“When they had seen Him . . .”
(Luke 2:17, NIV)
These words are the precursor to one of the most powerful responses in the Nativity scene. Here is a summarization that led to this episode:
- Caesar Augustus required a census (Luke 2:1–3).
- Joseph and Mary providentially ended up in Bethlehem (2:4–5).
- Jesus was born, wrapped in cloths, and placed in a manger (2:6–7).
It’s a powerful moment in Luke’s Gospel because he wants us to see that Jesus arrived in humility. There was no pomp and circumstance. The Messiah came in stealth on lap number one. But there was one announcement made—to shepherds living out in the fields of Bethlehem.
Shepherds—that’s fascinating. Tradition tells us that these shepherds may have watched over the Passover lambs. Although shepherding was big business in Bethlehem, shepherds were ceremonially unclean, the outcasts of the day. And they smelled of sheep. Did you note that the first announcement of the advent of Israel’s King was to those who had a lowly status in society?
So to these shepherds, on this particular night, an angel of the Lord appeared and dropped a breaking story about “good news” for all people (2:8–12). To make sure the shepherds didn’t miss this news flash as they came out of their late-night shepherd-stoop, an angelic choir emerged and burst into praising God, singing Gloria in Excelsis Deo (2:13–14).
When the concert ended, the shepherds went into town and independently verified the news they had received. Sure enough, they found baby Jesus lying in a manger (2:15–16). The outcasts experienced a holy moment on that first Christmas morning.
And that’s when it happens. That’s when Luke tells us what those rejected shepherds did after gazing on holiness—God incarnate, lying in a feeding trough.
“When they had seen Him . . . they spread the word.”
Joy to the world, dear outcast friends; the Lord has come.
You’ve seen Him, right?