And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.
10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For a unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Setting the Scene:
All over the Old Testament, we can see that Jews’ concept of angels at the time of Christ’s birth were all about armies, war, and fighting. Angels were not fat, naked, androgynous babies that held fabric over saints. They were guards in the desert in the Exodus‚ – actually, only one of them was (I guess that was all the entire Hebrew nation needed!). They were Angels that scouted out Sodom and Gomorra, and an angel that met Joshua before going into battle. Ishmael’s birth was foretold by an angel and Isaac’s sacrifice was stopped by and angel. Balaam would have been killed by an angel had his donkey not saved him, and an angel commissioned Gideon.
Shepherd boys, on the other hand, were far from being angels. They were very young, and though they were dear to their families, their work was dangerous enough that they were a little bit expendable. Often fighting off predators such as lions, bears, wolves, etc. and being the first to see an invading army, the life of a shepherd boy had plenty of risk. At the same time, they were considered unclean and were unable to participate in temple activities.
So there they are, shepherds, not exactly awash in their own righteousness, and an angel appears. That would be pretty terrifying. The glory of the Lord is like fire in some instances, and other times like an illuminated fog or dense smoke. So there is the Angel, terrifying, and all of the air around them lights up in the nighttime.
Sometimes I think Handel’s Messiah musical may have done a disservice to how we picture this event. Or maybe it’s just that even today’s modern translations make this language sound formal and stuffy. Let’s try this:
Don’t be afraid, this is good for everyone! Today a child was born into the world that is the chosen one of God!
Then there is a “Multitude of the heavenly host” praising God and saying “Glory to God!”
Do you know what the heavenly host is???!!! THE ARMY OF GOD! I heard Chuck Missler say one time that whenever you read the word “hosts” in the Bible, you should hear the rustling and clanging of armor.
Have you ever seen on TV an army rejoice that a war is over? Have you seen the parties from soldiers coming home, not for a break, but because they WON the WAR?! THEY GO NUTS! Take whatever pious and beautiful scene you have of the angels announcing something to the shepherds and toss it!
All of the army of God is cheering that war is over! They are cheering for God, and celebrating what He has done!
Imagine a guy on his break at wal-mart. He is done hanging out in the break room and he steps back into the store and meets a soldier, not in a dress-up suit, but full fatigues and a smoking bazooka in his hands. Walmart guy steps out of the front of the store, and in the parking lot he can’t even see a car or the pavement, because it is packed with camouflaged soldiers whooping and hollering that their leader has won.
The king has won. The angels celebrate, and the world, the universe, will never be the same again.