In the same country there were shepherds in the fields. They were watching their flocks of sheep at night. The angel of the Lord came to them. The shining-greatness of the Lord shone around them. They were very much afraid. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. See! I bring you good news of great joy which is for all people. Today, One Who saves from the punishment of sin has been born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. There will be something special for you to see. This is the way you will know Him. You will find the Baby with cloth around Him, lying in a place where cattle are fed.” At once many angels from heaven were seen, along with the angel, giving thanks to God. They were saying, “Greatness and honor to our God in the highest heaven and peace on earth among men who please Him.” [Luke 2:8-15 (NLT)]
Every December, the Botanic Gardens sponsor “Night Lights in the Garden.” For two weeks, once the sun goes down, their landscape transforms into a Florida version of a winter wonderland. Thousands of twinkling lights adorn the trees, gardens, ponds and paths. Holiday music is performed, shimmering icicles hang from tree branches, palms are wrapped in colored lights, and glowing orbs light the lawns. New last year was a laser light show. As we stepped into a garden surrounded by trees, our breath was taken away when we saw shimmering light illuminating the trees all around us. Sparkling light in various configurations kept flashing across the trees; it was absolutely beautiful.
I’m sure the angels put on a better show that blessed night so long ago but, standing in the midst of such an amazing display, I got an idea of what the shepherds might have seen the night of Jesus’ birth. I could imagine hearing angels singing, “Gloria, in excelsis Deo!” in the midst of such radiance. I knew I was just viewing a combination of electricity and holographic laser light technology and what the shepherds saw and heard was of divine origin. Nevertheless, I was awe struck. I’ve seen cards, candy, wooden storks, enormous bows, and large signs used to publicize a baby’s arrival, but angels from on high in an exhibition of God’s splendor certainly wins the prize when it comes to impressive birth announcements!
Oddly, it wasn’t government leaders, priests or kings but lowly shepherds who were the first to get the announcement of our Savior’s birth. Shepherding wasn’t socially acceptable—the shepherds’ social status was similar to that of dung sweepers or tax collectors. Yet, God chose these lowly men, who couldn’t even serve as witnesses in a court of law, to witness the Messiah’s arrival. Perhaps it was because shepherds not only watched over the sheep but also had the task of separating the perfect firstborn lambs that would be used in temple sacrifices as atonement for people’s sins. How fitting that these shepherds should witness of the arrival of Jesus—the one who would become known not only as the good shepherd but also as the lamb of God. Perhaps they readily recognized the infant child both as one of their own who would faithfully watch over his flock and as the perfect one-time sacrifice that would atone for the sins of all time.