"In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified" (Luke 2:8-9, HCSB).
These were the first people God chose to announce Christ's birth to. Not the pharisees, not the shop keepers or tax collectors but poor shepherds, out in the middle of the night, protecting their sheep. They were the ones with the hearts God desired. God knew that their hearts would be moved, that their hearts would be changed by this event. He knew that they would rush to see the the tiny Messiah in His manger, and then tell everyone they meant the Good News! Perhaps someone richer, someone better off, wouldn't have been believable. By picking someone poor, they would be able to access everyone, and tell them their amazing experience.
It's hard to imagine just what it was like, standing in the fields outside of Bethlehem on that night, seeing an angel appear before them. I'm sure it was overwhelming, moving, life-changing. Just thinking about it brings tears to my own eyes. How spectacular, to exeprience the presence of The Lord like that! How emotional, how dumstruck they would have been. The scriptures say that they were terrified when they saw the angel. This was no chubby cheriub in front of them, but something... Awesome.
That moment, in the fields, must have changed everything for those shepherds. Or at least I hope it did. I hope they believed that Jesus actually was the Messiah, and didn't just brush off the encounter with the angels and their visit with a tiny baby as a strange dream. I hope the rest of their lives were changed because of that evening, when they saw the angels fill the skies, and were overwhelmed by the presence of God.
Have you ever, overwhelmingly known that God was near, that He did care for you, the burdens of your life, and that He was in control? I've never had an angel encounter, I've never been surrounded by God's presence quite like those shephereds were, but I've had some comforting moments of peace, of assurence that I'm really ok, that God is in control of it all. I can look back at some times in my life, and see how God was putting the pieces together, see how He really was working for my good. I've felt His peace that passes all understanding during some of my roughest trials. His presence is real, friends. And we can all experience it, if we surrender all the craziness to Him, and admit that we can't do this life on our own. Have you ever experienced God's peace?