This is the time of year when you can walk into the mall, or Barnes and Noble, or just about anywhere and hear songs like, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” playing for your shopping pleasure. A friend of mine said he sometimes wants to shout out, “Hey! Hey, everybody, do you hear that? Do you understand what that song means?” But sadly, there are some places where you won’t hear songs about Jesus. Dave Barry used to write for the Miami Herald, and this is how he started one of his columns around Christmas time: “To avoid offending anybody, the school dropped religion altogether and started singing about the weather. At my son’s school, they now hold the winter program in February and sing increasingly non-memorable songs such as ‘Winter Wonderland,’ ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and — this is a real song — ‘Suzy Snowflake,’ all of which is pretty funny because we live in Miami. A visitor from another planet would assume that the children belonged to the Church of Meteorology.”
“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is not about the weather. The first verse ends with this: “glory to the newborn king.” Question: To whom were the angels heralding this amazing news, the news of a king being born? The shepherds, of course! And where were the shepherds? Another Christmas song tells us: “The first Noel, the angel did say, was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay.” Why were they lying around in fields? The song, and the Bible, tells us: because they were keeping their sheep.
There were some famous shepherds in the Old Testament, the greatest being David, shepherd-boy turned King of Israel. At the time when Jesus was born, however, shepherds were scorned and despised. Ironically, the first people besides Joseph and Mary to see the Savior with their own eyes, the shepherds, did not have legal standing in those days to give testimony in a courtroom that they had seen the Savior with their own eyes. That didn’t matter to God.
What can we learn from the shepherds? Plenty, but here’s one thing: they obeyed the Good News. The shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Notice first that their obedience was corporate, and that’s a great thing. The shepherds went together, encouraging one another to obey the Lord. If you are hanging out with people who make a habit of obeying the Lord, and encouraging you to obey the Lord, you are hanging out with good people. Second, their obedience was immediate. “And they went with haste.” They hurried to obey God. There were lots of reasons to delay: as many sheep as there were, those were each a reason. We are not told what they did with the sheep. Maybe the angels told them that they could leave the sheep in the field and they would be fine. Maybe they found some substitute shepherds who were off that day. Maybe they just looked at the sheep, looked at each other, and called out, “Good luck Fluffies!” as they hurried off. Probably not, they were shepherds, which means they were first and foremost protectors of sheep. But God had spoken to them through a heavenly host, an army of angels. And it was with great joy that they obeyed God with abandon!
There is delight and surprise waiting for those who will make haste and obey God’s command. Third, their obedience was grounded. They said, “Let’s go see this thing which the Lord has made known to us.” They did not hesitate to obey because they had heard the very Word of God. Finally, their obedience was rewarded. “And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.” Seeking the Lord will lead to finding the Lord. God always rewards obedience. Always!
May God bless you and yours this Christmas with hearts fully yielded to Him.