“…and this will be the sign to you: you will find a babe…” Luke 2:12
What did the shepherds find? They found an infant swaddled in some old mangy rags. They found a manger, some animals, and two peasant parents. That’s it. No trumpets, no kings, no priests. That first Christmas was a quiet one, for our God is a God who works in a still small voice.
No outward glory
What they did not find was a pillar of cloud enveloping the manger stall. Finally, He who was the glory of the Temple had arrived, but not a ray of outward glory shone in the stable that night. Nor did they find a pillar of fire lighting up the way to where the Child slept.
Under His feet was not found “a paved work of sapphire stone” but only hay, straw and perhaps some animal dung. Stranger still, they did not find that “the glory of the Lord” had descended to fill the stable. Everything looked strangely…normal. The ark had been covered with badger skins. There was no beauty that we should desire Him.
They did not see four living creatures gathered round the manger crying “Holy, holy, holy.” Seraphs did not flit to and fro with wings covering their faces and feet. Whirlwinds did not blow over the fields, and earthquakes did not rumble. No thunder. No flashes of lightning either. Just the occasional gurgle from the mouth of the baby.
There were no visions of wheels within wheels, as Ezekiel saw. No rainbow encircled the manger. Neither smoke nor incense filled the stable. On this humble occasion, Moses and Elijah remained in their graves and were not summoned. Just Joseph and just Mary were present.
A strong evidence
The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of the reasons I strongly believe the Bible. The account of the greatest birth in history is told in such simple, eventless terms and with such economy, that it must be viewed as either ridiculous fiction or profound truth.
If I was the author of the story there would be more detail, more action and certainly more flourish for such a monumental event. But less is more. And the fact is, the Lord Jesus Christ certainly became less when He entered that manger, though by becoming less He became something infinitely more.
What did the shepherds see? They saw God, holy, harmless, undefiled and weak. They saw a God of love who had come down to save His people from their sins. They saw the Lord of glory in a humble house of clay.
A Lamb prepared
All of this was done to prepare and provide salvation for us. Just as someone might arise early in the morning to put the turkey in the oven, slaving in the kitchen all day to prepare a Christmas feast for the family, so God “arose early” before the dawn of time and gave the Lamb to be slain in order to make all things ready for the marriage supper of His Son. To that supper we have all been invited.
Like attendants with formal invitations sent from the king, the angelic host appeared to the shepherds on the plains of Bethlehem that first Christmas morn to announce “there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Rejoice this Christmas season, rejoice with exceeding great joy and gratitude, for unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.