There were shepherds in the field watching over their flock by night.
“I bring you good news of a great joy!”

Luke, an outstanding historian, provides the most complete overview of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. Its very likely that he interviewed Mary, and some of the shepherds who had witnessed the event, in order to provide such vivid detail of the angel’s words, and the reaction of all the participants.

Everything started with Mary and Joseph receiving the revelation of the coming Messiah. It was exciting news, but there was a problem, they lived in Nazareth. God, speaking through the prophet Micah, had promised that Bethlehem Ephrathah would be the birthplace of His King (Micah 5:2). God had to get Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, almost 70 miles away, and about three days by foot under the best conditions – maybe several more days for someone traveling pregnant. This was not a journey one would make, especially late in a pregnancy, unless forced to by circumstances beyond their control.

In Rome, some 1,400 miles away, Caesar Augustus made a decision that it was time to count all people living in the empire, declaring that the whole world should be taxed – a sentiment shared by too many in power today. It did not matter how much difficulty this census would cause, or the hardship of a new tax, all that mattered was wealth for those in charge, and controlling the people conquered by Roman might. This reveals a major difference between the Babylonian system, or governments controlled by the god of this world, and the Kingdom of God. God gives abundantly, and sets people free. Unrighteous governments enslave, control, and steal. God can and does work through even the most evil leadership. However, life is so much better for everyone when Spirit-filled Believers, righteous men and women of exceptional integrity, are in power. If a nation truly trusts God, it IS BLESSED. (1 Samuel 8:4-22, Psalm 33:4-12, Proverbs 11:1-11, 28:1-28, 29:2, John 10:10, Romans 12:1-21, 13:1-14, 1 Timothy 2:1-5, 1 Peter 2:13-17)

As always, God has even the smallest detail under control. With the census, each person had to return to their ancestral home, which for Joseph and Mary coincidentally, meant Bethlehem. For those that trust God, there seems to be a lot of “coincidences.”

While in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus. Because the village was crowded with people who were there for the census, they settled for less than spectacular lodging, and a manger became Jesus’ crib at least for a short time. As a righteous man and woman living in Covenant with God, and with Joseph’s carpentry training, there is no reason to believe that they were destitute. God is very capable of supplying His children abundantly with everything they need. Within a few months, an entourage of wise men, large enough to get the king’s attention, would arrive carrying gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This would be more than enough to fund the family’s stay in Egypt. Some have used these humble beginnings to preach that poverty is somehow noble, or a blessing. Try telling that to someone who can’t feed their children. Poverty is a curse. God is Love, and He wants everyone abundantly blessed, so they can bless others. Jesus came to preach The Blessing, and free you from the curse. As you read this story, focus on a loving Heavenly Father directing, protecting, and supplying everything this young family needed. God is Good! His Word can be trusted. (Genesis 24:34-35, Deuteronomy 8:17-18, 28:1-68, Psalm 23:1-6, Proverbs 10:22, Matthew 6:26-33, Luke 6:38, John 10:10, 2 Corinthians 9:6-12, Galatians 3:12-13, Philippians 4:18-19, 1 John 4:15-19, 3 John 1:2)

Angel Announces Birth Of Jesus

Fear Not! I Bring You Good Tidings Of Great Joy!

The night Jesus was born, there were shepherds watching over their sheep in the fields near Bethlehem. The fact that they were outside is fairly solid evidence that Jesus was not born in December, but more likely at a time when it was warm enough to be outside all night and there was plenty of food for the sheep. Also, travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem would have been more easily accomplished during warmer months, especially for someone great with child. It is unlikely Rome would impose a census at a time when it would cause even more resentment because of weather. And it would be disastrous to interfere with the much needed planting and harvests during the growing season of an agricultural society. It would be far easier to conduct the census at a time when the agricultural work was done, and people were already traveling to attend a Feast. In no way does that diminish Christmas celebrations on December 25th. But you should always defer to God’s Word, and reject tradition when it contradicts His Truth.

The noted theologian E. W. Bullinger presents a compelling case in the Appendix of his Companion Bible that December 25 was actually the date that the Angel appeared to Mary, and the Word became flesh. Then, 280 days later, Jesus tabernacled with us at the start of the Feast of Tabernacles. Eight days later, on the last day or Great Day of the Feast, he was circumcised. (I found this source from a Jewish perspective to also be helpful on this subject – Was Jesus Really Born On December 25th?)

The animals that were used for the Temple sacrifices came from this flock, so these shepherds were critical to the religious life of the entire nation. Few people understood so profoundly the price of atonement better than those who were nourishing and protecting the sacrificial lambs on a daily basis. This was just a temporary solution to the sin problem. God had promised to send a Savior, Love Himself, to redeem man once and for all. God wanted His family back. The first Adam had sinned, plunging all of humanity into spiritual darkness and death. The Last Adam would voluntarily sacrifice himself on the cross and pay the debt for all mankind. And by faith in Jesus, you can be saved and spiritually reborn into God’s family. I praise God every day for this! (Genesis 22:8, 22:13-18, John 1:29, 5:21-24, Romans 5:1-21, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, Hebrews 9:9-15, Hebrews 10:1-23, 1 Peter 1:18-25)

An angel appeared to them and they were frightened by the glory of the Lord that lit up the night sky. This was the Shekinah, or glorious presence of God. When your whole life is focused on the physical world, when confronted by the spiritual, it can be alarming. A natural reaction to the supernatural is fear. Its no surprise that the angel’s first words were to tell the shepherds not to be afraid. God wants reverence, fellowship, faith, and love. No Believer should ever be afraid of their Heavenly Father, or His messengers. Once you place your faith in Jesus, you are changed from the inside out. You no longer have a spirit of fear, but of Love, because you are now in the family of God. God’s perfect Love removes all fear. The Believer is a new creation, made spiritually alive, an Ambassador of Christ, and has the freedom to boldly approach God’s throne of grace. Don’t leave that baby born in Bethlehem in the manger. He grew up and lives in you. You are God’s Temple on Earth, His dwelling place, the Body of Christ, with Jesus as the Head of the Body. You are spiritually sitting with Jesus right now beside God in Heaven. You may not feel that this is true, but feelings don’t matter. Its what you Believe that counts. And you can Believe God’s Word. (John 14:19-27, Romans 8:13-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Ephesians 2:4-10, Hebrews 4:12-16, 1 John 4:15-18)

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 Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men.

(Luke 2:8-14 <KJV>)

What was this Good News that the angel was sharing? What was so important that God’s messengers, the entire angelic host, could not control their joy? What happened on Earth that would elicit enough Heavenly praise to be seen and heard in the natural realm? It was not just a birth of a child. That certainly brings much joy to family and friends, but this was something bigger. It was not just a king, prophet, or leader. Israel had seen many of those in its history and never did you see this kind of response. No, this was something so much greater. They were rejoicing over the birth of Immanuel (or Emmanuel), God with us. Think about that. God sent Himself – not an angel or a prophet. God’s Word became flesh. Jesus entered the sheepfold by the door. He did not climb over the wall, or sneak in like a thief, or the father of lies. He legally entered the Earth as a baby, experiencing the same challenges that humanity faces every day. He came in love and humility, demonstrating Righteousness, Love, and Overcoming Faith. You can identify with Jesus because God lived as a man. Jesus stepped down, so he could raise you up with him. In other words, Jesus became one with you in sin and death, so that you are one with him in Life and Righteousness. Let this Truth get anchored in your spirit. (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23, John 1:1-14, 10:1-11, Philippians 2:5-11, Colossians 2:6-14, Hebrews 2:9-11, 2:14-18)

Shepherds With The Good Shepherd.

The Shepherds Worship Jesus.

After the angels left, the shepherds ran to Bethlehem to see Jesus. They found the child just as the angel had described. And they praised God for Jesus, and told everyone what they had witnessed. They shared the good news that God is with us. Now that is some really good news! (Luke 2:1-20)

It seems very appropriate that the angel would announce the birth of Jesus to shepherds. He is called the Lamb of God, Good Shepherd, Gate of the Sheep and Shepherd of God’s People. Who else could appreciate him more than people who lived this life every day. I have often wondered if like David, these shepherds talked to God daily, and were expectantly waiting for the Messiah. They may have even heard about the events surrounding John’s birth and knew the prophecies and signs of the times. There was a definite plan and purpose for the angel to share the news with this group. They had willing hearts and received the news with joy. Then, they immediately sought out Jesus. And finally, they shared the Good News with everyone else. (Psalm 23, Psalm 95:6-7, Micah 5:2-5, Matthew 2:5-6, John 1:29-36, John 10:1-30, Hebrews 13:20-21, 1 Peter 1:18-21, Revelation 12:10-11)

I bring you good tidings of great joy.
God Is With Us!

The lesson you can learn from the shepherds is when you seek Jesus with all your heart, you will find Him. When you find Jesus, and really get to know him through God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, you can’t help but praise God and share the Good News with others. Don’t leave Jesus in that manger, or only think about him at Christmas. Jesus is with you every moment of every day. God is with us. That is VERY GOOD NEWS!

 

Some Other Suggestions For Nativity Of Jesus:
Angels, Shepherds & Good Tidings of Great Joy – A paraphrase of the Nativity story

Kirsi, The Little Lost Lamb – A story about a little lamb that risks her life to see Jesus. This adaptation of the Nativity story includes a lesson on searching for Christ.

Christmas Is Just Presents? – My blog post on the greatest gift ever – Love.

For additional Nativity of Jesus resources

 

May God Richly Bless You!
Thanks for visiting!

 

Image Source: Free Christian Clip Art

 

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