A Not-So-Surprising Revelation
A NOT-SO-SURPRISING REVELATION
The gospel according to Matthew tells of how an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream urging him to take Mary to be his wife, for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit (Mt.1:20). Joseph was trying to assess what he should do - - knowing that Mary was expecting a child and that he was not the father of that Child to be (Mt.1:21). The angel went on to specify the very name that was to be given to the newborn: you shall call him Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins (Mt.1:21). This was to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah (Isa.7:14 & Mt.1:22). An angel named Gabriel also appeared to Mary prior to her conception, divulging: you will conceive in your womb, and bear a Son, and you shall name Him Jesus (Lk.1:26-33). These words spoken to Isaiah and Joseph & Mary, such Divine revelations, are what one might have expected from an all-knowing and all-caring God. Matthew’s gospel also records the arrival of the Magi. These were wise men - - highly educated and extremely studious. God also spoke to them - - bearing witness with them by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His will (Heb.2:4). These magi not only saw a “star" but they were also warned in a dream not to return to Herod (Mt.2:2 & 12). Furthermore, we can safely conclude that God had also revealed to them, in some form or fashion, that this Child was to be the king of the Jews and that he was worthy of worship (Mt.2:2 & 11a). Thus, they came bearing costly gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to honor the Child (Mt.2:11b). Like the one to Isaiah and Joseph & Mary, this disclosure appears reasonable and is not all that unexpected. It works to highlight the birth of The Son of the Most High, to borrow from words spoken by Gabriel to Mary (Lk.1:32).
But then there are those lowly shepherds - - ones viewed by many in the first-century as "nobodies”. Typically, they were unlearned from among the common folk. They were ordinary and simple and often dirty and smelly. From the days of Israel’s Egyptian bondage, that which was previously a noble pursuit had come to be viewed with disrespect and even disdain. The first book in the Bible acknowledges that “every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians” (Gen.44:34). Yet, as we read in the gospel according to Luke (Lk.2:8ff), which tends to trumpet the underdogs of society, these poor shepherds find themselves in the center of the nativity narrative (Lk.2:8ff). While owning sheep in close proximity to the temple compound could actually prove to be a lucrative undertaking, first-century shepherds were often the equivalent of grossly underpaid hirelings. While out in their fields at night these lowly shepherds became witnesses to one of the greatest manifestations of heaven: an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone about them…And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people’…And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men…’ (Lk.2:9-10 & 13-14).
Some might surmise this appearance to the shepherds as a rather shocking twist. However, once you come to truly know Jehovah God you will surely come to agree that this is a not-so-surprising revelation. Throughout redemptive history, God often chose the simple to be recipients and instruments of His abundant grace (1Cor.1:26f). The shepherds came empty-handed (no gifts) - - their only boasting was “in the Lord" (1Cor.1:31). How delightful to read - - And the shepherds went back, glorying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen... (Lk.2:20).
Terry Siverd / Cortland Church of Christ