The Shepherds: Hurrying to worship (Luke 2:8-20)

Read Luke 2:8-20 on Bible Gateway

The story of the shepherds is such a well-known one and is re-told time and again, especially at this time of the year, and yet these few verses are all we know of them. We don’t know their names or even how many of them there were and yet they provide an example to us of what our reaction to hearing about Jesus should be.

Shepherds were not well regarded in Palestinian society. Theirs was not a sought-after occupation and they were not generally a group of people who were trusted by others. They lived their lives on the fringes of society, away from the hustle and bustle of towns, out in the fields with their flocks in a fairly isolated existence. It is in this setting that we read of a group of ‘some shepherds’ (v8) who were simply doing their job of looking after their flocks through the night when ‘an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them’ (v9). What a shock this must have been! In the middle of the night as they huddled around a fire to try to keep warm, constantly on the lookout for wild animals that might prey upon their sheep, they are suddenly frightened by the bright appearance of the glory of the Lord (v9). I’m not sure that the angel’s opening words of ‘Do not be afraid’ (v10) would have had an immediate effect on how they felt but what followed certainly did have an impact. The angel tells the shepherds that there is ‘good news of great joy for all the people’ because a Saviour has been born in the nearby town of Bethlehem and this baby is Christ the Lord (v11). The angel then entrusts the shepherds with information about the greatest treasure ever to have been discovered. They are told how to find this treasure and to expect it to be in the shape of ‘a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’ (v12).

As soon as the angel had finished delivering the message the sky exploded in a blaze of light as a whole heavenly choir appeared and praised God saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest’ (v14). Following the song, the angels disappeared. Stillness and darkness descended again.

But in this moment a huge change had occurred. Now, as a direct result of the brief meeting with the angels, the shepherds’ priorities had changed. They were now only concerned with finding the baby. Their flocks became of secondary importance and they decided that it was much more important to ‘go straight to Bethlehem’ (v15) to see the thing that God had revealed to them. This decision is incredible. The whole reason for them spending their nights out in the open guarding their sheep is because the flocks were their livelihood. To impulsively decide to abandon the sheep for the remainder of the night in order to search out a baby sleeping in a manger is close to madness.

Well actually, it is madness. Unless, of course, God had spoken and they are about to find the greatest treasure of all!

And so the shepherds left their flocks and hurried off to find Jesus[1].

Just read that again! They hurried off. Not a saunter. Not a stroll. Not a ‘Let’s leave it until the morning when it’s light’. Not an ‘I’m not sure they’ll be ready for visitors yet’! No! Finding Jesus became their number one priority. Their main focus. Their sole concern. And so they immediately hurried off to find Him. The shepherds had been informed of a great treasure: a Saviour had been born for them and others. Nothing else was important in that moment and they resolved to find the treasure. They hurried off to set eyes on Him. They hurried off to worship.

It is worth noting the transformation that the shepherds underwent. Having begun the night in the middle of a field with no thought for the nearby town, they ended the night rushing through the streets declaring the goodness of God, glorifying and praising Him for His provision of salvation in the form of a baby in a manger (v20)!

You, too, have heard of the Great Treasure, the Saviour of the World who entered the world as a baby in a manger. So what are you going to do with that news? Are you going to linger where you are and continue to pursue your current priorities? Or are you going to hurry off to worship Jesus and then share the news of the treasure with others?

I pray that the example of the shepherds will not simply be a nice feature of the Christmas story but an inspiration to you as you enter the New Year.

[1] Thanks to @Becky_Rhiannon for drawing my attention to this insight!

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  1. #1 by Russell on December 27, 2014 - 11:22 pm

    Simon, that’s some great insight, miss your preaching.

    • #2 by Simon Clay on December 28, 2014 - 9:35 am

      Thanks, Russ! We miss you too!!

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