And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 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.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
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. 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. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
In the midst of normal day-to-day activities, the most amazing thing happens all around us: we are surrounded by JOY. No doubt you could say the same thing about sadness or anger or really any other emotion that we experience—they too are powerful, but there is something about true joy that other emotions really cannot touch. True joy leaves a smile on your face when you drive down the road or walk along the sidewalk or even could make you burst into laughter at the most inopportune times. It is rare, but when you see it or experience it, it will change you completely—at least for that moment… and potentially for eternity.
You see, when Mary was giving birth to Jesus there were a group of shepherds fulfilling their regular duties in the night as they cared for their flock. They had done this many times, but 2000 years ago something happened that I suggest changed them eternally and gave them something only the words "true joy" can explain.
It started with fear, but which one of us wouldn’t be filled with fear if an angel and the glory of the Lord shone around us? Think about it: have you ever been scared by someone sneaking up on you and saying “boo”? The glory of the Lord would bring a far greater of an experience of fear. The fear disappeared for the shepherds as the angel spoke his message of “good news and great joy to all people." This message wasn’t just for these shepherds, but the text says for ALL people.
It also came with a sign. A sign was something used by the prophets throughout the Old Testament to reveal truth and show that this message was really from God Himself. The sign was a baby lying in a manger. The shepherds went and found the baby Jesus lying in the manger and it changed them eternally. We know this story well. Maybe we’ve been told it growing up or have seen the nativity scenes around the city, but have you experienced the true joy this story offers? Or, are you, like many in those days, missing the signs or acting as naysayers and quickly going back to the normalities of their everyday lives? This historical story still offers you eternal joy. Are you willing to believe like Mary in vs.19 treasuring up all these things, pondering them in her heart?
May you find the true joy of Jesus who offers us forgiveness of our sin if we believe with our heart and confess with our mouth that He is LORD. The right response to something so amazing is to imitate the angels as they expressed their joy through song. May your song this Christmas, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in, be about the joy of knowing Jesus and His eternal salvation leading you to smile or even laugh out loud because of the goodness of God who sent