They Watched in Darkness (Luke 2:8-14)

They Watched in Darkness (Luke 2:8-14)

The light of the stars, the bleating of sheep

Was all the resting shepherds sensed that night

In stillness so dark they fended off sleep –

When suddenly burst a glorious light.

When in that field God’s messenger appeared,

The glory of the LORD around them shone,

And they who watched in darkness greatly feared

The brilliant herald sent from heaven’s throne.

“Fear not,” the angel said, “Good news I bring!

In David’s City does your Savior lie –

There, in a manger, sleeps the promised king!”

And heaven’s hosts appeared with this reply:

“To God be highest glory to increase;

To those on whom His favor rests great peace!”



Last week’s sonnet reflected on the grace God showed to the shepherds in condescending to bring them, who were of low estate, the exalted news of Christ’s birth. This was and is no small gesture on the part of God; indeed, Luke 2:9 describes how “the glory of the Lord shone around them” (ESV)! These poor shepherds were minding their own business in the fields at night, which was rather dark, relatively quiet, and peaceful, then suddenly there is the unfathomably brilliant light of the glory of God accompanied by the anthem of the angels! Surely, this is a splendid moment! And for the likes of shepherds no less!

Yet there should be little wonder that the shepherds are promptly struck with fear (v. 9). Not only would the sudden appearance of brilliance into a dark night and the abrupt transition from quiet to triumphal trumpeting be physically startling, but this is a messenger from the holy God and it is His pure glory that is shining around. The shepherds become acutely aware of their unworthiness and impurity – the darkness is not merely of the night outside but their hearts within. Thus, they fear.

Yet what does the angel say? Fear not. But why? He brings “good news of great joy that will be for all the people,” then he reveals that the light is born that will drive out the darkness and fear. One has come who is the light, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3, ESV), who will cleanse us of our darkness so that we need no longer fear the darkness but rejoice in it. The coming of this light, which is Christ, who drove away our fear and darkness is what we celebrate each year at Christmas.

Joy be with you all and peace from the light who saves!


Picture: James Tissot [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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