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Why were the shepherds filled with such infectious joy?

This devotion was published on Sunday December 12th 2021

MangerBehold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” – Luke 1:38

There is something very special about a baby’s birth. The anticipation time has passed, the arrival marks celebration and excitement; joy floods the spirits of the parents (as well as tiredness), and many others also experience great joy, with them.
Joy is usually associated with happiness but I propose that the difference between the two is joy is lasting, more permanent. I think joy also is attached to desire and longing; whether having a desire come to fruition or similar to hope, excitement from certainty of what is yet to come!

After a long bumpy road trip, Joseph and Mary arrived to Bethlehem with tiredness and great urgency; Mary was in labor and it was time for baby Jesus to be born! All alone in a busy ancestral town, Joseph and Mary didn’t have immediate guests to celebrate their babe until God intervened. God sent a birth announcement, with an angelic messenger, to some lowly shepherds, camping out in the fields with their sheep.

There’s uncertainty if shepherds were social outcasts or not, at the time of Jesus’ birth; some claim they were untrustworthy and a step better than a criminal. But the Bible also tells us that King David started as a shepherd, seemingly without a tainted reputation, and even Jesus, later on, introduces himself as a shepherd. Regardless, it was a humble lowly job. Shepherds lived outside and they lived alone. And God chose shepherds to be the first to know about Jesus!

The angel told them that he had “good news of great joy!” Life changing news that would give them a great joy, both in quantity and in length of time. This joy wasn’t going to go away any time soon. God chose these shepherds to receive the news first, before any others. They were alone, in the surrounding hillside, and yet God saw them. Not only were they seen and chosen to hear the news, but then they were divinely invited to go and see the Babe. They were invited into the presence of the Messiah, the King of kings, Immanuel. This long-awaited Messiah was finally here and the shepherds were first on the guest list! Good news of great joy, to be sure!

The story tells us that the shepherds left the little family, to return to their fields, but left the family while telling many others what good news they had just witnessed. They couldn’t stay quiet but were worshiping God as they went back to their sheep. Their lives had been changed.

The God who saw them, and chose them, had finally come and was now dwelling among them! This is the joy that remains among us today. It may be two thousand years past the birth of that Babe, but our hearts still yearn for him. And we are invited to celebrate and know him. He still sees us, dwells with us, and still changes lives. Jesus is our good news and our great joy!

Manger

Almighty God, thank you for you sending Jesus to earth, to dwell among us. Thank you for seeing us and choosing us even when we were messy lonely creatures. Thank you for inviting us to know you. We celebrate you and glorify your Name. We want to go out, sharing all that you’ve done, for us and for the world, so that others may also share in the “good news of great joy!” In the name of Jesus, the Messiah, Amen!

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(Optional) I have provided extra readings, for the week ahead, for those who are interested: Luke 2:8-20, Isaiah 9:2-7, Hebrews 12:1-3, I Peter 1:6-9