The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “You could not step twice in the same river.” It is never the same. Life is very much like a rolling river. We can never relive a day. Life is forever moving and without a moment’s rest. I can remember someone saying years ago, I think it was the name of a movie from the 60’s, “stop the world, I want to get off.” Even when we stop to think, reflect, the river is still moving. You can’t escape from that reality of the ever flowing river of time. Someone also said that the “only thing we can depend on in this life is change.” It’s hard to argue with thoughts like that because we all live in the same flowing currents of time. Yet, we can’t help but notice that some moments, have greater impact than others. Some events that float into our lives change us forever, while other events simply “pass” the time. One of the things we learn from the story of the shepherds in the field is that Christmas changes everything. The glorious angel Gabriel appeared, in person, to the lowly shepherds. From that point on their lives were never the same again.

The shepherds cowered in fear at the appearance of the Angel Gabriel. I guess we’d all shake in our shoes if an angel appeared to us also. Such an event could never leave them the same. But the Angel announces “good news” to them. The angel was a heavenly news reporter bringing the breaking news of what God was doing in the world today. The one who lives outside of the flowing rivers of time has just passed from eternity into time to bring about a change that would leave the world a better place for all. We are often afraid of change and sometimes will reject it even if it makes changes for the better. It wasn’t the frightening appearance of the Angel that changed the lives of the shepherds. It was the encounter with the Christ child in the manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.

The shepherds were most likely not ordinary shepherds that grazed their sheep on the hills surrounding Jerusalem. They were shepherds of the priests in Jerusalem caring for the flocks which would provide the sacrifices that were offered at the temple. Since sacrificial animals needed to be perfect in every way, whenever a lamb was born, he was wrapped tight in swaddling clothes to keep it from damaging itself and becoming disqualified as a sacrificial offering. It was the sign that the Angel told them to look for. Verses 10-12 of Luke Chapter 2 says, “And the angel said to them, fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”