And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night…And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)
With Christmas upon us, I reminisced about my childhood years in private school. Every year at church, we performed the Christmas story as recorded by Luke. The roles my classmates and I anticipated to play were Mary and Joseph. If not chosen for those main roles, we hoped to dress up in the elegant and flashy three kings’ costumes. No one wanted to play the part of a raggedly-dressed shepherd with minimal speaking roles.
How often have we downplayed the roles of the shepherds in the Christmas story? These men of humble means said little, as recorded in Scripture. Though we can assume the shepherds actually had much to say regarding the astounding news, God’s Word leaves us to ponder the shepherds’ actions. Their response to Christ should be models for us today, even 2,000 years later:
They Wasted No Time
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. (Luke 2:15-16)
The shepherds wasted no time in receiving the good news of the Messiah (v. 16). Though these men were terrified (v. 9), they made no excuses. We don’t hear about their concern for what others would think of their news, nor their skepticism. They responded in belief, assurance, and trust: “Let’s go” (v. 15).
We too, without hesitation, should receive and respond to the Lord’s Word given to us in Scripture. Unfortunately, the stresses and misplaced priorities of our lives tend to overshadow our commitment to hearing it. Search your heart and ask God to show you by his Spirit how you may be ignoring his message. Waste no time, friend.
They Spread the Word
And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. (Luke 2:17-18)
After witnessing the newborn King, the shepherds spread the good news (v. 17) and all who heard it were amazed (v. 18). The life-saving gospel we know today began spreading across the world in a humble city and through humble people.
The Lord still speaks to us today as he did with the shepherds. Though he may not send a multitude of heavenly hosts, he has given us his Word—and this Word, through the Spirit of Jesus Christ, now abides within us as we abide in him (1 John 2:24).
Like the shepherds, waste no time in sharing the four non-negotiable truths of the gospel: Jesus Christ is sovereign Lord, and he will judge the world for all sin; but if you put your faith in Christ alone for salvation, he your Savior will free you from condemnation before God and will restore you to right relationship with him.
From the moment he was born, in a stable no less, Jesus lived among the lowly. He humbled himself as a servant by descending to earth in human form, becoming poor that we may become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2:6-7). And Jesus willingly laid aside his majesty in order to serve people who disobeyed him through willful and indwelling rebellion since their birth (Psalm 51:5).
Though this sin is an offense to him and should cost us condemnation and eternal suffering, Christ willingly laid down his life to pay our penalty before the Father, giving a sinful people the free gift of salvation—justification before God, a heart that’s being changed to be more like him, and the hope of eternal life with him (John 10:18, Ezekiel 36:26, Romans 6:23). He said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Don’t keep this good news to yourself, Christian. Share this life-saving truth with your loved one who only knows Jesus in terms of religion and legalism. Sit down with your friend who has asked you questions about your faith in Christ. Give the gift of this truth to your neighbor by inviting them to church with you. May you be led and assured by what Jesus said, “Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32), and “whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).
They Glorified and Praised the Lord
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:20)
Perhaps you came to know Christ through dramatic circumstances, or maybe you have known him as Lord and Savior since childhood. Regardless, your calling is to glorify and praise the Lord in all you say and do (1 Corinthians 10:31) and continually offer a sacrifice of praise to him (Hebrews 13:15).
In knowing the truth of the gospel, may you echo John’s praise in Revelation:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! …To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:12-13)
An Illustration of the Christian Life
John MacArthur said:
The shepherds’ story is a good illustration of the Christian life. You first hear the revelation of the gospel and believe it. Then you pursue and embrace Christ. And having become a witness to your glorious conversion, you begin to tell others about it. (Grace to You)
Dear Christian, may you joyfully follow the shepherds’ example by wasting no time: Respond to and share the gospel, and may you glorify and praise God for all the gifts lavished upon you through Jesus Christ.
I wrote this article originally for Unlocking the Bible on 12.25.2017. ©Unlocking the Bible. Used with permission www.unlockingthebible.org. Unlocking the Bible is the Gospel-centered teaching of Pastor Colin Smith (Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Chicago, IL). The ministry challenges listeners to believe that their lives can be transformed by ‘The Power of the Open Book’ through consistent study of the Bible and a deepening faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Cover photo used with permission via Annie Spratt, Unsplash.