8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
The glory of the Lord: the visible token of the presence of the God. A white shining cloud of intolerable brightness, known among the Jews as the Shechinah. It was observed in Moses’ burning bush, in the pillar of fire and cloud which guided the Israelites out of Egypt and as they wandered in the desert, and also witnessed in the tabernacle in the Temple in Jerusalem. It shone round Jesus during the Transfiguration. It robed Him when, risen, He appeared to the Pharisee Saul outside Damascus. The occasional presence of this visible glory was exceedingly precious to the Jews. The terror felt by the shepherds was the natural awe felt by man when brought into visible communion with heavenly beings.
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” 15
It should be considered significant this message was announced to shepherds. Historical evidence indicates they were social outcasts, rough characters on the fringe of Jewish society, and considered among the lowest class. (That they were not allowed to give testimony in court is one indication of their low cultural status.) As a group, they have no discernible qualifications for the distinction of being the first to hear of the Savior’s birth —especially when delivered in such a manner. But this could be the very reason they were selected: as a practical illustration of what Christianity often exemplifies: “the exaltation of the humble and meek” as opposed to the further exaltation of persons held in high regard or power. This seems to reflect Mary‘s words in the Magnificat: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.”
May you, too, be lifted up with joy and uncountable blessings throughout this Christmas and holiday season. Go forth and make merry!
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