The shepherds knew of the customs and religious practices of the day, though they weren’t able to join in because of their lifestyle. They new the significance of sacrifice for it was their very sheep that they were watching over that were to be used. Staying out with the sheep night after night was an endurance. The nights would have been long and cold, the conversation would have often run dry. But this night was different. The daily routine was interrupted by a visitation that terrified them. They were seemingly put at ease as the angel told them not to be afraid, a limited ease when your night is broken in upon by a glowing angel. He had a message:
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Something profound had happened. You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger, how can that be a sign? But to these shepherds it was, for the very lambs that they would set apart for sacrifice would also be wrapped in swaddling clothes. They were interrupted again:
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14 NIV)
One angel was terrifying, but a great company of them?
This was no ordinary night and as such they left the flocks to go to Bethlehem to see that which the Angel had told them about. They found Mary and Joseph, and the baby was lying in a manger wrapped just as they were told, wrapped in swaddling clothes. They didn’t fully understand but they could see that as shepherds who would choose the sacrificial lamb and wrap it in swaddling clothes, so, too, here was one similarly wrapped. The full weight of the birth would not be realised until later, but they told everyone what had happened to them. People were amazed at what was said and history was punctuated with a new chapter, a new verse, a new book a new song. The Saviour had been born and the heavens were glad.