The Nativity: Angels Announce Jesus Christ's Birth on the First Christmas

Luke 2 of Bible Describes Angels Telling Shepherds Jesus Has Been Born

Christmas angels shepherds Bethlehem
"The Angels and The Shepherds" painting by James Tissot. SuperStock/Getty Images

Shepherds were tending their flocks one night near Bethlehem when an angel appeared and made an announcement that has come to be known the Nativity, the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. Here's the tale of that night from Luke chapter two.

Angelic Beginning

In Luke 2:8-12, the Bible describes the scene:

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger'."

Significantly, the angel did not visit the most prestigious people in society; at the behest of God, the angel made this important announcement to humble shepherds. Since the shepherds raised the lambs that were sacrificed to atone for people's sins each spring during Passover, they would have understood the importance of the Messiah's arrival to save the world from sin.

Shock and Awe

The shepherds were watching over their flocks as their sheep and lambs were scattered -- resting or grazing -- on the quiet surrounding hillsides. While the shepherds were prepared to deal with wolves or even robbers who threatened their animals, they were shocked and scared by witnessing an angel's appearance.

And, if the appearance of a single angel was not enough to scare the shepherds, a large number of angels suddenly appeared, joining the original angel, and praising God. As Luke 2:13-14 states: "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests'."

Off to Bethlehem

This was enough to spark the shepherds into action. The Bible continues the story in Luke 2:15-18: "When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 

So the shepherds hurried off and found Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus, who was lying in the manger.

When they had seen the baby, the shepherds spread the word about what angels had told, and all who heard the Nativity story were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. The Bible passage concludes in Luke 2:19-20: "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."

When the shepherds returned to their work in the fields after visiting the newborn Jesus, they did not forget about their experience: They continued to praise God for what he had done -- and Christianity was born.

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Hopler, Whitney. "The Nativity: Angels Announce Jesus Christ's Birth on the First Christmas." ThoughtCo, Feb. 13, 2017, thoughtco.com/nativity-angels-announce-jesus-birth-124065. Hopler, Whitney. (2017, February 13). The Nativity: Angels Announce Jesus Christ's Birth on the First Christmas. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/nativity-angels-announce-jesus-birth-124065 Hopler, Whitney. "The Nativity: Angels Announce Jesus Christ's Birth on the First Christmas." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/nativity-angels-announce-jesus-birth-124065 (accessed December 18, 2017).