“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So, Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” “
Luke 2: 1 – 14 (NIV)
For many of us, shepherds are associated with the birth of baby Jesus. Afterall, most Christmas manger scenes usually display shepherds and sheep along with Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus, and the wise men. Even Christmas carols such as “Away in the Manger,” give a nod to the shepherds in their verses.
Luke reveals in verse 9 of this second chapter how an angel of the Lord appeared before shepherds, announcing the birth of a Savior who is Messiah and Lord. After the sharing of this Good News, a multitude of heavenly hosts materialize with the angel and praise God.
Well familiar with this passage, my breath caught in my throat as I read with new eyes. Suddenly, a glimpse of heaven opened before me. I found myself not wanting to rush through this moment but revel in it’s beauty and wonder. Is anyone else blown away at the thought of witnessing a great company of angels praising God? I can only imagine how glorious a sight and sound this must have been. What a foretaste of heaven!
During this time, it is also interesting to note that hired shepherds were a despised demographic. They were seen as dishonest, and often credited as thieves. To think that such Good News and such a glimpse of heaven was afforded first to reviled, dirty, lowly laborers, reminds me that such a glorious inheritance is for all men no matter their class or station. Moreover, I believe this revelation of heavenly hallelujahs to the common and disreputable, also points to Jesus’s future ministry. Jesus came not for the religious elite but for the sick and the lost. How fitting it is to reveal this unique glimpse into heaven and the Good News to the very archetype of whom Jesus would be ministering.
The song which the multitude of angels sang also struck me anew. Up to now, I had always seen the latter part of this verse through the version often used at Christmas time, “Peace on earth, good will towards men.” What caught my eye is that this version’s translation is slightly different. “Peace on earth to those on whom His favor rests.” This verse tells us that we can expect more than just “good will” towards men but that God gives peace to those upon whom He rests His hand of favor. In other words, those on whom His favor rests will experience peace. What a promise!
Yet how can we become those on whom His favor rests?” The answer is quite simple. We can pray for it. Remember, God’s favor is not something that can be earned but is something God gives freely through His grace. Have you ever thought to pray for God’s favor? David did. In Psalms 17:8, David prays, “keep me as the apple of Your eye (NIV).” If David prayed for such favor, so can we.
Only in these recent years am I realizing just how much we leave on the table because we do not ask for it. Well, friends, no more leaving abundant life behind us because we do not ask for it. Let’s begin claiming our rich inheritance by going to the Lord in prayer and asking for His favor and peace. As we enjoy this Christmas season, let us begin our New Year by asking God for His beautiful gift of favor and blessings.
Oh, heavenly Lord, as we celebrate the birth of Your Son and look towards the New Year, I ask You to bless me with Your favor. Incline Your ear and remember my plea. Rest Your favor upon me, oh God, that I might know the depth of Your great peace and experience the beautiful gift of Your love. Help me, oh God, be pleasing in Your sight and a fragrant aroma to You. Amen.
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