Shepherd's Field, Bethlehem Israel
Before I spent time in Israel I imagined Shepherd's Field, the place where angels announced the birth of Jesus to lowly shepherds, as a big open grassy plain. A place of great beauty and open spaces... like on a Christmas card.
The picture above is of Shepherd's Field today... not at all what I imagined... but then, most of what is true in the bible is not what many of us imagine...
Shepherd's field, is like much of Israel...rocky and bleached by the sun... with some scraggly brush and a few hearty weather-worn trees! Shepherd's field consists of two sloping hillsides meeting in a narrow ravine.
This is the real place that the angel of the Lord suddenly stood before the shepherds with the glory of the Lord surrounding them, frightening the poor shepherds almost to death (Luke: 2:9)!
This is the real place that God's messenger (the meaning of "angel") came with a message from God to not only the shepherds but to the whole world... "a message of good news and great joy for all the people" (Luke 2:10).
When I take away all my preconceived notions of what Shepherd's field SHOULD look like and what I think happened, I begin to see the simple and real truths of this passage.
Here, on an ordinary evening... in an ordinary field in Israel...were ordinary men of lowly status... doing their ordinary job. They were probably like many of us... going to work and maybe not loving it. They had real life problems and real life wants and needs. It was just another ordinary evening in the outskirts of Bethlehem two thousand years ago.
It was there and then that God stepped into their lives! He had an announcement. Like a proud Abba ( Hebrew for Daddy) he told of the birth of His Son. This is where the ordinary stopped... and the incredible and extraordinary began!
The angel said, "... for today in the city of David, there has been born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord". ( Luke 2:11).
To the ancient Jews... an ancient, orthodox, eastern thinker... here is a little flavor of what they heard in those words...
Today in King David's city "House Of Bread"... the meaning of Bethlehem.. is born to you... the nation Israel... a Savior... the one that had been foretold by the Prophets and long awaited, one who would SAVE his people...Christ... the Greek word for the Hebrew word Messiah, meaning the anointed One. Only kings, prophets and priest were anointed. Anointed means to have oil poured over one's head as a sign of being singled out and having the ability to do do a specific job... the Lord.... creator, owner, in essence God.
This was better than "good new"! This was the best news. The Jews had been waiting hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years for a Savior to come and free them from the bondage of occupation and oppression by foreign countries!
But the angel said this was good news for all people. I bet this news was not that great for the oppressors of the Jews... if that is truly what this scripture passage really means!
Why would this be such good news to all men?
The chorus of heavenly angels that appear to praise God might have the answer!
They say, "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth ... don't stop there...among men with whom He is well pleased (Luke 2:14)!
The Christmas cards stop the verse too soon... they usually leave out "among men with whom He is well pleased".
Here is the good news for all people! Peace! The Hebrew word for peace is "Shalom". It is a word rich in meaning... a word deep and wide with wholeness and well-being.
This peace that God is proclaiming... brought about by His new Son is not the kind of peace we read about on our Christmas cards. Oh no!
God is not saying peace on earth... as in no war... the kumbaya... let's all be one big happy family peace. No... No ...NO!
The peace God is proclaiming is even better... it is a peace between Him and the people that please Him.
How can we know if we are one of those that please Him? Here is the best part! We don't have to do anything to please Him... just believe!!!
Believe in the Son He sent. It is this Son that will repair the relationship between God and men that has been broken by sin. It is this tiny newborn baby that would grow up and shed His sinless blood to wipe away our sins that keep us from the Father. It is this Christ that will bring about the Peace all men desire!
God loves us so so much. He always wants to have a relationship of wholeness and completeness between us. So great was this desire that He would give us His Son... to save us and bring eternal peace... between GOD AND MEN!
"For God so loved the word that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to judge it, but that the world should be saved through Him" John 3: 16 and 17.
The shepherds watching their flocks in Shepherd's field were the first to hear God's birth announcement of His Son on the night He was born. They heard God's invitation of peace in the angels praises and went seeking Him. And they found Him... they found the Savior, the Christ, The Peacemaker, the Lord! He was lowly like them, lying in a food trough.
Are you seeking too... because if you are you WILL find Him too!
"Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be open unto you. For whoever asks receives, whoever seeks finds, and whoever knocks it shall be open." Luke 7:7and 8
Ask for God's peace in your life... seek the Savior with all your heart... knock on the door to a relationship with God Himself.
I spent an evening in Shepherd's field. It was an ordinary evening in an ordinary field in Israel. But God stepped in and made it incredible and extraordinary. He impressed me with the real truth about Shepherd's field and Peace on Earth!
This Advent season I wish your SHALOM... I wish you PEACE!