Today is the fourth Sunday in Advent. If your church is in the habit of lighting Advent candles, today you get a visual reminder that the waiting is almost over. But – at this stage in the story – although they have been busy, the angels have not yet sung to proclaim Messiah’s birth!
Today’s reflection moves us ahead to that point in Luke 2.
It certainly wasn’t one of those ‘angels unawares’ moments: the kind of thing where you are kicking yourself afterwards because you hadn’t realised at the time. This time the sky lit up – with the glory of the Lord – and not only was there an angel of the Lord announcing the birth, but he was joined by a multitude of the heavenly host. A display of glory among the ordinariness of a manger and simple shepherds.
For it was to these simple shepherds, doing what they doubtless did every night at that time of year – watching their sheep – that the amazing announcement of the birth of a Saviour was first made.
Like Mary (1:30), the shepherds will have been mightily relieved to hear the words ‘Fear not’! They were not expecting anything like this this. Besides, if an angel suddenly appears with the glory of the Lord shining around, what’s going to happen next? There is no certain guarantee of good news – but that is what they got. No need to be afraid, because the message was of good news of great joy for all the people.
Since the angel mentioned ‘the people’, presumably the original point of focus was Israel. It was to Israel that Christ would come. It was Israel who was waiting for a Saviour. But the story of the gospel is that the good news of a Saviour did not end up being limited to one people: Simeon (find out more tomorrow) saw the wider connection with the Gentiles and by the end of the Luke’s gospel, forgiveness is going to be announced in the name of Jesus to all nations.
Then suddenly it’s time for the choir, adding their proclamation of
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those
with whom he is pleased!