We tend to think of everyone in Bible times as a shepherd, but the reality is that it was a job for boys, old men, or those without other options. They were unskilled workers who smelled like they hung out with animals. But while the Magi were led by a star, those common shepherds had an encounter far more profound. Consider this:
Nearly two thousand years earlier, when Moses ascended Mount Sinai, the glory of the LORD covered the top of the mountain. (Exodus 24:16) The people watched from below, terrified.
After setting up the tabernacle in the wilderness, “Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:35)
And one thousand years before the shepherds, at the dedication of the new temple, “when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’S house.” (2 Chronicles 7:1-2)
In each of these significant events in the life of the nation of Israel, we see God’s direct presence in the somewhat mysterious phrase, “the glory of the LORD.” It was an uncommon occurrence, and one that marked an incredibly important point in the history of God’s people.
With that in mind, we come to this:
“And 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 2:9)
We can hear the passage so many times, and become so familiar with it that we miss the whole point. The glory of the Lord shone around them! Jesus, the Son of God, is worthy of greater honor than Moses (Hebrews 3:3), than the temple (Matthew 12:6), or Solomon (Matthew 12:42)
And so we understand the terror a little better and we understand that something important was happening; something that would, once again, change the course of history.
“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son…” Galatians- 4:4-5