News! It’s good. It’s bad. It’s happy. It’s sad! News is emotional, it’s exciting and can be depressing. News is the sharing of information that connects us to the larger world around us reminding us that we all are in this together. I’m amazed, at times, how it defines our lives individually and sometimes as a nation.
Major events can dominate our headlines and coffee conversations. They become the sort of things that museums are made of. Years later we say things like, “Do you remember where you were when Kennedy was assassinated?” or more recently, “Where were you when the planes struck the towers on 9/11?” We talk about how major news events “changed the World”. When we visit museums we can reconnect to the events we lived through and see their details on display. Museums offer us an opportunity to pass on the major news events of our lives and our collective experiences to subsequent generations.
The way we receive news has evolved dramatically through the years. I remember when I was a kid, outside of newspapers which mostly focused on local news, national and international news was dispensed through essentially three outlets: NBC, ABC, and CBS. Only major television networks had news departments, so if you were to catch up on world events you had to gather around the television for the evening news hour, which was exactly what most of the nation did. News anchormen became celebrities, household names, like Cronkite, Rather, and Jennings. Later came Cable Television and a plethora of news outlets. Today most people keep up to date, even up to the minute, on world events through mobile apps and online news agencies. But the earliest sources for news, long before newspapers, television networks or the Internet, were Heralds.
In ancient times, Heralds were originally messengers of Kings who were commissioned to announce the King’s proclamation to the people. They were the forerunners of what would later become ambassadors who were sent to a foreign land to deliver the news from another kingdom on behalf of the King. As I mention this I am reminded of the Christmas Carol, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing!”
With all this talk about news, have you ever wondered what the Best News ever announced was? Was it the news report that declared the end of World War I or II? Was it the announcement of some medical breakthrough or the signing of a major peace treaty? No, these are all good, even great, but I suggest that the greatest news ever announced was the very best of all of these rolled into one! It was the announcement of the birth of the Savior of all of mankind.
Isn’t it amazing that the Best News ever proclaimed was made on Christmas night by a Royal Herald Angel of God to the Shepherds in the fields in the area of Bethlehem?
On the rolling hills of Judea, an “Angel of the Lord” appeared to the Priestly Shepherds who were keeping watch over the Temple flock at the Migdal Eder, “the Tower of the Flock” in Hebrew. This had actually been prophesied in Micah chapter 4. According to Middle Eastern authority, Alfred Edersheim, the Migdal Eder was the watchtower where the ewes from the flock were brought to birth their lambs that would later be sacrificed in the Temple of Jerusalem. These Shepherds were ritually clean and specially trained to identify and protect the lambs that were deemed suitable for sacrifice. The ones that passed inspection were then wrapped in swaddling clothes as a type of protection from injury or blemish that would have disqualified them from Temple use. The ones born that did not measure up were then released into the common flock population.
How fitting that the news those specially trained shepherds heard from the Royal Herald on that Christmas night was that the True Lamb had been born in the city of David, had passed inspection, and was already wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger (“stall” in the Hebrew). This came as a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Micah chapter 4 verse 8 and 9 says, “And you, O tower of the flock (Migdal Eder), The stronghold of the daughter of Zion, To you shall it come, Even the former dominion shall come, The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem” [Mic 4:8 NKJV].
“Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in your midst? Has your counselor perished? For pangs have seized you like a woman in labor” [Mic 4:9 NKJV].
Experience the wonder of the moment again as if you are in a museum being led by a masterful tour guide as he describes the first Christmas night and the headline news that accompanied it, with great precision. St. Luke, the Historian himself, tells the story.
“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” [Luk 2:7 NKJV].
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” [Luk 2:8 NKJV].
“And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid” [Luk 2:9 NKJV].
“Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” [Luk 2:10 NKJV].
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” [Luk 2:11 NKJV].
“And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger” [Luk 2:12 NKJV].
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:” [Luk 2:13 NKJV]
“”Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”” [Luk 2:14 NKJV]
Although he wrote his gospel narrative many years after the actual events of Jesus’ birth, the news report was significant enough that he would actually seek out and interview the eyewitnesses who were there and experienced the events firsthand. The word Gospel means glad tidings or good news. The Gospel writers reported on the events and told us their stories along with countless others as they announced to the World the Good News that the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t it have been cool if some of the Shepherds who were guarding the flock that night had survived long enough to tell Luke their story? Well there is no biblical evidence to support that, but Mary was still alive and she was there. She would have known what the shepherds told her on that fateful night and would have shared that with St. Luke as he recorded the story. What they told her was the greatest news story ever communicated. The announcement was the best news ever! So important was the news of Christ’s birth that it has become the defining moment in history for all of mankind; we measure our very calendars from that first Christmas night.