15 Dec. Luke 2:15-20

15 Dec. Shepherds worship the infant king

"When the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, 'Let's see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about.'"

"So the shepherds went quickly and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in a feeding box."

"When they had seen him, they told what the angels had said about this child."

"Everyone was amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured these things and continued to think about them."

"Then the shepherds went back to their sheep, praising God and thanking him for everything they had seen and heard. It had been just as the angel had told them."

          (Luke 2:15-20)


 

After the angels appeared to the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem, they went to see the baby Jesus.

Afterwards, the shepherds praised God and everyone they met was amazed that they had been told by angels (God's messengers) that this child was the promised 'Messiah', the 'Christ', the 'anointed one' whom the Jewish people expected to save them: 'Today your Saviour was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord'. (Luke 2:11)

Ever since emperor Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire in 380AD, Jesus’s birthday has been celebrated in late December (or early in January in the eastern Orthodox churches), but no-one knows precisely when he was actually born.

Before Christmas Day replaced the Roman mid-winter festival of the ‘Unconquered Sun’ on 25th December, the 3rd century Christian historian, Sextus Julius Africanus, who devised one of the first Biblical chronologies, believed that Jesus was born on 25th March.

Traditionally in Palestine, sheep were only kept out of doors overnight during the warmer months from March or April to November. The local sheep were not hardy enough to be left outside during the cold winter nights of December. So it’s unlikely that Jesus was born in December, and more likely that he was born between March and November.

If the shepherds to whom the angels appeared were on their way to Jerusalem with sacrificial lambs for the Passover festival, then it’s quite possible that Jesus was actually born in March or April, just before the Jewish Passover festival.

This would have been most appropriate if "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) was visited shortly after his birth by shepherds taking Passover lambs to be slaughtered in Jerusalem.

Visitors to the Shepherds’ Fields at Beit Sahur are welcomed at two churches, both claiming to be the site of the angelic visitation. The modern Greek Orthodox church at Kenisat er-Ruwat was erected on the site of a 5th century church, rebuilt in the 7th century, and again in the 14th century. An early mosaic floor shows that the cave underlying this church was revered as the resting-place of the shepherds as early as the 4th century AD.

The Franciscan Shepherds' Field Chapel built at Khirbet Siyr el-Ghanem in 1954 to celebrate the angelic visit is on the site of a 4th century monastery (see the photo by NicFer).

You can read more about the shepherd's visit to see the infant king @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/the-bible-journey/3-jesuss-childhood-journeys-b/shepherds-visit-the-infant/


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