By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
This year I haven’t quite been able to turn loose of Christmas. Specifically I keep looking back at the Gospel of Luke, and have again become interested in the role of the shepherds, who were the first witnesses to the birth of the Baby.
The story begins with an angel appearing to shepherds as they watched their sheep on the hillside. The initial response of the shepherds – who could have fought off a lion, wolf or other predator - was fright. The angel addressed that and then turned to a message of hope: “’behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people’” (Luke 2:10).
The angel directed them to the City of David, long prophesied to produce the messianic king the Jews had expected for centuries. The foretelling of the angel predicted exactly how they would find the baby and his parents, and then appeared “a multitude of the heavenly host” (Luke 2:13).
Once the angels left the shepherds didn’t dally, but decided immediately to go to Bethlehem. They’d received instructions of something to do – go and see – and they readily responded. The first step in being a witness is to be willing to observe and hear. Though an unlikely bunch, they were available on that quiet night and received the amazing charge. In their obedience they were given the privilege of being the first to find “Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16).
The last thing they did in their role as witnesses was to return, “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20). The scene had been just as the angels had told them, and they were faithful to recount the details to anyone who would listen.
Why is it that we don’t do a more effective job of witnessing? It could be that back at Step #1 we aren’t really listening. Our music’s too loud, we’re listening to other voices; we’re too preoccupied, have too many other things going on, or don’t take time to just sit on the hillside.
If we do get an impulse, or even an appearance by an angel, perhaps we hesitate and fail to “make haste” to experience what God wants. If our testimony is 40 years old maybe we need to examine our lives and re-establish contact with God. We miss out on what we’re called to do and thus have nothing to share.
Keys to being a faithful witness: listening, being obedient, acknowledging God’s working, and then sharing that good news with others. The theme of Luke’s Gospel is to communicate the things shared with him by people who were present during the life of Jesus. “Just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses,” he said in Luke chapter 1, “it seemed good to me also … to write unto thee.”
God doesn’t require us to do anything scary – just convey what we know and have experienced. The simple message is that we should put ourselves in a place to hear, be willing to listen and see the working of God, and then be obedient to tell whatever was set before us.