What would happen if you were sitting in your office one day, minding your own business and working, when you suddenly received some amazing news?
That’s exactly what happened to the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem on a clear night about 2 centuries ago.
The Bible tells us that there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified (Luke 2:8-9).
And with those verses begins the familiar shepherds and angels portion of the Christmas story.
But, the shepherds are more than just the first people the birth of Jesus was announced to.
The shepherds were also worshipers.
Their story can teach us about worship.
What can we learn?
First, that worship is a choice.
Verse 15 tells us that after the angels in all their glory had proclaimed the birth of the Messiah, given God glory, and left, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened.
What if the shepherds had not decided to go and find the baby? What if they had decided that the experience with the angels was enough? After all, they had just been surrounded by the glory of God and experienced the heavenly host praising God.
They did go, and in doing so, remind us that worship is a choice. It’s not just an emotional experience. We should not be content with existing on mountain top experiences as the people of God. Everyday and in every situation we have the choice of worship through obedience and surrender to God.
Second, that worship proclaims.
After choosing to go see the baby, and finding everything that they had been told they would find, verse 17 says that when they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.
Every time we engage in worship, whether through singing, telling what God has done, or living a sacrificial and transformed life (a la Rom 12:1-2), we are doing exactly what the shepherds did: proclaiming the truth of God. The shepherds could have chosen to keep what they had discovered to themselves. But that would not have been worship, any more than when we choose to keep to ourselves the wonders and glories of God or choose not to participate in corporate worship.
The example of the shepherds reminds me, as does David, Moses, and the early church, that worship is about proclaiming. Worship is proclaiming to the world who God is. It is affirming to one another our joint belief and faith. It is telling others about the great things God has done and His faithfulness.
Third, that worship is a response.
Not only did the shepherds choose to go and find the baby, to tell others what they had found, but once they had experienced the living God with us – Emmanuel – verse 20 says they returned to their fields, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
After the emotional experience of the angels, going to find the baby, and telling others what they had seen, the shepherds could have just quietly gone back to their routine of sitting and watching sheep. Instead, even as they returned to their “daily” life, they responded to the greatness of God by glorifying and praising Him.
The example of the shepherds reminds me that every time we encounter God, whether personally or corporately, that our response should be worship. We should not take for granted what God has done or who He is, but recognize and give Him thanks. That worship should carry over from Sunday morning to our everyday life, because God is present everyday.
Three things that we can learn about worship from the example of the shepherds.
These aren’t just some smelly, dirty, forgotten guys hanging out in a field who God announces the birth of His Son to. In many ways, they are people just like us. People with jobs, families, and lives that choose to proclaim and respond to the greatness of God.