(Near Bethlehem, b.c.5.)
^C Luke II.8-20.
^c 8 And there were shepherds in the same country [they were in the same fields from which David had been called to tend God's Israel, or flock] abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. [When the flock is too far from the village to lead it to the fold at night, these shepherds still so abide with it in the field, even in the dead of winter.] 9 And an angel of the Lord stood by them [He stood upon the earth at their side, and did not float above them in the heavens, as he is usually pictured. His standing upon the earth shows a fuller fellowship and sympathy with men -- comp. Acts i.10 ], and the glory of the Lord shone round about them [The Shechinah, or bright cloud, which symbolizes the divine presence (Ex. xxiv.16; I. Kings viii.10; Isa. vi.1-3; Rom. ix.4). It was seen by the three apostles upon the mount of transfiguration (Matt. xvii.5), by Stephen (Acts vii.55), and by Paul -- Acts xxii.6-11] : and they were sore afraid.10 And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy [Christianity is a religion of present joys, and leads onward to joy eternal] which shall be to all the people: 11 for there is born to you [born as a gift to us -- John iii.16] this day in the city of David a Saviour. [the angel omits the name of Jesus, but gives the meaning of his name], who is the Christ [Messiah is the Hebrew and Christ is the Greek for our English word |anointed.| Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed. Jesus held all these three offices for all our race for all eternity] the Lord.12 And this is the sign [The token by which to identify the child. A babe in a manger was not ordinary sight] unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. [|What fearful odds! What a strange contrast! Idolatry on the throne (in the person of Augustus Cæsar), and the founder of a new religion and a new empire lying in a manger!|] 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude [The event was too important to be heralded by any one angel. All heaven was interested in the departure of its Prince, and marveled at the grace of the Father who sent him -- I. Pet. i.12] of the heavenly host [God's army (I. Kings xxii.19; Ps. ciii.20, 21). The Deity is called |God of Sabaoth|; that is, God of hosts or multitude (Rom. ix.29; Jas. v.4; Dan. vii.10; Rev. v.11, 12); but at this time God's army appeared to announce the coming of eternal peace] praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest [in the highest heavens -- Job xvi.19; Ps. cxlviii.1], And on earth peace among men [The angels invoke blessing on God and peace upon man. Peace between God and man, and ultimately peace between man and man] in whom he is well pleased. [The love of God is shed abroad upon all, even the vilest of sinners ( Rom. v.8; I. Tim. i.15); but his peace comes upon those who have accepted his Son, and in whom he is therefore especially well pleased (Rom. ix.11). Peace is the unfailing apostolic salutation toward Christians (Rom. i.7; I. Cor. i.3; II. Cor. i.2, etc.), and is attainable in the highest degree by Christians only -- John xiv.27; xvi.33; Col. iii.15; Phil. iv.7.] 15 And it came to pass, when the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger.17 And when they saw it, they made known concerning the saying which was spoken to them about the child. [They were the first evangelists. Among the heralds of Christ we note one great prophet, John the Baptist, and one learned Pharisee, Paul; the rest are shepherds, fishermen, and publicans, yet their gospel has triumphed over the wisdom of men (I. Cor. i.26-29; II. Cor. iv.7). The shepherds were moved to publish by the same spirit which actuated the lepers at Samaria -- II. Kings vii.9.] 18 And all that heard it wondered [the gospel story excites wonder; the more we ponder it the more wonderful it becomes] at the things which were spoken unto them by the shepherds.19 But Mary kept all these sayings [The silence of Mary contrasts with the talkativeness of the shepherds. But is the duty of Christians both to ponder and to publish], pondering them in her heart. [Only Mary could know the fact here stated; and the statement indicates that Luke got the opening parts of his Gospel from the mother of our Lord. She had much to think about. The angelic messages to Zacharias, to herself, and to the shepherds were full of significance, and her mind would search diligently to comprehend the fullness of their meaning. In her quiet thoughtfulness the beauty of the Virgin's character shines forth -- I. Pet. iii.4.] 20 And the shepherds returned [they did not make this glorious occasion an excuse for neglecting their humble duties], glorifying [because of the greatness of that which had been revealed] and praising God [because of the goodness of that which he revealed] for all the things that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken unto them. [Jesus came in exactly the same manner in which his coming had been spoken of or described by the angels a few hours before; and also just as his coming had been spoken of or described by the prophets centuries and centuries before. God's word holds good for eternity as truly as for one day. The shepherds doubtless passed to their reward during the thirty years which Jesus spent in seclusion prior to his entering upon his ministry. But the rest of their commonplace life was now filled with music of praise, and their night watches lit by the glory of God, which could never entirely fade away.]