Merely sentimental – the shepherds

By Dave Henning / December 8, 2022

“We are accustomed to associating shepherds with the birth of Christ, but what are they doing there? . . .  Unfortunately, the meaning of the shepherds has become merely sentimental.  In our imaginations they evoke lovely pastoral scenes and fluffy little lambs.  But that is not why Luke selected this event.”- Timothy Keller

“When the angels had left them and gone to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord told us about.’ “- Luke 2:15 (NIV)

In Chapter 6 (“The Shepherds’ Faith”) of Hidden Christmas, Timothy Keller notes the shepherds’ response to their angelic message.  The shepherds listened well, overcame their fears, and carried the joyful news to others.  Thus, Pastor Keller lists four things the shepherds teach us about how to respond to the promises of Christmas.  The author covers the first response today.

 1.  Hear well.  After the shepherds heard about Jesus from the angels, they visited Him in person.  Next, the shepherds conveyed the angels’ message to others.  However, while the people who heard the shepherds reacted in amazement, the shepherds glorified and praised God.

Consequently, Luke stresses the importance of hearing well.  In addition, Luke’s text gives some guidance on good spiritual hearing.  Thus, the text shows us something to be aware of as well as something to do.

First, we must not allow the quality of the messenger to distract us.  Because it’s easy to dismiss a challenging or implausible message by focusing on the messengers.  Such as ordinary shepherds.  So, Pastor Keller observes:

“The lesson is that the medium is not the message, that we must not ignore uncomfortable truths just because they come through an unimpressive messenger. . . .  Hearing but not really hearing . . . is absolutely destructive of our relationship with God.”

Finally, as Mary did, we need to ponder and treasure the Word of God in order to truly hear the message.  Otherwise, your ears hear it, but not your mind and heart.

Today’s question: Do you tend to view the shepherds as merely sentimental?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Relief from all your fears – behold!”

About the author

Dave Henning

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