Unidentified Heavenly Object
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
Luke 2:8-9 ESV
One of the things I love about the winters in the UK is the chance to see the stars. While I miss the lack of daylight, it is an amazing chance to looks up into the heavens and see the stars and planets. It is hard not to reflect on the magnitude of God’s creation when you think that most of those distant stars are actually “suns” with their own planets. Some of what look like stars to us are even other galaxies!
When I read the verse above, I always wonder what it must have been like to be a shepherd when Jesus was born. Israel at the time would not have had streetlights and the light pollution that comes from modern cities. On a clear night without clouds, they would almost certainly have been able to see the Milky Way stretched out above them (is it just me, or do we need a better name for our galaxy than the ‘Milky Way’).
The incredible thing for the shepherds though, was not the heavens above, but rather that the heavens came down to them that night. An Angel appears before them and the glory of the Lord shines around them. Mere moments later a whole heavenly host comes down to praise God declaring “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14 ESV).
Why did the heavenly host appear to the Shepherds? They came to announce the coming of the King. They came to bring good news of Jesus Christ to the shepherds. In fact, the great descent from on high that night was not the arrival of the angels, but the descent of the Son of God, who “though he was in the form of God… emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:6-7 ESV).
They came to announce that, with the birth of Jesus Christ, God himself had taken on our humanity and had come as a saviour, the long-promised Messiah, the Lord (Luke 2:11). God is not a UHO, an unidentified heavenly object, he is the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ. The Christmas miracle we celebrate over these 12 days of the Christmas season is that God so loved the world – he so loved you and me – that he became one of us to save all of us.
Our Father, thank you that you are not some distant unknowable God, but instead you are the God who is near, the God who came down from heaven to save us, to redeem us, to make us your children. May we be like the moon above and light the world with the reflected light of your Son. Amen.
Study by Gavin Henderson
About the writer:
Gavin Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for GCI UK and Ireland
Ecton Village Hall
78A High Street
Local congregational contact:
Word of Life contact: