'And there were in the same country, shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night' (v.8). These men, living outdoors in the fields, were most likely raising animals for the sacrificial system of the Temple which was just a few miles up the road in Jerusalem. Those who would come to worship there would need an offering for the Lord and would not likely bring one as they traveled, so these shepherds could well have supplied the need by selling animals from their flock. The time indicated here was 'during the night watches' showing that they were diligently guarding and caring for their animals.
'And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid' (v.9). This miraculous phenomenon from heaven literally frightened the shepherds, as the angel, in an instant 'was present' in their midst. Not only was he standing before them in one split second of time, he was accompanied by the very Shekinah Glory of God! This brilliant illuminating presence of the angel was similar to the scene recorded in Acts 9:3 when the Apostle Paul was confronted on the road to Damascus by the Lord and His Shekinah Glory. The phrase recorded there 'shined round about' is the translation of the same word used here. The Lord confronted Paul at midday, and the glory of His presence was brighter than the noonday sun, but here, in the middle of the night, this miraculous and glorious light from heaven must have been even more brighter as the contrast between the darkness of night was far greater!
This same glorious light will accompany the Lord Jesus Christ when He comes the second time to rapture His own. Yes, in Matthew 24 when the disciples asked Jesus 'What shall be the sign of Thy Coming' He explicitly told them it would be this same Shekinah Glory! 'And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory'(Matthew 24:30). Yes, 'Every eye shall see Him'(Revelation 1:7) when He comes to take us home to be with Him just before that great and terrible Day of the Lord/Wrath of God judgment!
Although the name of the angel of the Lord is not given here, most scholars believe that Gabriel, whom God used to bring the news of a miraculous son to Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, and the news of another much greater Miraculous Son to the virgin Mary, is the angel God used to announce to the shepherds what had already taken place in Bethlehem, the birth of the Son of God! 'And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people, For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.' (v.10,11) The angel's response to the shepherds was identical to Gabriel's responses to Zacharias and Mary: 'Fear not', a powerful command delivered to the shepherds in an attempt to bolster their faith and dispel the fear which had suddenly gripped their hearts.
The angel turns the focus to his message when he proclaims 'For behold' a word which is used to draw attention to what follows:' Good tidings of great joy'. This description of the message turned their minds from fear to anticipation as the angel explained the good news which he was about to give would also provide great joy, and this good news and great joy was for all people! The universal message of the Gospel was now about to be given to these humble shepherds! 'For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.' All their questions were answered in this simple nineteen word sentence. To whom is this universal message of Good News given? 'For unto you.' What has happened? 'A Savior, which is Christ the Lord is born.' When did it happen? 'This day'. Where did it happen? 'In the city of David.' Who is this One that has been born? 'A Savior, which is Christ the Lord.'
This grand and glorious announcement of the birth of Jesus the Savior, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Lord Jehovah come to earth, brings to mind Isaiah 9:6 which has a similar sound and message: 'For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace..' Truly, the fulfillment of this and many other Old Testament prophecies had been fulfilled! The message of good news and great joy was first of all 'A Savior' had been born. The nation of Israel was indeed looking for a Savior who would deliver them from the physical grip of the Roman rule. But Jesus did not come to release them from the physical bondage of a dictator, but instead He came to deliver all mankind from the spiritual bondage of sin. Regardless of who is ruling physically in your life, this good news of the Gospel will bring you great joy which only can be found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will bring peace to your soul, He will give eternal life in heaven to anyone who recognizes that they are a sinner and will by faith call upon Him to save them from the wages of sin which is death, and the eternal tortuous suffering of the fires of hell!
Secondly, the message the angel proclaimed included the fact that this One was indeed the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God who was sent to deliver His people from their sin. The word 'Christ' is translated from the Greek, and 'Messiah' is translated from the Hebrew with both words meaning 'The Anointed One'. Daniel 9:25,26 mentions the 'Messiah the Prince' and 'Messiah' in the cornerstone passage of end times prophecy when Daniel gives the outline for Israel's history. These shepherds would well understand Who it was that was just born by the specific word 'Christ' referring to their long awaited Messiah.
The word 'Lord' verifies the fact that this One was not only the Savior and the Christ, but was indeed the very God of heaven come in the flesh, yes, the Lord Jehovah, 'The Lord over all'(Acts 10:36, Romans 10:12), the very 'Lord of glory'(I Corinthians 2:8; James 2:1) was born! The angel continues his message saying: 'And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger'(v.12). The extraordinary fact of The Lord of glory, The King of heaven, The Savior of all mankind would be found lying in a 'feeding trough'. No pomp and circumstance, no purple robe or crown, no trumpets blaring a fanfare for this The Sovereign King of the Universe. No, instead He would be found in a lowly, humble manger, in a stable, a shelter for animals! This was indeed the sign the shepherds would look for and find as they made their way to Bethlehem. But, before that could happen, God sent forth this grand finale to the angelic scene taking place in the shepherd's field: 'And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will toward men.'
The word 'suddenly' emphasizes the instantaneous impact of this glorious event. All at once, in the 'twinkling of an eye' this great multitude of angels appeared and began praising God for what He had just accomplished in sending His only begotten Son. The 'heavenly host' refers to the 'armies of heaven' (Daniel 4:35) God's ever present spiritual ministers that can manifest themselves physically at His command! Here they are called upon to praise and give glory to God for what He had done there in Bethlehem, and what He would do throughout the ages as He unfolds His plan for the redemption of those who would put their faith in Jesus.
Have you put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? He and He alone can save you from the penalty of your sin if you will but call on Him as the Scripture teaches: 'For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'