And there were shepherds residing in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Just then, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
Outside of the Holy Family, the first people to learn of Jesus breaking into the world were shepherds just outside Bethlehem, in the fields at night with their sheep. And in these few short verses so much is happening. In the passage above we see the promise of the Good Shepherd coming to look for His sheep , as seen in Ezekiel 34 and the parable of the Lost Sheep (see Luke 15). Also, shepherds outside Bethlehem first heard the announcement, signaling to readers that this is the Son of David, the same prophesied to Israel through the life of David—who himself was a shepherd made into a king by God’s favor. And finally, this is the sign that Isaiah was prophesying to King Ahaz 700 years previously, this Child who was to become the humble answer to oppressive empire.
God the Shepherd, God the King, God the Sign of Rescue—He was here! He arrived, finally, after so many hundreds of years, after so many prophesies. And He was born just steps away from where these shepherds kept their flocks. And the angel’s message to them, given the event announced, carries so much meaning: “Do not be afraid! For behold…” The Advent—our awaiting His arrival—would mean an end to fear and the beginning of true seeing. When Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Eden, their eyes were simultaneously opened and shut. Their eyes opened to a way of evaluating themselves by their knowledge of good and evil, and their eyes were closed to their Father’s love by the fear that grew in their hearts, a fear we see displayed in how they hid themselves from Him when He came walking into the garden that fateful day to find them.
The angel announced this good news: God had come, in flesh, to undo what happened in that Garden. He arrived to undo the fear that shut our eyes to His love, and He was opening our eyes with His light. But more than just opening our eyes, He would direct our eyes—what to look for, where to look. “Behold” is a command to look, to see, to search and find; and what are we to look for, but for Christ! But to find Him, to see in a baby the King, to see in a newborn the Rescue of God, it will take faith. It takes letting this Good News, this Gospel of Great Joy announced to us, develop faith in our hearts so we can see what God has said: “Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord!”