Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shepherds Glorify God

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending December 21, 2008

Scripture Text: Luke 2:8-20 (NRSV)

Background Text: Luke 2:1-20

Luke 2:8-20
(8) In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. (9)Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.(10)But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: (11)to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (12)This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and 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 heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’(15) When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ (16)So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. (17)When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; (18)and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. (19)But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (20)The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This passage has a lot of interesting ideas, and the first thing I notice is how the author Luke, brings in the more humble and lowly, much like he did with women. In his text, he introduces us to the shepherds. The occupation of shepherd was not a lofty one to aspire to, it was more like the second job for those that had trouble making ends meet. It does however, have a very favorable history for the Jews. Remember Moses was tending the herds of Jethro, his father-in-law, when God spoke to him through the burning bush. And Isaac tended his father-in-laws herds. David was tending the sheep when Samuel came to Jesse's home to anoint a king. At first glance we would say why, "the shepherds in the fields", why not in Rome to Caesar? Or in the Temple to the High Priest? How would either of these been received?

We are not told if this angel was the same angel, Gabriel, that had spoken to Mary, and Zechariah. We are told that he appears with a host of angels as well as the “glory of the Lord.” We know from the Old Testament that God's glory often appeared to the traveling Jews in the Exodus, sometimes as fire and sometimes as a cloud. It was called the “Shechinah Glory” by Jewish writers but that word is not used in the Bible. It refers to “a visible majesty of divine presence.” I can understand the terror they felt, but notice it was only Zechariah, that met the angel in the temple by the altar of incense, that doubted. Every indication is that the shepherds saw, heard, were frightened, but it never says they doubted. Unlike Zechariah they could not wait to tell their tale, or to find this evidence that the angel promised.

The promised Messiah, could be found as a baby, lying in a manger, in the city of David. That in itself would require a lot of faith, to believe the King of Kings and Lord of Lords would be found wrapped in some cloths and in a manger, not a palace, no crown or ring, just wrapped in bands of cloth. The heavenly chorus starts singing and praising God, that order is about to be restored. God is in heaven and peace is coming to His creation. The sins of Eden are about to be reversed for ever and ever to those that accept him as their Lord and Savior.

If we can find the same faith as the shepherds, we to can find the Babe, waiting for us to accept Him as our new born King. The shepherds felt the urgency to go quickly and find this thing that the Lord had made known to them. I can imagine the doubt of those standing near by and hearing the shepherds story. I can also imagine the satisfaction that Mary felt, by the confirmation of what Gabriel had told her from the beginning. It all makes sense for those that believe, to everybody else, it is just a nice story. What are you doing to share your story of how you found this Babe of Bethlehem, that can save to the uttermost, that can bring a peace to your world that the rest of the world can only mock? The shepherds returned to their job glorifying and praising God and telling their story. What story will you tell this Christmas?

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