“The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.”
–Luke 2:20 (NLT)
They say that good things come in small packages, and that bigger is not always better. These 2 expressions are proven to be true in a short Christmas film which was distributed by Disney in December of 1978.
The story involves an old and down-trodden donkey who lives with a woodcutter and his son, just outside of Nazareth. This donkey, known as the Small One, looks quite old and dirty, and he can no longer bear the weight of heavy loads of wood.
One morning, the woodcutter tells his son that since Small One can’t work anymore, he’ll have to be sold to the tanner’s shop for a piece of silver. The broken-hearted boy reluctantly takes his donkey to the busy market.
In order to save Small One from his cruel fate, the woodcutter’s son tries to sell the donkey to some horse sellers, but the cruel stall owners either ridicule the two travelers or throw them out of their shops. The boy tries to sell his donkey friend to people in the street and he even knocks on a few people’s doors, but he has no luck. Finally, with tears glistening in his eyes, the boy leads Small One towards the tanner’s shop.
All of a sudden, a kind man approaches the boy and offers to give him a piece of silver in exchange for Small One. He has seen beyond the donkey’s scrawny appearance and determined that Small One is both friendly and gentle.
The boy later learns that Small One’s new owner is named Joseph, and that the donkey everyone thought was good for nothing will carry Joseph’s wife Mary to Bethlehem. According to this story, that is how a humble donkey got to see the birth of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
Sometimes, as this tale illustrates, people who appear to be lowly in the sight of the world are destined for great things. The birth of Jesus is a prime example of this ironic truth, as it speaks of an unparalleled love.
Let’s examine Jesus’ birth and the love surrounding it by looking at the shepherds in the nativity narative. While herding sheep was a humble task, and shepherds were among the poorest of the poor, watching over their herd wasn’t easy. The shepherds had to protect their sheep from predatory animals and find pasture for them to graze in, among many other things. The shepherds must have easily falleninto a very boring routine. Then, a seemingly ordinary night came along, but that was the night that changed the world.
Of course, the shepherds were completely terrified as they watched their flocks that night when a bright and holy light suddenly appeared before them. I can hear one shepherd asking his friend, “What did we do wrong?” as an angel of the Lord appeared to them. “Beats me,” the other probably answered. “Is God angry with us?”
The Bible says that far from punishing the shepherds, the angel told them not to be afraid. In any case, they must have really scratched their heads. Wouldn’t you? But upon examination of scripture, we can see that God was encouraging them with the joyful news that the baby Jesus had finally been born to save the world.
Then, as if a visit by one angel wasn’t enough, the shepherds were given the most incredible concert ever. A whole choir of angels appeared to them, singing God’s praises.
Once the angels finally ascended into heaven, it probably took the shepherds a few moments to collect their thoughts. Then they unanimously decided to travel to Bethlehem and visit the holy child and His family. But as they brought Him gifts, they really didn’t have a clue as to who they were really worshiping.
Like the small donkey in the previous story, God often uses seemingly insignificant men and women for His glory. But like the shepherds, we see through a glass darkly, not having a clue about the greatness of God.
While we haven’t seen Jesus’ birth or been visited by angels, we who know Him can glimpse His majesty, and that is really what the Christmas story is all about in my oppinion. We may be humble people, but if you are His follower, you have been given the great gift of God’s Word. It tells of the life that He gave freely for us, how He died on a cruel cross, and how God raised Him up on the third day.
Just as the shepherds were so long ago, we are commanded by God to take the gift of His Son and share it with our hurting world. We are meant to do this humbly, using the gifts and abilities we possess to glorify God.
During this season and every day, I challenge you to become a lowly bearer of God’s good news. Or, if you don’t know Jesus yet, I pray that you’ll become familiar with God’s Word and prayerfully ask Him into your heart.
And now, Timothy and I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
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