How many people witnessed the loud crowds on display at Citizens Bank Park this year during the Phillies playoff games? Awesome, wasn’t it? Watching a crowd of over 45,000 burst into a unified celebration is an amazing sight. There is an infectious joy on display for all to see.
We sang one of my all-time favorite Christmas hymns this past Sunday: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Rather than just getting caught up in the familiar melody and enjoying the sights and sounds of the season on display, I actually thought a bit deeper about what the shepherds may have witnessed. Luke 2 tells us how:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!
Luke 2:13-14 KJV
I was curious and decided to look into how many angels might have appeared. The Bible is unclear, saying only “a multitude.” Daniel 7:10 and Revelation 5:11 reference visions of the number of angels that serve the Kingdom, and it’s BIG…100 million big. Now, let’s assume that even a fraction of that appeared to the shepherds. Say it was 10,000 - close to the number you can see light up with joy in the right-field stands as a Bryce Harper home run sails out of the park. Now, can you imagine the sight of 10,000 angels rejoicing at the birth of Christ?? What an absolutely amazing thing to behold!
Now, about the shepherds. The life of a shepherd is relatively straightforward: feed and protect the sheep and move them safely from one location to another without losing one. One could even say that, though stressful, needing to find the occasional lost sheep would actually add some excitement to an otherwise mundane day. They probably thought they lost their minds when an angel first appeared. Scripture even tells us they were terrified at first. Not a surprise! To witness something like that would certainly make you want to run and tell your friends and I’m sure those friends immediately believed the recount of someone who spends most of their time alone in the fields with sheep (obvious sarcasm).
But why the giant celebration? Jesus’ birth was the fulfillment of a prophecy some 700 years in the making. Isaiah wrote about the Messiah in Chapter 7 saying:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (God with us).
Isaiah 7:14 NIV
The Light of the World had arrived and all of Heaven rejoiced. The hymn calls upon all to join in:
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
So, as we go through these next few days leading to Christmas, let us all take a moment to reflect and celebrate what the birth of Christ really meant and why there was such cause for celebration… perhaps the next time you tune into a big game and see a burst of celebration, imagine for a moment the shepherds witnessing a similar sight filling the skies that glorious night in Bethlehem.