Today is the third Sunday of Advent. It’s the day we light the only pink candle on the Advent wreath—the Shepherds Candle. The Shepherds Candle emphasizes the joy of finding the Christ Child and sharing this joy with others. The color pink points us to the joy of the Advent season—pink in the midst of purple, joy in the midst of seriousness and repentance. As we’ve considered before, the joy of Christmas is set against a backdrop of sorrow and longing. Our joy at receiving God’s gift grows as we long for Jesus’ arrival.
We don’t know much about the shepherds in the narrative of Jesus’ birth. They were plain, ordinary folk who did what they had to do in order to provide for themselves and their families. On the night Jesus was born, they were doing what they always did—they were caring for their flocks out in the fields.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2:8-20 (NIV)
What an incredible sight! A heavenly chorus heralding the birth of the King of the Universe to a handful of humble shepherds. God chose a few ordinary men to receive the first announcement of His Son’s birth. While the contrast is striking, it fits well with everything else we’ve seen about Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph didn’t stand out from the crowd. Bethlehem was a small, unremarkable town. Jesus’ first cradle was a feeding trough. The list goes on.
Notice how the shepherds responded. After they overcame their initial shock and fear, they did what the rest of us would have done—they went to check out the manger. They had just received the most incredible news they had ever heard, and they wanted to see what was going on. So they went to Bethlehem, where they found everything “just as they had been told.”
One of the challenges many of us face in preparing for Christmas is that it’s all so familiar. We don’t have the same excitement the shepherds had because the news is no longer new to us. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t recover that joy and excitement.
If you have children in your home, try seeing the Christmas story through their eyes. Ask them what they think about what they’re hearing or reading. Their thoughts and comments may not be sophisticated, but their simple insights can still be quite profound. Perhaps you might try to put yourself in the shoes of the shepherds and others in the narrative. What were they thinking? How did they feel? Or, you might simply try to forget everything you know, and read the story as if it were your first time. You could also try reading a different Bible translation than the one you normally use.
Whatever you do, ask God to help you to see the story of Jesus’ arrival in a fresh way. Pray that He will show you aspects you haven’t seen before and help you to see the familiar in a fresh light. By His grace may our joy grow as the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth draws near.
Reflection and Discussion
- Have you seen anything new in your Advent reading and reflecting this year? Have you had any fresh insights into familiar parts of the Christmas story?
- What have you found to be the most encouraging aspects of preparing for Christmas so far this year?
Reading about the shepherds puts a smile on our face. Thank You for announcing Jesus’ birth first to them. Sometimes we struggle to share their joy and excitement, perhaps because we’re so familiar with the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. Please grant us the same curiosity the shepherds had so that we, too, will be excited to “go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”