Leaving the Manger: Power to Change

Luke 2:16-20 16 And the shepherds came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

The shepherds were the first guests to see the Incarnation. God’s angelic declaration—His spontaneous invitation provided them a front seat in this marvelous adventure of Immanuel invading our world. These simple men were masters at caring for sheep, but most likely lacked in their interactions with people. Their occupation sentenced them to long hours and endless days of isolation on the hills of Palestine. Their commitment to feeding, watering and protecting the sheep left little time for them to connect with people. Chances are, this was just fine with them. These shepherds tended to be introverted rather than extroverted anyway. They would prefer a peach in the pasture over pralines in a palace any day! Isolation was just fine with them.

Everything changed for these shepherds. God intervened! As scripture states, “They came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph and the baby as he lay in the manger.” They saw Jesus. They worshiped Jesus. They would never be the same.

These quiet types could no-longer keep quiet! As scripture states, “And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child,” (verse 17). Those whose lives were lived for the safety of the sheep now lived to proclaim the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” The shepherds had met the Great Shepherd. They would never be the same.

This is what happens when we meet God. Things will change if we have really come to the manger and encountered Deity. We leave different when we have gazed into the face of God.

Not so sure about that? Let’s take stock for a moment.

  • Remember Moses? When he stood in the presence of God, he was so radically changed that people couldn’t even look him in the face! His transformation was so profound that it required him to wear a veil in the presence of the people to minimize the glory of God reflected in his countenance.
  • Isaiah was transported into the very throne-room of Majesty. This glorious vision blew his mind, but also revealed his sin. With intense awareness of his “unclean lips”, he stood before the purity of God’s holiness. When the Almighty took notice of Isaiah by having an angel purify his lips with a burning coal, he was radically transformed. Subsequently, when God asked for someone to go as His representative, Isaiah surprised even himself at his ready declaration, “Here am I! Send me!” He volunteered to do something that moments before he could not have imagined. God had worked His miracle on an ordinary man now turned prophet.

In actuality, the transformation within the shepherds is just another in a long list of God seekers. The creator of the universe loves to make Himself reachable to every one of us. When we seek Him and when we find Him, we become profoundly affected, truly impacted, and radically changed. Maybe, just maybe we will have something so big within us that we cannot keep it in. Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, a fresh view of Truth may grip us so strongly that we cannot hide it for ourselves.

There’s one other statement to notice about the shepherds. They “went back glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, just as had been told them,” (verse 20). Contained in this verse are several important insights:

  • They went back! Yes—they returned to their sheep. My guess, though, is that they never performed their same job quite the same. The shepherds had met the Great Shepherd. Those who had raised sacrificial lambs for the temple had met the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. These simple men embraced their old task with new meaning. Yes—they went back, but they returned to their same task with a completely different orientation. They had met God!
  • They returned “glorifying and praising God.” What a difference an encounter with God can make! This was supposed to be a night like any other. The Shepherds had no plans but to guard their sheep in the dark of night and begin another normal day as dawn arrived. But by the time morning arrived, we witness some holy rollers. We see a handful of shepherds who are pumped-up and righteous. These sheep herders were filled and overflowing with a startling awareness of God’s amazing grace. The Great Lover of their souls came all the way from Heaven to meet them here! They couldn’t help but glorify and praise God for who they had found Him to be!
  • They were gripped by the truth of God’s declaration. As scripture clearly states, they were worshiping God “for all they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” You see, they were amazed that God had proved Himself! He not only spoke it, but He did it! By the way, this is one thing you can always count on from God. He will back up His word every time. When this fact grips us completely, like it did the shepherds that first Christmas, we will stand in awe and bow in worship.

So here’s the question: Have you met Jesus this Christmas? Have you been changed? I know—it’s not all about mountain-top experiences. We should never depend on big moments or miraculous interventions. But also remember that God never intended our relationship with Him to predictable, mundane, or stale. Walking with God is intended to be invigorating, life-giving, and life-changing. Don’t try to justify some mediocre life-style by reasoning away your non-experiences with God. Trust me…God wants you to meet Him and then walk away with chills in your spine and goose-bumps on your back. Even more so, He wants you to walk back into your world so filled with the truth about God that you cannot keep silent.

ACTION: Have you met God recently in such a way that you have been changed? If so, write down your thoughts of gratitude for what He has done for you.

If not, tell God how much you want that encounter…and what you want Him to do in your life. Then commit to praying for this every day until you see it happen.