Advent is the time of anticipation and preparing for the celebration of the birth of Christ. In the Western church calendar, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the Sunday closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve December 24. Depending on your faith tradition, Advent is marked by a time of reflection, prayer, and fasting.
From the Latin adventus (coming, arrival, invasion), Advent proclaims the coming of Christ in two ways: it celebrates His incarnation in a stable in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, and it anticipates His return as King of kings and Lord of lords. Christians often speak of Christ’s “first advent” and “second advent”; that is, His first and second comings to earth. The Advent celebration is both a commemoration of Christ’s first coming and an anticipation of His imminent return.
This 2023 Advent season we have chosen to set our Advent worship around four key players in the arc of God’s salvation providence: i) the Prophets; ii) Mary; iii) Joseph; and iv) the Shepherds.
Week 4: The Shepherds
And there were shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were sore afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2
The angelic chorus could have appeared to everyone in Bethlehem. They could have materialized above Jerusalem. They could have hovered over the skies of Rome or Athens or Corinth or any of the great cities of antiquity. But they appeared to shepherds. Lowly shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night.
Why? Perhaps there are reasons known only to God. But certainly in His omniscience God knew the shepherds would act on the revelation He gave. For as soon as the angels departed, the shepherds rushed to see the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and sleeping in a manger.
Faith isn’t just knowing something but doing something about it. The Lord speaks to us every day as we study His Word. Whenever God speaks to us, we must respond. If He tells us to stop worrying, that’s what we do. If He tells us to tame our tempers, that’s what we do. If He tells us to go to the ends of the earth with His message, we pack our bags. Christ is worthy of our faith, and faith always leads to obedience.
Shepherds are significant players throughout the Bible. Jesus is the good shepherd. There is much to learn from those obedient shepherds who dropped everything to go to Bethlehem to see that which the angel of the Lord spoke; “The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” Luke 2:11
Adapted, Turning Point, Dr. David Jeremiah