Pastor Keith Williams,
High Prairie Bethel Baptist Church
There is a huge difference between the historical and the historic. Everything that happens in time and space is historical. But only the significant is historic.
The significant points beyond itself to something greater, something more. No land is more full with the historic than Palestine. Here, the events that define all history took place. The very meaning of Christian life, the very roots of Christian existence, are embedded in the stones of that land.
There are words in Luke’s account of the nativity of Jesus in that very land that I love every time I hear them. They are the words of shepherds spoken to each other after being visited by an angelic host: “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” [Luke 2:15]
Close your eyes and imagine that it’s night. That night! The night the shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks. Think about what it must be like to have a job that requires vigilance 24 hours a day.
There is a monotony – a sameness – that goes with a job that follows the same routine day after day. There would be little excitement in that place to help them pass the evening hours. It reminds me of a line in a song by Harry Chapin [not recommended].
“I am the midnight watchman down at ‘Millers Tool & Die’, and I watch the metal rust and I watch the time go by”.
But on the night Jesus was born something spectacular took place. The plains of Bethlehem became the theatre for one of the most spectacular sound and light shows in human history. It was an hour in which all heaven broke loose. The band Queen, when singing their hit song Bohemian Rhapsody live, [again, not recommended] has an amazing light show by human standards. But even this would be like seeing a Bic lighter from a mile away.
Luke tells us what happened in Luke 2:8–14. The midnight vigil of the shepherds was interrupted by the sudden appearance of an angel. The angelic visitor was surrounded by the glory of God. It was a dazzling display of light that shrouded the heavenly messenger with a visible divine radiance.
In his message the angel declares that this Saviour, who is also Messiah, and Lord is born “unto you.” The divine announcement is the declaration of a gift from on high. The newborn King is born for us.
This is the message of redemption, Deus pro nobis [God is for us]. The shepherds’ trip to and from the manger was marked by a spirit of adoration and praise. These men would never be the same. They had seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears the visible and audible manifestation of the glory of God.