The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:20
It’s better to be a shepherd than an angel.
You remember the angels. They’re the glowing, larger-than-life mysteries who showed up in the middle of the night and scared a bunch of shepherds out of their pajamas. In a second, they formed the best choir that anyone ever heard. They sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace!” They had news to share, news that would spread across the earth, news that would become our standardized measure of time—it either happened before this news or after this news—but news that would have to start with shepherd boys and shepherd girls—and, of course, the sheep. Don’t forget the sheep.
The news? There’s a savior been born. He’s the one your heart has been looking for while you were too busy to notice. He wears newborn diapers, and he’s lying in a manger in Bethlehem. You’ll find him if you go looking for him.
And the shepherds do go looking for him. They find him; and Mary and Joseph, the otherworldly sound of the angels still ringing in their ears, their hands shaking as Mary folds back the scraps of an old dress that keeps her son warm. They see that baby’s face. Can you imagine? It’s the face that said, “Let there be light!” and saw the first sunrise on the first day. It’s the face that will hang on a tree, looking down on the pain of this world and the everyday cruelty of you and me, and say, “It is finished.” It’s the face that knows nothing at all except a mother’s love, and for now, on this silent night, that’s enough. That face will grace the shepherds’ memory forever. No matter what troubles await them in the future, they will never unlearn the face of God.
The shepherds leave the holy family, Mary nursing, Joseph fumbling with breakfast, and they are full to bursting with all they have heard and seen! The angels, the heavenly choir, the midnight shock of aliens in their tent, the mother, the baby, the face, the manger, the news—oh the news! All these wonders have happened to them. It’s the best kind of overwhelming.
But the angels get the lesser end of the deal. You see, they miss out on the wonder of seeing and hearing these things for themselves. They are messengers of a message that hasn’t happened to them. It’s sad, when you think about it. They are the storytellers of secondhand wonder: they tell someone else’s story, the shepherd’s story, our story, but not their story. They don’t get to be blown away by all these wonders like the shepherds have.
It’s better to be a shepherd. They are the storytellers of firsthand wonder. It’s the difference between hearing you’re going to be a father and telling of that wonder happening to you, and telling the story of someone else hearing he’s going to be a father. It’s still good news, but it’s not wonder.
Christmas is about wonder. It’s about being blown away by the miracles God is working around you, if you will dis-disenchant your eyes and go looking for them. Christmas is about becoming shepherd boys and shepherd girls again, innocent recipients of God’s marvels, trembling with excitement at what God is doing, captivated by what feels like magic and what looks like love.
Where is God captivating you by what feels like magic and looks like love? Let that story happen to you. Be overwhelmed by it. Be changed by it. Be born anew by it. Become a messenger of a message that is happening to you, a storyteller of firsthand wonders that make the angels jealous.