Until the shepherds – who hear the word of the Lord through the angel who stands beside them with their flocks of sheep outside Bethlehem – see the Christ Child in the manger, they do not believe. Once they see the Child, then they tell others and those others wonder “of the things that were said to them of the shepherds.”
“And they hieing came, and found Mary and Joseph, and the young child laid in a feed-trough [put in a cratch]. And they seeing, knew of the word that was said to them of this child. And all men that heard wondered, and of these things that were said to them of the shepherds”
On the other hand, Mary hears the words but keeps them together with what she already knows. She stores all this knowledge in her heart, and does not speak.
But Mary kept all these words, bearing together in her heart.
The shepherds once again glorify and praise God for what the angel tells them and for what they now hear and see – they recognize that what is told to them is true.
And the shepherds turned again, glorifying and praising God in all things that they had heard and seen, as it was said to them.”
Mary is like someone in shock; soaking up everything that happens without fully understanding. She’s been through childbirth in less than ideal conditions; now strangers clamber to see her newly born son. Animals moo and bleat and stink. She’s barely presentable, not much like our nativity scenes, I imagine. All this young mother can do is “keep all these words, bearing together in her heart” which will break.
The night Jesus is born, shepherds keep watch over their flocks of sheep in the hillside pastures around Bethlehem. An angel of the Lord appears to them, stands beside them. The “clearness of God shines about them” and they are filled with “great dread.” The angel tells the shepherds not to be in dread because he comes with a sermon of “a great joy.” The angel proclaims the first evangelism – that “a great joy shall be to all people. For a Saviour is born to day to you, that is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.”
The angel says this joy is for all people.
“And shepherds were in the same country, waking and keeping the watches of the night on [upon] their flock. And lo! the angel of the Lord stood beside them, and the clearness of God shined about them [and the clearness of God shone about them]; and they dreaded with great dread. And the angel said to them, Do not ye dread; for lo! I preach to you a great joy [lo! soothly I evangelize to you a great joy], that shall be to all people. For a Saviour is born to day to you, that is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.”
The angel tells the shepherds that a token is to appear in the form of a newborn child – one they can find in a manger. Immediately after he speaks, a “knighthood” of heavenly beings appears to praise the Lord. Likely the shepherds are still in dread, but they decide to check out the message of the angel. They speak among themselves, move together to seek out the Christ Child. Only when they find Him do they believe the news of “a great joy that shall be to all people.”
“You know His power today if you listen to His voice,” writes the psalmist. As the lamb follows the shepherd, so “we are His people, we the flock He shepherds.” We come into God’s presence with “a joyful song” and “a shout of triumph.” (Psalm 95: 1) We “kneel before the Lord who made us; for He is our God.” We thank Him for “our salvation.”
We are not to “grow stubborn” or “test” God; we are not to allow our hearts to go astray. Instead, let us discern God’s ways. (Psalm 95: 8, 9, 10)
The author of Hebrews echoes this, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not grow stubborn as in those days of rebellion, at that time of testing in the desert, where your forefathers tried Me and tested Me, and saw the things I did for forty years. And so, I was indignant with that generation and I said, ‘Their hearts are for ever astray; they would not discern My ways; as I vowed in My anger, they shall never enter My rest.” (Hebrews 3: 7 – 11)
“A Sabbath rest still awaits” us — “the people of God.” When we enter God’s rest, we “rest from [our] own work as God did from His.” Don’t “follow the evil example of unbelief;” instead “make every effort to enter [God’s Sabbath] rest.” (Hebrews 4: 9, 10, 11)
Make this effort while today is still today; and His voice is still heard.