In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
// Luke 2:8-14
Ahh, the great heraldic announcement to the shepherds. Don’t we have this moment of the Advent story so burned into our memories? Some angels burst onto the scene in the dark of the night, some bewildered shepherds look up in awe as the troop of heavenly messengers sing their announcement, and then the night skies close up, leaving some rustic men and sheep to arise and go seek the heralded Child. Easy narrative, yes? What more is there to say?
Well, for starters, this whole announcement begins with just one angel, and it’s not until his speech concludes that we see the fabled angelic choir. Secondly, we don’t seem to pay much attention to the angel’s message or to the chorus line of the choir. If we look closely we see the Gospel is written for us, right there in plain sight. Essentially, they say: “God has some good news for you guys, which is that a Savior, the Messiah Himself, has just been born. And by the way, God is enthroned above all, yes! But He’s happy with humans, He likes humans, and to prove it He has sent His Son, the Prince of Peace, the One in whom He is well-pleased, to demonstrate how pleased He is with all of you.”
Does that message push up against how we feel, or what we assume the Lord is like toward us? Don’t we – especially when we screw up – get mad at ourselves or others and assume the Lord must feel that way, but magnified to the extreme? If we take the angelic announcement as “Gospel truth” – and we should because that’s what it is – we see the exact opposite: God isn’t mad or sad where we’re concerned, but quite happy. In fact, He is “well pleased,” so much so that He sent His angels to tell us He wants to make peace with all people who think wrongly about Him.
And what did the troop of angels tell the shepherds to look for? A child, wrapped in rags (not nice Carter’s onesies) and lying in a cow's feeding trough. They weren’t looking for a great King but a great Child, born in an unusual way. And it’d take some humility, some childlike imagination, to peer into the face of a newborn and behold the Greatest King who would ever live.