Reflection on Luke 2.1-20 (Christmas Day)

Luke 2.1-20 

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 


What must it have been like to have been one of the shepherds on the hillside below Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born? The night probably started just like any other night, with the shepherds gathering for conversation, companionship and security. As darkness descended the familiar hillside will have cloaked itself in a much less friendly and welcoming aura. It was in the night that wild animals might attack the sheep; it was in the night that lone shepherds might be attacked by robbers. Perhaps the night began with food and an allocation of the night watches. However it began it was probably a matter of routine, just another night … but, then the angel appeared.

Our image of angels is largely coloured by medieval art and primary school nativity plays. We have no idea what angels really look like, but we do know that as an angel of the Lord stood before those shepherds on the hillside around Bethlehem the glory of the Lord shone around them. We should not be surprised that the shepherds were terrified, they were probably confused and disoriented as well!

At Christmas we enjoy singing carols and hymns which tell of the shepherds and angels; carols and hymns that lead us to the baby who was laid in a manger because there was no place for him and his earthly family in the inn. Whilst we derive much pleasure from Christmas music it cannot stand comparison with the shepherds’ experience of a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

Christmas gives rise to feelings of nostalgia, warmth and security. But the experience of those shepherds on that hillside, on that special night, presents us all with a challenge. The shepherds heard the message of the angel, and then acted upon the words they had heard. They went to the manger, gazed upon the Holy Child, and they went away glorifying and praising God.

Today, as we recall and celebrate the coming of the Son of God into our midst, let us pray that we might bear the joy and the light of this Good News into the year that lies ahead. Let us pray that, as we encounter Jesus and the wonders of heaven in our daily lives, we might glorify and praise God. Let us pray that through our words and actions the Holy Child of Bethlehem might become a reality to all.