We invite you to return every day during Advent for this devotional series
Listen to today’s accompanying audio track. Note: This same track will play December 15, 16, and 17:
There Were Shepherds Abiding In The Field
“And the angel said to 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.”
This is the grandest night in history. It stands at the epicenter of time, the pivot on which all the ages turn. Jesus’ birth splits all time into B.C. (“before Christ”) and A.D. (Anno Domini – “in the year of the Lord”). Each time you write the date on a check or letter, you are proclaiming the centrality of Christ’s coming. Even your birthday is dated from His birthday.
Yet, the first words from the lips of the angel to frightened shepherds are “fear not”. This is a night for rejoicing, he assures them, and not for being afraid. His message melts any fear about the future or the unknown. At the heart of the angel’s message is “great joy”. Joy is found in this baby, God’s gift “to all people”. The baby is joy incarnate!
Each word of the angel’s announcement identifies the baby and His significance for all. This baby, “born in the city of David” is “Saviour…Christ…Lord”. Even a shepherd from Bethlehem would have grasped an angel’s words about a baby born in his home town. Everyone knew the words of the prophet Micah spoken seven hundred years earlier, foretelling Messiah’s birth in their town:
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2).
The angel declares that this Bethlehem-born baby is “Saviour”. Again, even a shepherd would have understood the meaning of “Saviour”. It was a word from Old Testament times about “someone who delivers from the enemy”. Just as a shepherd delivers his sheep from the jaws of a wolf, so God will deliver His people from sin and death.
The angel says that this baby is also “Christ”, which is the New Testament’s Greek word for “Messiah”. He is the one God promised to bring in His Kingdom.
Finally, the angel announces that this baby is “Lord”. This was a title reserved by the Jewish people for only God Himself, the supreme ruler of heaven and earth. This will be the title by which the baby Jesus will become best known. “Jesus is Lord!”
The Apostle Paul will preach this Jesus as Lord over all, and declare that “in him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). In sending this baby, God is really sending Himself. The baby in Bethlehem’s stable is Emmanuel, “God with us”.
But most important for us is that the angel declares this to be good news “for all people”. Now the angel’s message becomes personal. It is God’s good news for any who will hear, any who will listen and take seriously the message.
Some four hundred years ago, Martin Luther wrote the following as a key to this Advent season:
Of what benefit would it be to me if Jesus would have been born a thousand times and it would have been sung daily in my ears that Jesus Christ has been born, but that I was never to hear that Jesus Christ was born for me?
Handel wants everyone’s attention for what is coming: the greatest announcement the world has ever heard! Handel writes the soprano solo with minimal accompaniment, so that all attention will be on the angel’s words.
The first part of the announcement is sung in the bright, major key as the angel announces good news for all. Then the solo moves to the minor key as the angel tells of Messiah’s birth: “for unto you is born this day…” This shift from the major to minor key hints at Messiah’s eventual suffering and cross.
- What do you sense that God might be saying to you in today’s Scripture text and music from Messiah?
- What do you want to say to God?
- Now take a few moments to be still in God’s presence.