Faith and joy
“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (NRSV, Luke 2:20)
For the shepherds, the memory of the events that started that night in the fields outside Bethlehem must have stayed with them for the rest of their lives. They were unconcernedly keeping an eye on their sheep when all of a sudden an angel appeared in their midst and announced that the Saviour of the human race had just been born in the nearby town of Bethlehem, and was even now lying in, of all places, a manger.
It seemed well nigh incredible, yet they showed their faith by setting off without hesitation into Bethlehem and revealed the wholeheartedness of that faith by the haste with which they went. And when they found the child lying in a manger, their belief was confirmed that he was indeed what the angel had said he was and so they returned with joy, glorifying and praising God.
For that joy had its source, not in what they saw – a poor child nestling in the hay – but in what they believed that child to be: the Saviour who was to change the face of the world. It was not their reason which led them to such a conclusion – how could it? Rather it was a revelation from God in which they trusted with an absolute conviction. So their joy was both the measure of their faith and also its fruit.