In the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.Luke 2:8
The shepherds on Christmas cards are clean, well-dressed, and tending white sheep. Those scenes seem far removed from our real world of problems, fears, and sorrows. But the truth is that the shepherds stood on the lowest rung of society. I found out why when I worked with sheep shearers. My job was to tie up the sheared wool and put it in a sack. The wool was dirty, greasy, and smelly. At the end of the day, I smelled so bad that my family would back away from me.
So why would God announce the Savior of the world to shepherds? Because God always comes to the humble, to those who have nothing to brag about and nothing to glory in, to those who know they are sinners. The message came to them because the Savior was coming for real sinners, not for those filled with pride and self-importance. God sent his angels to the real world where people struggle with loneliness, trouble, and sin. Zechariah prophesied that the Savior would “shine on those living in darkness” (Luke 1:79 NIV). So the angels appeared to the least of these, in literal darkness, to highlight the real darkness of our world, the darkness of real ignorance, real impurity, real sorrows, real death. It’s into our dark world that Christ shines, enabling us to be different because of his Spirit.
“Because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”Luke 1:78–79
The angel’s announcement of a Savior came to the real world where people live in real darkness. Into this world, God moves with power. Zechariah prophesied that the sun would rise from heaven over those who live in darkness because of the tender mercy of our God (Luke 1:78). So into the real world, because of our God’s mercy, comes a real Savior leading you through real problems and empowering you to master sins that are too much for you.
This isn’t great news if all you need is a nudge, if you have most of the strength you need and all you want is for the Lord to prop you up a bit. If that’s your religion, then you don’t need a Savior. But the angels come with this glorious message to those who have the deepest needs of soul, to those who have an independent spirit and a willful heart. To those who want their own way, not God’s way, and who have made a mess of their lives. To those people, the angel announces wonderful news. In the town of David the Savior has been born, the Christ, God has come in the flesh. He has come to do what no one else can—to change my heart and to change yours.
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”Luke 2:15
The angels left and the shepherds said, “Let’s go and see.” These men simply go to Jesus. How many times do we pray lofty prayers without really going to our Savior? But the times you cry out, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner,” when you don’t feel spiritual, when you feel vulnerable and weak, and when God seems far from you, it is then that God will reach in and touch you and change you and fill you with his vital life and power. Do you see how that works? God resists the proud; grace is for the humble (James 4:6). Grace flows for those who run to him. The humble go to Jesus and receive amazing power.
Perhaps your life is disappointing to you; the longings of your heart have not been fulfilled. God says, “Give me your heart. I want to meet you in your weakness.” God wants you—in your weakness, disappointments, and sorrows—to run to Bethlehem. To run straight to Jesus. Do it as you pray, as you live, as you work. Do it out of weakness and you will receive strength from Jesus.
“And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.Luke 2:17–18
The shepherds didn’t know the whole story of the gospel. They didn’t know how Christ would live, die, rise from the dead, and rule from heaven’s throne. All they knew was that a Savior had come to bring peace and light to a dark world. But notice that what little they knew, they couldn’t wait to share. Did you ever see a child with a present he or she loved? Did they want to keep quiet about it? No, they had to show and tell all about it. You and I have this great gift. We don’t have a small story, a small Christ, a small Holy Spirit; we have a great salvation! Go and tell the story. Go to your neighbors, coworkers, and friends; go overseas. Tell everyone the greatest story ever told. There will never be another like it. It’s a glory story—not a myth or a dream, but the truth and the life.
After the shepherds tell the story they begin to sing—a shepherd choir glorifying and praising God (Luke 2:20). You too, regardless of how you feel, can tell the story and sing God’s praises. It’s the best news you’ve ever heard—and the best news the world has ever heard.
Excerpted from Saving Grace by C. John Miller © 2014 by Rose Marie Miller. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.
SAVING GRACE: DAILY DEVOTIONS FROM JACK MILLER
The gospel changes how we live each day. That’s the premise of Saving Grace and the legacy of Jack Miller’s ministry. These 366 gospel-saturated selections from Miller’s pioneering sermons offer a fresh exploration of the everyday life of faith. With topics like forgiveness, relationships, temptation, prayer, joy, and perseverance—this daily devotional will help readers to catch Miller’s hope-filled vision for living in light of the gospel.