Sorry for the delay in posting this, but I’ve had some technical difficulties this past week. Here is the second installment of “How to Celebrate Christmas” from J.M. Boyce.
In the first place, we are told that after the shepherds had come to Bethlehem and had seen the infant Jesus, they “spread the word” about what was told them concerning the child. In other words, the shepherds became witnesses of the event. The reasons they became witnesses are that there was an event, a great event, and that others very much needed to hear of it.
Can we doubt that the shepherds had something worth telling? Hardly! For if their story was not worth telling, then no story that has ever been told is worth telling, and life is lacking in all joy and meaning. What had happened to these men? They had been out in the fields of Bethlehem in the middle of the night, watching over their sheep as they had for many hundreds of nights previously and as their fathers undoubtedly had before them. They had no thought for spiritual things – at least we are not told that they did – and they certainly did not expect the miracle. But then, suddenly, and angel appeared with the message: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’. After the angel had spoken, there appeared a host of angels all praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on who his favor rests”. When the angels had departed the shepherds decided to go to Bethlehem. So they left their flocks and came and found Jesus, precisely as the angels had indicated. What they had been told coincided with their own experience, and they could not resist speaking of such things.
These men, poor shepherds though they were, had seen God incarnate. They had heard the music of heaven. They had seen the angels and had come to worship the angels’ King. How could their tongues be silent when they had heard such music? How could they refuse to tell what they had seen?
Moreover, not only did these men have something to tell, as we also do, but the shepherds also know of a world that needed desperately to hear their message. It was a sad world in their time. It was lost, confused, dying. It was lost because it lacked direction, primarily spiritual direction. It was confused because it lacked revelation and therefore also an awareness of truth. It was dying because it had no adequate cause for which to live. The world of the shepherds’ day was much like the world of our day, in which the lamps of knowledge and culture seem to be slowly flickering out.
But over against that dying world there was Jesus. Later in His life He would speak of Himself in precise relationship to the world’s condition. He would say that He was “the way” – for a world that was lost; He was “the truth” – for a world that was dreadfully confused; He was “the life” – for a world that was dying. The Way! The Truth! The life! The shepherds took the message in the only from they knew, to their contemporaries. That is the perfect combination, then – a knowledge of the good news and the people who need to hear it. That combination, when truly understood and seized upon, produces witnesses.
Would anyone want to say that those men were not authorized to spread such a message? Will anyone argue that they were uneducated? Or that they had not been endorsed by the Temple authorities? If anyone would argue in that way, let him notice that they had the most important authorization of all – possession of good news that had been revealed to them by God. Anybody who knows good news is authorized to tell it, particularly when it is news that will be the means of the salvation of others. The Scriptures say, “Let him who hears say, ‘Come’”. In other words, the only ultimate essential for proclaiming the gospel is a knowledge of it. So everyone who knows of Christ and has become a Christian can tell others of Him.