my thoughts until they are like lovingly polished stones. And that glorifies you; I know it does.
But, Lord, let me be like the shepherds, also. When I see evidence anew that a Savior has been born to me and to the world, let me get to work spreading the word. There are people in my town who will have missed your coming. There are people around me who don’t know the “good news of great joy” or who have heard it but don’t know it is “for all people,” for them. God has come as a Savior! Let me spread the word! And then let me return to you, glorifying and praising you for all I have seen and heard!
Give me the excitement and the urgency of the angels and the shepherds! Lord, let the rocks lie still in their place and let me cry out!