I'm sure we all have different things we love to do around the holiday season. For me, my favorite thing to do is to reread the Christmas story. The other night I made my way to Luke 2, the account of the shepherds and the angels. It does not matter how many times I read this account, I'm filled with awe every time. Maybe it is because the account is such a dreamy scene, or the fact that there is no other account of "multitude of the heavenly host" on earth in Scripture, but there are so many things to this small part of the story that I can't get enough of.
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 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.
Quite a few things come to mind when reading this passage:
First of all, how did the angel appear? Did he just come out of nowhere?
Did he scare them with his appearance? What do angels look like?
What about the multitude? How did they 'suddenly' appear?
Does 'those with whom he is pleased' mean the elect?
Were the shepherds saved? And why shepherds?
I think it's healthy for us to read the scriptures with questions in mind. Personally, for me, it makes the story more real and it's fun to imagine the real logistics that took place. While we have the basic story, the details within the story are things we can only dream about until we go to Heaven.
If you look up what angels look like in scripture, you'll come across a few different accounts, however it is the one in Ezekiel 10:1-22 that I find very hard to grasp. It's a picture that I have a hard time putting together, but nonetheless it is quite a picture to think about!
Then we get to the multitude. Imagine thousands of angels just suddenly appearing and glorifying God. Again, how does that work? I wonder what it looked like, how it sounded. After, did the multitude disappear, or? How did they go away?
Personally, I do feel that the phrase "with whom he is pleased" is talking about the elect. Because while the scripture says that Christ came to be "good news of great joy that will be for all people", the scripture also talks of an 'elect' people whom God foreknew and predestined through Christ. Ephesians 1:5
I'll only know if the shepherds were saved on the other side, but as far as why shepherds, I have a small theory on why God chose shepherds and wise men. (Matthew 2) These shepherds and the wise men clearly came from different worlds and different ways of life. And while it is safe to say that their paths did not cross when actually going to see Jesus, the fact that two very different classes of people came to see baby Jesus says a lot about the gospel. In my bible, the footnote for Matthew 2 says that the wise men coming to worship Jesus "wonderfully foreshadowed the worship of Jesus by all the Gentile nations". Simply by bringing two different kinds of people groups to see baby Jesus, we see how God worked beyond cultural differences and ministered to the world in bringing life to the nations, not just Israel, but the whole world.
Praise the Lord for good news!
It's amazing to think of how the Gospel, the simple story of Jesus coming to save us from our sins, is woven beautifully in every part of scripture.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy my thoughts on this Advent reading.
This entry can also be found on the writer's personal blog-