"8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.' 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!'
"15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.' 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
"17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
"20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them." Luke 2:8-20
When Jesus the Messiah was born and laid in a manger, an angel announced His birth to shepherds staying in a field nearby and keeping watch over their flock by night. The heavenly messenger brought them good tidings of great joy not just for themselves but for all people; for that very day in Bethlehem, the city of David, a Savior was born, the Messiah, the LORD (Jehovah) Himself in human flesh.
And, as the angel choir said in its hymn of praise, this child was a bringer of peace between God and men and is God's gift, bringing merciful kindness and goodwill toward sinful mankind.
How could this be? Though all of us have come short, Jesus Christ satisfied the righteous demands of God's holy law for us, keeping all God's commandments perfectly and without sin in His thoughts, desires, words, and deeds. And in our stead, He suffered and died on the cross and paid in full the just punishment for the sins of all that God might have mercy upon us and graciously forgive our sins when we look to His Son in faith for pardon and peace!
Having heard this joyful news, the shepherds were not content to go back to their work of guarding the flock; they went to see the things of which the angel had told them. And they found it just as the angel had said. They found Mary and Joseph and, with them, the Christ Child lying in a manger.
Nor did the shepherds keep the good news to themselves; they told everyone -- they made known abroad -- what the angel had told them concerning this Child born in Bethlehem.
Mary herself treasured the words of the shepherds concerning her Son and pondered them in her heart.
And, when the shepherds returned to their flock, they glorified and praised God for all they had seen and heard, which was just as the angel had told them. They rejoiced in God's gift of a Savior who would redeem them and win for them a place in God's eternal kingdom.
Of course, these events in history have great significance for each and every one of us today. God's own dear Son was born in Bethlehem on that historic day. His birth is good tidings of great joy to us as well, for He is the long-promised Messiah, the LORD God Himself, and He went to the cross for the sins of the world -- for the sins of each of us -- and He rose again in victory, that each and every one of us might have forgiveness for all our sins and life eternal through faith in Him!
God would have us heed the message of the Christmas Gospel and turn from our sinful ways to Christ Jesus in faith that we might receive the pardon and forgiveness He won for us by coming into this world as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger at Bethlehem and then fulfilling all the demands of God's commandments for us and, on the cross, making full atonement for our sins and rising again in victory!
Dearest Jesus, we thank you for coming into this world a true man -- that babe born in Bethlehem -- and going to the cross to redeem us and make us Your own. Move us to take the time to see, to believe, to worship and to spread abroad the good news of salvation through faith in Your name. Amen.
[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Devotion is by Randy Moll. He may be contacted by email at [email protected]. More of Moll's devotional writings are freely available at https://mercifulsaviorlutheran.net. Opinions expressed are those of the author.]