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Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the
flesh.—1. Tim. ii. 16.
angels of God worship him.—Heb. i. 6.
All they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense ; and they
ND Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of
of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought • forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. 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 Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 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. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it, wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.-Luke ii. 4-20.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the King, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews ? for we have seen his star in the East, and are come to worship him. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.—Matt. ii. 1, 2. 11.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE SACRED NARRATIVE. O Marvellous mystery! O inexplicable conjunction ! O mercy most adorable ; ever to be admired; ever to be loved! We were not worthy to be called thy servants; and thou hast made us sons—sons of God! not only sons, but heirs too,-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Rom. viii. 17. Whence is that mighty favour ? Send down thy grace and Spirit, and let this qualify us to receive the fulness of thy mercy. Help us to understand, and to consider with reverence, to contemplate, and with all diligence to walk worthy of this mystery of godliness, — this Son of God manifested in the
flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. -1 Tim. iii. 16.
The birth of the Lord was attended with circumstances of external indigence and meanness : but it was also marked with a dignity and majesty, far surpassing all the pomp of kings, and the splendour of palaces and retinues; and suited to pour contempt on all human grandeur. It was proper that so important an event should be announced with peculiar solemnity, and angels were the heralds of the new-born Saviour : but they were not sent to the rulers of the nation, or to the Priests, Scribes, and Pharisees : on the contrary, some poor, humble, industrious shepherds were favoured with the first tidings of Emmanuel's birth. These were spending the night, or part of it, in the field, keeping watch over their flocks, to defend them from robbers and beasts of prey; and probably there was a number of them who watched by turns. While they were thus employed, a holy angel suddenly appeared, and the glory of the Lord,” even of his manifested presence, surrounded them. This threw them into great consternation ; but the angel encouraged them not to fear, for he was come to bring them good tidings, which should be the source of great and lasting joy to them and “ to all people;" For to them, as men, as sinners, and as believers, was born on that day, at Bethlehem, a ur from wrath, Satan, sin, and death, who was indeed the promised and expected Messiah, Israel's anointed Prophet, Priest, and King ; nay, “ the Lord of glory,” the Lord of all,” “ the Lord from Heaven,” God manifest in the fiesh.” This great and invaluable blessing to mankind, this glorious new-born Prince and Saviour, they might find “ wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger :" and they might surely know him by this sign ; for probably no other babe could be found at Bethlehem in so mean a situation. No sooner had the angel finished this address to the poor shepherds, than he was visibly joined by “ a multitude of the heavenly host,” or of the angelic armies; who, being filled with inexpressible admiration of the love of God, and the display of all his glorious perfections, in this surprising transaction, audibly celebrated his praises with triumphant acclamations, saying “Glory to God in the highest,” &c. implying that this was the grand display of the Divine Glory.
When the angels had rendered their joyful adoration of God, and benevolent congratulations to men, on this most happy occasion, the vision disappeared : and the shepherds, conferring together on the wonders which they had witnessed, determined to go immediately to Bethlehem ; where they were soon enabled to find Mary, Joseph, and the new-born Saviour, exactly in the situation which had been described. Having witnessed this instructive scene, they publicly reported the whole transaction, and the assurance given them that this child was “ the Saviour,” even “ Christ the Lord.” This excited the astonishment of all who heard it; but most of them seem to have speedily forgotten it. Mary, however, carefully observed, and meditated on all these wonderful incidents, which were so suited to enlarge her expectations, and enliven her holy affections : and the shepherds returned to their humble employment, with joyful, thankful hearts, glorifying God.
Rev. T. Scott.
That the visitation might be answerable to the homeliness of the place, attendants, provision, who shall come to congratulate his birth, but poor shepherds. The kings of the earth rest at home, and have no summons to attend him by whom they reign. God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. In an obscure time (the night), unto obscure men (shepherds), doth God manifest the light of his Son by glorious angels.
If these shepherds had been snoring in their beds, they had no more seen angels, nor heard news of their Saviour, than their neighbours: their vigilancy is honoured with this heavenly vision. Those, which are industrious in any calling, are capable of further blessings ; whereas the idle are fit for nothing but temptation.
No less than a whole choir of angels are worthy to sing the hymn of glory to God, for the Incarnation of his Son : what joy is enough for us, whose nature he took, and whom he came to restore by his Incarnation ? If we had the tongues of angels, we could not raise this note high enough, to the praise of our glorious Redeemer.
No sooner do the shepherds hear the news of a Saviour, than they run to Bethlehem to seek him. Those, that left their beds to tend their flocks, leave their flocks to inquire after their Saviour. No earthly thing is too dear to be forsaken for Christ. If we suffer any worldly occasion to stay us from Bethlehem, we care more for our sheep than our souls. It is not possible that a faithful heart should hear where Christ is, and not labour to see the sight, to the fruition of him. Where art thou, O Saviour, but in thine own house, in the assembly of thy saints ? Bishop Hall.
Angels are all ministering spirits: and, if they attend the heirs of salvation, how much more the Author of it! If they wait on the servants, how much more on the Son, who is Lord of all! When he bringeth his first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. He was seen of angels.
We have much reason to conclude that these shepherds were among the number of those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem. While many of their countrymen, in ceiled houses, were seeking their consolation in the world, they, like Simeon, were waiting for the consolation of Israel. Perhaps at this very moment, they were silently musing, or perhaps conversing with each other, (for they were obviously together,) « when the kingdom of God should come ;” and sighing out the words of David, “ O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When God bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be