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poor shepherds when they heard the heavenly song. Never was such melody as this heard on earth before or since. They must have listened with rapture to the sound; and when it had passed away, could scarcely have believed that they had been so highly favoured.
When the "heavenly host had disappeared, and their ravished ears could no longer be regaled with the celestial melody, It came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. They were naturally anxious to behold as soon as possible the glorious Personage who was the subject of the song of the heavenly host; to see the long-expected Messiah, the Saviour of the world, the Lord, the Governor of the universe, though He was merely to outward appearance a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, a helpless infant; and in so mean a condition, that He was lying in a manger, 46 in a stable, in a cave, where access would not be denied to the poorest persons who might go to visit Him. They came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph in the stable of the inn, or caravanserai, a place which was usually appropriated to the reception of strangers, and the
45 Luke ji. 12.
babe lying in a manger. They could not doubt but that what the angel of the Lord said to them must be true. It was, however, altogether so marvellous that it was scarcely credible. It required to be confirmed to them at every step. And so it was. They found that the representation which had been made to them, respecting the very humble condition of Him who had been styled a Saviour, Christ the Lord, 40 was borne out by the fact. They found Him lying in the manger, a babe, as it was said unto them. The sight of the Lord of glory in this mean condition was as truly astonishing as the vision which announced Him to be there. How wonderful was it, that He, whom the angels of God in heaven worshipped and adored, should have humbled Himself to appear in such lowly circumstances. He who could have commanded the most magnificent palace to be erected for His reception, was thus, in His very birth into our world, an outcast from society. And through life He continued in such an humble station, that the great people of this world, the rich and the learned, were not those with whom He associated : while His very lowliness encouraged the poor and needy to crowd around Him, to hear the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth, 47 and to receive
46 Luke ii. U.
47 Luke iv. 22.
the blessings which He so bountifully bestowed upon the distressed and afflicted. What deep humiliation marked the character and conduct of the Lord Jesus, from the manger to the cross ! He passed by all that on which the people of the world pride themselves, as being unworthy of His notice and regard ; and placed Himself in the lowest situation, in order that the poorest and meanest might not fear to come to Him, and seek the blessings of His grace. They were always welcomed by Him. He never rejected any distressed applicant, or sent such empty away.
The shepherds who had been informed of His birth, notwithstanding the high opinion they must have entertained of Him, had no fear of being refused admission into His presence, when they learnt that He was lying in a manger. His low estate inspired them with confidence. And when they had seen that all was verified, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. They repeated the good tidings of great joy, that the Saviour, the Messiah, Christ the Lord, was born in Bethlehem. And that the heavenly host had sung in reference to His incarnation, that it would bring glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, being the manifestation of the good will of God toward men. They acted as it became them in publishing abroad the love of God to man in the gift of a Saviour. They published in Bethlehem the vision that had appeared to them in the night season. And all they that heard it, wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. They could scarcely believe it possible that such an event could have taken place during the night; that such a vision could have appeared to a few poor shepherds, rather than to the chief priests and elders of the people; who, in their apprehension, would have been more suitable persons, as they would have more influence to promote the Saviour's cause in the world.
48 Luke ii. 10, 11, 14.
While the admiration of others was excited by the relation of these wonderful events; it is said of the Virgin Mother of the child born, and the Son given unto us,"9 that Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. The goodness of God to her in selecting her to be the mother of the long-expected Messiah : The Divine interference in her favour with regard to her future husband Joseph : The wonderful vision which publicly announced to the world the birth of her Son, and even described the obscure situation in which He was to be found : All this filled her with astonishment. But instead of being elated that she was the chosen vessel for so exalted a purpose, she was humbled under a sense of her unworthiness to have so high a honour conferred upon her. Instead of making a noise about it, she kept it all to herself; she was silent. She pondered it in her heart, instead of proclaiming it aloud for her own aggrandisement. This is doubtless recorded for our imitation. It is of the utmost importance for each of us, in the first place, to lay to heart the word of God for ourselves; to receive the gospel of Christ as good tidings of great joy for our own souls; to seek an interest in His great salvation as our own concern; to ponder these things in our own breasts. Unless this be the case, our hearing of them will do us no good. It will bring no glory to God; we shall not have peace in our minds; and we shall have no good will towards our fellow-creatures, no anxiety for their spiritual benefit. But if the salvation of Christ be brought home with power to our hearts, if it be pondered there, we shall have a good will to all around us, an earnest desire that the same blessedness which we enjoy ourselves may be communicated to them, and that the God of all grace may be glorified by their being brought to the knowledge of the truth as it in Jesus, and made partakers of His great salvation, and of all the blessings which accompany it.
49 Isaiah ix, 6.