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Devotional Notes on the Shepherds at the Manger


From the Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture by Bishop Knecht D.D.

Glory to God in the Highest.

Our redemption begins at the Birth of Jesus Christ. For this reason the angels rejoiced and sang: “Glory to God!” The unbelief and disobedience of man had robbed God of the honour due to him. Jesus Christ restored the honour of God by being obedient to His heavenly Father, even unto death on the cross, and by teaching the one true faith in God and the one true worship of God.

Peace to men of good will.

Our Lord Jesus Christ has brought peace to man by reconciling earth to heaven, and winning pardon and grace for us. This peace on earth, which leads to the eternal peace of heaven, can only be obtained by those men who are of good will, i.e. by those who are willing to believe the doctrines of Christ and who correspond with His grace. The shepherds were men of good will; they believed the angel, and hastened to obey his injunctions. It is in this way that we should obey the inward admonitions of grace to do what is right. If we do this, we will one day be with Jesus in heaven.

The Christmas Tree

……represents Jesus Christ, who is the true tree of life in the newly restored paradise. He that eats of this tree shall live. The burning tapers on the tree are meant to show that Christ is the light of the world, “full of grace and truth”. The various fruits and sweets hanging on the branches symbolise the rich gifts and blessings brought by Jesus Christ to the children of men. The latter two accustomed to give presents to each other, because on this day God has given to the world His only Begotten Son and with him everything else.

The Christian era.

As quite a new era began with the Birth of Jesus Christ, an era of grace and reconciliation, our years are counted from that time. The year in which our Lord was born was the first year of the Christian era. [Due to miscalculation of the calendar over the ages the date of Christ's birth is generally stated as the year 4 BC. Thus in the year 1996, over two millennia will have passed since the birth of Jesus Christ.].

Why Jesus subjected Himself to circumcision.

Our Lord was without sin, so He stood in no need of circumcision. But He submitted to the rite for the following reasons:

  1. According to the prophecies the Redeemer was to be a true Israelite and son of Abraham. To be such and to be recognised as such, circumcision was necessary.
  2. By His Incarnation our Lord took upon Himself the sins of mankind, so as to make satisfaction for them. For this purpose He shed His Precious Blood for the first time in circumcision, and showed us thereby that He has come to redeem us by His blood. Therefore the name of Jesus, our Saviour, was given to Him at His circumcision.
  3. By voluntarily obeying the law and submitting Himself to the rite of circumcision, He wished to give us an example of obedience to the divine law.
The Name of Jesus

……is the sweetest of all names; for if that blessed name did not exist, nether would there exist for us pardon, or grace or eternal happiness. It is the object of our faith, our hope and our love. Moreover the name of Jesus testifies to the divine nature of the Redeemer; it not only means Saviour, but Divine Saviour, and says to us, “Jehovah, God, is our salvation and deliverance!” Thus St. Paul writes: “In the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, or under the earth” (Phil. 2: 10).