This short essay is taken from the book, The Incarnation and the Exultation: An Advent Devotional. This devotional reflects on the scriptures of incarnation and exaltation in order to take you on a journey of thoughtful self-reflection. It is meant to draw you more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s coming into the world to help you walk your own inner path toward the season of Christmas. As you celebrate the coming of Christ into your lives during Advent and spend time reflecting on the readings in this devotional, may the light and love that entered our world lead you to the cross in wonder and thanksgiving. May you find joy and discover strength as you walk this wondrous journey to Bethlehem, always holding within your heart the image of the Hill of Calvary and the hope of the Age to come when Christ will return to call his people home!
Key Verse of Incarnation and Exaltation: 2:13-14 – And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”
One of the most amazing events of the birth of Christ is the appearing of the angelic host to the lowly shepherds in the fields, who were keeping watch over their flocks by night. It is one of the greatest testimonies to the authenticity of the birth of Jesus. Anyone making up such a story would never feature shepherds as principal witnesses to the birth.
In first century Palestine, shepherds were considered outcasts, unclean and unworthy to give testimony in the temple. And yet, it was to such as these that God sent his angels to proclaim the miracle of the birth of the Savior. In truth, the shepherds were the perfect first witnesses to the incarnation of the Son of God.
Jesus was descended from the line of King David. David began his life as a lowly shepherd. He spent his early days out in the wilderness tending sheep, protecting them from the bear and the lion. David wrote the 23rd Psalm, comparing God's love for his people to the care of the shepherd for his sheep. He was a man after God's own heart and learned to care for God's people with that same tender love.
So who better to be the first to greet this newborn Shepherd King than the shepherds of Israel? They had a special connection to the words from the Scriptures concerning the coming of the Good Shepherd. Most likely they knew the prophecies that the child would be born in Bethlehem, the City of David. No doubt they knew exactly where a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger could be found. And these outcasts understood that they were the ones the Son of God was sent to redeem.
We can imagine the shepherds’ fear at the arrival of the angel, luminous and magnificent, appearing like a man, yet otherworldly, awe-inspiring, and full of love. The message, "Fear not!" spoke peace into the hearts of these frightened men. The Good News that humanity had been longing to hear was now being revealed in the angel's words, bringing glad tidings of great joy to all the people. The promised Messiah had finally come! The message of the angel was confirmed as the heavenly chorus proclaimed, "Holy, Holy, Holy!" to all mankind.
When the angels departed, these shepherds left their flocks in the wilderness and hurried to the place where the child was sleeping next to his mother. They had no concern for their sheep, only joy and amazement and a deep desire to see the child for themselves. They praised God as they experienced the fulfillment of the angel's message in this holy moment before the Christ child. Its profundity caused the mother of the Lord to ponder these holy circumstances in her humble heart.
Prayer: Father, may I be like the shepherds, bowing in awe at the incarnation, ready to leave all to witness the miracle of Christmas in my life…Amen!
Shepherds in the wasteland watching,
First to hear the angel's call,
Hasten now to lowly stable,
To their knees in reverence fall.