"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."
Like many of you, I've heard this scripture many, many times. It has been used to make the point of the season in churches and homes and other likely places. I especially remember it being used in the seasonal television special "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
It's really not that hard to imagine shepherds sitting out in the pasture lands keeping watch over their flocks. And it's not hard to imagine what they might have been talking about. For instance, one group might be talking hunting while another talked sports; some might be talking politics while still others talked about their work and which ewes were ready to lamb.
They talked, more than likely, to keep each other company and to ward off would be intruders that may have posed a threat to the flocks -- such as coyotes, wolves, and other wild beasts -- who would be alerted to the scent of humans and shy away from the flocks.
And they probably talked to keep from falling asleep. Night after night they stood their watch. And night after night -- I imagine -- they probably found the job somewhat mundane and uneventful.
But this wasn't an ordinary night. As they tended to their flocks, they suddenly noticed an angel. Now, that was something new -- and it was news. It had been quite a while since anyone reported being contacted -- directly -- by an angel. And the scripture tells us this wasn't any ordinary angel -- it was the Angel of the Lord and he brought with him the bright light of the glory of the Lord.
I'm sure, to say the least, that it was quite an eye-opening experience.
Some may have fainted form the sight. Some may have hidden themselves in the nearby rocks. Others may have stood in awe as the Angel of the Lord proclaimed the reason for his visit.
"Fear not" he said. "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."
And as if that wasn't enough -- the angel is then joined by "a multitude of the heavenly host" -- more angels who had come together to sing praises to God and to help the angel make his announcement.
"Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will toward men!"
What do you suppose the shepherds did next? They ran into Bethlehem to "see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us."
Today, we hear this message time and time again. We hear it in public and on the television. Linus quotes the scripture for us and his friends Charlie, Lucy, and Schroeder as Snoopy looks on.
But do we see "this thing that has come to pass"?