God gives grace to the humble
James 4:6 New American Standard
Though the LORD is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
The scene for the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world, was in a stall for cattle. His bed was a manger or a feeding trough. Not the sterile hospital suite that is common today. Jesus set the example of humility on the day of his birth. (and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. – Luke 2:7)
I am reminded that the first people to visit the newborn baby were shepherds who were taking care of their sheep in a nearby field that night. They came because the angels chose to invite them. They accepted the invitation and went without changing clothes. They did not feel the need to dress up to go to this birthday party. They went as they were. The shepherds did not realize this was a special day that would eventually become celebrated as Christmas. They were only being obedient to the voice of the angel who told them to go and see. (And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” … When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. – Luke 2:8-12, 15-16)
Although the shepherds were occupied with their job on this special night, they were not too busy to go see a baby who was noteworthy enough to have his birth announced by angels. They were lowly obedient men of God. Other people in the area looked down upon shepherds and their occupation, but God honored them. If God honored them, they were definitely going to honor God. Shepherds took care of newborn lambs and these shepherds were ready to go see the Lamb of God born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was a small town but that did not mean great things could not take place there. Wasn’t it amazing that the only reason Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem was because of the required census? They did not choose this little town as a place of honor for the birth of the baby, but God did! God was portraying humility when He chose the birthplace for His Son. These shepherds did not decide to have their flock of sheep near Bethlehem because of the popularity of this city, but God orchestrated it for them to be in the area this specific night. God chose the humility of shepherds and the smallness of Bethlehem to reveal a special part of His story.
I have heard that these shepherds may have been caring for the flock of sheep that was being raised to be lambs used for sacrifices at the temple. Was it not appropriate that these men be the first to greet the Lamb of God? Did they not personally identify with the one who would grow up to be the Great Shepherd? I wonder if the words of the shepherd David warmed their hearts as they knelt before the manger of straw with the baby Jesus. (The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23 NKJV)
God chose for His Son to be born in the manger of a barn because He wanted His Son to be received by all classes of people. By being born in a manger, the shepherds felt comfortable enough to go and see the Son of God. Shepherds were not able to identify with Jesus only at his birth, but throughout his life. One of the names for Jesus is Lamb of God. (The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” – John 1:29) Jesus is also known as the Good Shepherd. (“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” – John 10-11) I think a favorite scripture of any shepherd would be from the book of Isaiah. (He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. – Isaiah 40:11) Shepherds identified with Jesus and accepted him as one of their own just as Jesus identified with them and accepted them as his own.
As I think about the humbleness and lowliness of Jesus, I see a contrast with my mindset for the Christmas season. There were no blinking outside lights surrounding the stable where Jesus was born. (The angels were the ones who provided the spectacle in the sky.) There was no tree decorated for the holiday. (The only tree represented was that of the wood that was crafted into a feeding trough.) Christmas carols did not provide background music. (The voices of angels singing “Glory to God in the Highest” was the only music provided.) With these thoughts in my mind, I yearn to humble myself before God and kneel at the true scene of the birth of the Lamb of God born among the lambs near his stable. I aspire to personify the meekness of the Good Shepherd and the shepherds who worshiped at His manger. I long to celebrate Christmas like it was celebrated over 2000 years ago in the little town of Bethlehem. (For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. – Luke 18:14)