A great example of obedience comes to us from the shepherds. Many people are drawn to them as they read the Christmas story. The wise men, who arrived much later, with their entourage and expensive gifts, have little in common with most people. But the shepherds, who have little of this world, seem to resonate with us each December as they trek through the second chapter of Luke. While they may have been overlooked by society, these simple sheep watchers ignite the Christmas story with their joyful obedience and passionate worship. We can relate to them!
A night of angelic celebration, a group of common shepherds had a front-row seat to the announcement of the great news of the birth of Christ. Not only did they hear of this extraordinary event, they actually received an invitation to come and see the baby who was born. Perhaps they could have come up with numerous excuses for why they should wait. The time commitment was too great. They were busily occupied with work. They could go when it was a bit more convenient. They could have offered the same excuses so many people give today to explain their indifference to God. But these men did not.
They wholeheartedly accepted the invitation of the angel and left immediately. Luke 2:16 describes their enthusiasm this way: "And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger." Haste! In English, the word haste is defined as "excessive speed or urgency of movement or action; hurry." The shepherds were in a great hurry to obey God. Are you?
Many Christians who give little time and attention to the Bible's teaching do not consider themselves to be disobedient; they always see themselves as about to respond…just not yet. However, delayed obedience is disobedience. The time to obey the call of God is always right now. Is there something you know the Lord has called you to do that you keep putting off? Maybe the message of Christmas for you this year is to obey the Lord…with haste. No more delays!
The Book of Matthew will later record a model prayer that Jesus prayed, "Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). How is God's will performed in heaven? Immediately! We live in obedience when we mimic the shepherds' response and obey everything the Lord has revealed to us in His Word. Let it be said this Christmas that God’s people obeyed Him quickly, publicly, and fully.
The shepherds began the short journey to find the baby, and they did not stop until they arrived. Finding Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, the shepherds told them about the angels' message. Can you imagine the conversation?
Each person around the manger that night had a personal story of God’s amazing plan to tell. As each told of their heavenly encounters, their hearts were bonded together through their shared encounters with God. All of the people gathered around the Savior of the world surely took turns sharing how they had been blessed to be a part of the greatest event the world has seen. Undoubtedly, the faith of Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds were all strengthened as they shared personal accounts of how the Lord was at work. God was in this, and now God was with them in the flesh. Of all the blessings God has ever bestowed on His people, Jesus is the greatest gift ever given.
The shepherds teach us the value of not only quick obedience but also full obedience. It seems many people today excel at partial obedience. The call to love our family? We can handle that one. But the charge to love our enemies? Perhaps not. We may be quick to obey the command to use our spiritual gifts to serve others. But what about the call to forgive those who have hurt us or to bless those who insult us? Too often, we are not in a hurry to obey the complete counsel of God’s Word. It may be that we offer partial obedience more times than we wish when God demands our obedience in full.
Perhaps an overlooked detail of the Christmas story is the behavior of the shepherds after leaving the manger scene. Luke 2:20 says, "And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen." Their obedience led to a special blessing, which, in turn, led to passionate worship. How often we murmur and complain about the interruptions and inconveniences of life rather than choose to praise the Lord for the privilege of being a part of His work.
The shepherds were no doubt changed that night, and their focus remained wholly on God. It is discouraging to consider how people in our self-obsessed world might respond in the same situation. Remember, the hero of the story is the Lord, and the shepherds are content to direct all attention heavenward. Some will believe their story and rejoice, while others will reject it and mock. Either way, the shepherds were quick to speak faithfully of all they had heard and seen. We would do well to follow in their footsteps.
In the example of the shepherds, we find simplicity in personal evangelism. We are invited to come and see. Then we are commissioned to go and tell. We must resist the temptation to make it more complicated than that. Come and see Christ. Learn of His grace and mercy. Receive Him as Savior and Lord. Then, go and tell. Speak of what the Lord has done for you, and tell how others can have their sin forgiven by the Savior of the world. May our lives be like that of the shepherds.
This Christmas season, choose to be like Mary, who was submissive, believing, and worshipful. Decide that this year you will live like Joseph in righteousness, compassion, and obedience. Finally, commit to emulating the shepherds by being quick to respond, obeying the Lord fully, and glorifying God in all things!
(this is an excerpt from Christmas: God's Greatest Gift written by Michael)