Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” (Luke 2.8-14 CEB)
I love this text not just for what it says about Jesus, but for what it says about God our Heavenly Father.
- Shepherds ranked low on their culture’s social scale yet they’re the ones to whom God first announced the Savior’s birth. God our Father seems to enjoy doing the unexpected, in turning things upside down.
- The appearance and performance of the angelic choir is a bit of “shock and awe,” but the world’s Christ is born with no outward, personal radiance or splendor. Our God is anything but ostentatious, taking pleasure in being among us incognito.
- Luke has already used the word “salvation” several times (1.69,71,77) and has referred to God (the Father) as our “Savior” (1.47), but his first use of the word “Savior” in reference to Jesus appears here (2.11). Our God likes to speak in sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle, ways, readily identifying Himself with Jesus.
- The same words for what the angels did and called on people to do (“praising God” and “glory”) are the same words used to describe what the shepherds did (2.13b-14a,20). Our God revels in heaven and earth being one.
- The fact titles are given here to Jesus that were normally reserved for the Roman emperor (e.g. – “Savior” and “Lord”) underscores the fact a choice must be made by all who encounter Jesus: serve him first or serve the current order, but you cannot do both. Our Father God is not passive, but active in challenging the status quo.
- The good news of peace God’s angels announce is not the peace for which most people long, either a political peace or some sort of general, sentimental good will. Instead, it the peace of a right relationship with God. Clearly God our Father delights in giving us not what we want, but what we need most.
How else does the birth of Jesus challenge my presuppositions or expectations about God?
Father God, I love you for who you are and what you do. May that ever be clear to all in both subtle and obvious ways. Amen.