One tragedy of the first Christmas is that so many came close to Christmas yet missed it all. There were the political leaders of the time, the innkeeper, Herod, and the religious leaders. But that is only half the story. The shepherds to whom the angels appeared while they were tending their sheep in the fields around Bethlehem found Christmas. And the wise men who saw the Messiah's star came to worship Him.
A Magnificent Contrast
It is hard to imagine a greater contrast than the one between those two groups of people. The shepherds were low. They were despised and mistrusted, and their ability to make off with things that did not belong to them was proverbial. They were not even allowed to bear testimony in a court of law. What about the wise men? Quite obviously they were at the other end of the scale. They were men of influence. We notice that when they came to Jerusalem looking for the one who had been born King of the Jews, they had no trouble gaining admission to Herod's palace. The shepherds would not even have been allowed in the outer courtyard.
I do not know how the story could say more clearly that Christ is for anyone who will have Him and that Christ is for you, whoever you may be. You may be unimportant in the eyes of most people or you may be very important. You may be poor or rich. You may be near Christ or far from Him. None of those things matters, for the simple reason that Jesus did not come to be the Saviour of the rich or poor only, or the wise or foolish only, or any other group of people. He came to be the Saviour of the world, and that includes you!
A Common Experience
The shepherds and wise men were different, yet their experience was similar, and speaks to us today.
First, they each received an announcement of Christ's birth. It was most spectacular in the case of the shepherds, for "the glory of the Lord shone round about them" and an angel spoke to them (Luke 2:9-12). But was the announcement to the magi less significant from their perspective? The star was the kind of thing the wise men dealt with and was therefore well suited to them. Our experience is actually superior to theirs. We have received the Scriptures which are the very Word of God, and are described to us as "a light that shineth in a dark place" (2 Peter 1:19).
Second, the shepherds and the wise men each obeyed God's summons. Can we imagine them refusing that unprecedented invitation? Perhaps. The magi lived a great distance from Jerusalem, and might have reasoned: "The way to Jerusalem is long. It would be a lot more convenient if we could just stay here." The shepherds, too, might have refused the invitation: "We are not dressed for the occasion. We have nothing to bring. Who will care for our sheep?" Neither the wise men nor shepherds did that. Instead of making excuses the shepherds said, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us" (Luke 2:15). I wonder if you have been as obedient to God. You know the story of Christmas. You even know the gospel of Jesus' death for sinners. You know the invitation of Christ: "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Have you obeyed God's summons?
That leads to the third step in the common experience of the shepherds and wise men. After they had each received the announcement and obeyed God's summons by going to Bethlehem, they found the Saviour. They found that the words of the angel and the message of the star were not misleading. God's Son had been born. The Saviour had come. That is no less true today, though people talk as if it were hard to find Christ. To talk like that is to suggest that God is lost and that it is up to us to find Him. We are the ones who are lost, He is not lost nor is the truth lost! Jesus said, "I am … the truth" (John 14:6). Jesus is presented in Scripture. If you would find Him, you must search the Scriptures. As you do, pray that God will show you the truth.
—Condensed from The Christ of Christmas by James Montgomery Boice. Copyright (c) Linda M. Boice.