What happened to the shepherds who visited the manger the
night Jesus was born? Some would respond, Who cares? This
is an irrelevant question. I agree it is from a historical point of
view. From a Biblical point of view, the question speaks to us
as we live in the after-glow of Christmas.
What an experience those shepherds had. They were uneducated
people who had the boring job of watching their flocks. Nothing
unusual happened to shepherds unless it might be a wild animal
attacking the animals. But one night things were different. The
Bible says, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the
glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified.”Ê
The angel told them that the Savior had been born in Bethlehem.
When the excitement quieted, these men decided to go to
Bethlehem and see what had happened. When they arrived at
the manger, they saw Mary, Joseph, and the baby who was
lying in the manger. There they stood in the presence of a
child who was the God incarnate. This was the experience
of a lifetime.
What kind of a lasting impression did it make on these shepherds?
The Christmas story tells us, “They spread the word concerning
what had been told them about this child, and all who heard
it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” Then note
these words, “The shepherds returned (to their work), glorifying
and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen,
which were just as they had been told.”
That’s the story of the shepherds, which is irrelevant unless we
meditate on these words and ask, “We too have heard the story
of Christ’s birth. In one sense we have been to Bethlehem also.
What will happen to us spiritually now that Christmas is over
for another year? Did Christmas have any impact on you? Might
it be that you came to Christ if you were not a Christian on
December 23rd? If you were followers of Jesus, did the message of
Christmas strengthen your faith and commitment to the Savior?
Christmas was a spiritual experience for my wife and me. In helping
us to prepare for Christ, we took a trip to Branson, Missouri to
enjoy some of the Christmas shows. We heard the famous
pianist Dino, who thrilled us with his talent and touched our hearts
as he gave a powerful testimony on how Christ had changed his life.
He stood before this audience of 3,000 people with a bar that had
two large balls at either end. He called our attention to the fact
that the balls were separated by space on the bar. Dino emphasized
that this is a symbol of our relationship with God without a Savior.
He then moved one ball closer to the other ball and pointed out that
this is how God draws close to us. We do not approach Him, He
comes to us. Then Dino came to the point of his illustration.Ê
While God has drawn close to us and offered to live in a personal
relationship with us, nothing happens until we take the next step
and let Christ into our lives.
Words are inadequate to express this marvelous illustration, but
not a sound could be heard in this large audience. At the end of
Dino’s presentation, the people gave him a standing ovation which
testified to me that there is a world out there that is open to this
message. For no matter how sophisticated life can become, it is
empty without Jesus Christ.
So, if you had a spiritual experience with Christ this Christmas,
what is the next step for you in your relationship with God? The
shepherds returned to their work. God had given them the
privilege of seeing the Messiah. It does surprise me that God
did not send them into Jerusalem to be a powerful witness of
what they had seen and experienced. Instead
they went back to their work.
Isn’t this the way that God deals with His children in our age too?
He calls us aside for a while. He nurtures our soul and then sends
us back to where we live and labor to tell the story of what Christ
has done for us. That’s what the shepherds did. The Bible says,”
All who heard the shepherd’s story wondered at what they told them.”Ê
It was a very simple story told by uneducated men who had met
the Savior. That’s what witnessing is all about. Their lives had
been changed, and they praised God for what He had done for
them. We too are called to be witnesses of what God has done
for us. We are sent back to our families and friends to share
with them this glorious Gospel whenever the opportunity presents
itself. Think of the millions of people who have followed the path
of the shepherds. They had pointed people to the Lord Jesus,
and many have come to trust Him. This is how the Church is built.
No matter how powerful the enemies of this Gospel are, the message
once echoed by the shepherds has not been silenced.
I once had a friend who believed that when people met Christ,
they should enroll at a theological seminary and become a pastor.Ê
He talked about the number of people who had become pastors
under his ministry. He chastised me for not talking to my son about
considering the ministry and lamented that none of his children
or grandchildren had become a part of the clergy. When I tried
to comfort him by pointing out what dynamic witnesses his children
were, and how my children were serving the Lord where they lived
and labored, he thanked me but continued to wish that at least
one of them had become an ordained pastor.
God knows that the Church needs faithful pastors who know
the Lord personally. It is important that our youth know that they
should be sensitive to the Lord’s calling, but we should also
affirm their ministry wherever life leads them.
What happened to the shepherds? God sent them back to watch
the sheep, but they had a message to share with those who
came to them. Perhaps that is where He sends us, who have been
called aside in this Christmas season to hear again that God has
come to this world in the person of Jesus Christ.