The most important players on history's stage would have been content to remain in the audience.
This was true of the "shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock." But one night, working at their modest profession without any thought of fame, an angel of the Lord interrupted their lives. Phrase by phrase, the message grew in meaning.
"Unto you is born this day …"
Someone important was entering the mortal world, a little child who in due time would be given to them or for them.
"… in the city of David …"
Ahh, Bethlehem. It sat on a hill to their west. There were no shimmering street lights or glaring signs such as we see in modern-day towns. Whatever candles or lamps still burned at this hour would be soft and few. Yet, Bethlehem was visible, coated in silver under the full moon of Passover, and under yet other lights in the night sky.
" … a Saviour …"
The Greek word rendered "saviour" was reserved in ancient times for benefactors — heroes who rescued or served their people in some mighty way.
An equivalent word in the Hebrew of Old Testament stories is "judge." Time and again, a mighty or skillful figure emerged among Israel's people. He or she would be perfectly suited for the crisis at hand. Israel's God had raised up that person for that occasion. Examples like Gideon or Samson come to mind.
The ancient record declares, "The LORD raised up judges, which delivered them. … The LORD was with the judge … all the days of the judge."
At the promise of another "Saviour," the shepherds must have rejoiced in their hearts. After all, at that solemn and bitter time in history, Jewish Israel was in sore need of saving.
Raising up helpers is godly work. The right person must be prepared before birth. There must be freedom of choice, the needed background and native abilities. And the mortal birth had to be in advance of the problem, so that the person is ready at the time of need.
This wondrous process goes forward in many lives, meeting less visible needs. For example, Moses was told of common men in whom God had planted his Spirit "to devise cunning works" in metals, wood and stone. Why? So that the tabernacle could be built with beauty and precision.
"In the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom," said the Lord, "that they may make all that I have commanded thee." Of course, the developing of skilled men had to begin in boyhood. This very miracle went forward in girls, resulting in "all the women who were wise hearted."
Perhaps each of us is being "raised up" in like manner to become a helper or rescuer in some way or another.
Crowning this network of saviors was the new-born one announced to the shepherds — not just another savior in Jewish history.1 comment on this story
"… which is Christ …"
This Savior was Messiah himself! And, to be clear about Messiah's true identity, he was not merely another inspired man, but rather the very God of the prophets.
"… the Lord."
Prepared in heaven, coming by his own free will, given wondrous background, having perfect desires, this one would be Judge of all the judges and Savior of all the saviors.
(References: Luke 2:8-11; Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, No. 4990; Judges 2:16-18; Exodus 31:3-6; 35:25-26, 31-35; 36:8; 38:23.)