In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:8-11)
While the shepherds were watching over their flocks, a messenger from God appeared to them. The sight of a complete stranger in the middle of the night on a hillside in Bethlehem would have been enough to startle these shepherds, but Luke also tells us “the glory of the Lord shone around them.” What is the glory of the Lord? Sometimes in Scripture the expression is synonymous with God’s presence, sometimes his character, sometimes his attributes. There are times, however, when God’s glory refers to something visible, and this seems to be the case here. What did it look like? Luke doesn’t tell us, but Exodus 24:17 notes that “the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire.” Ezekiel, when he saw the glory of the Lord, described “something that looked like fire, “followed by a rainbow (1:27-28). Whatever the shepherds saw, their response was to be “sore afraid” (Luke 2:9 KJV).
But the angel told them not to be afraid, for he was bringing them “good news of great joy for all the people.” I love that phrase. What is the good news? It is the fact that a Savior had come to rule the earth.
The Greek word for savior, soter, means one who offers help and deliverance for those in trouble. Warriors, rulers, even some of the Greco-Roman gods were considered saviors. In Luke’s story, the night-shift shepherds were being invited to see the newborn Savior, King, and Lord.
Christmas celebrates the birth of the one who came to save the human race from sin. Remember, sin is the propensity to do, and the actually doing of, those things that are counter to God’s will in our individual lives and collectively as a race. Jesus came to save us from judgment, from separation fro God, from guilt and shame. But he also came to show us a different way to live-to show us what it means to be human and what God’s will is for our lives. He came to invite us to follow him, to be changed by him, and thus to be saved by him.
A group of former prostitutes and drug addicts arrive at our church by van each week for worship. They come from one of our urban ministry partners called the Healing House. I love this ministry and the women, and some men, who are a part of it. Bobbi Jo is the founder. A former prostitute and addict, she describes her life before she came to faith in Christ: She had been on the streets for years, during which time she had been raped sixteen times and had twenty-four broken bones. Ultimately she ended up in detox, and about that time Bobbi Jo finally asked God to help her, deliver her, and save her. And God did. She found hope and strength, and her heart and life began to change. When her mother died, Bobbi Jo was left with a small inheritance that she used to start the Healing House.
Today, seventy people live in the three buildings that are part of this ministry. These women and men have come to a place where they, too, are asking God to save them. They are seeing him change their lives. In turn they seek to live as followers of Jesus, and the world is changed by this. Each of their lives is like a stone cast into a pond: the ripple expand in every direction.
Every time I see this group in worship, I feel as if they are living, breathing testimony to the good news of great joy to all the people, that at the first Christmas a child was born to be the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord.
Christ still saves us. He forgives, heals, and changes, us. He is still Lord, calling us to follow him each day of our lives. Take a moment today to invite him to continue saving you form the ways in which you stray from God’s path, and pledge to follow him as your Lord.
Jesus, save me. Save me from the guilt I sometimes feel for my past sins and mistakes. Forgive me. And Jesus, save me from my tendency to turn from God’s path today and every day. I wish to follow you as my Lord. Lead me on your path. Amen.