“The shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen,
which were just as they had been told.”
Luke 2:20 (NIV)
As a child I well recall an expression of my mother’s that she often used with me in conversation. I would excitedly tell her of something that had just happened to me that filled me with wonder and excitement. The words would tumble out and I would speak as fast as I could. When I finished my story, breathless with excitement, Mom would calmly say, “Imagine that!”.
I was sure she joined in with my excitement and wonder at the matter relayed to her. Now, as a mature adult, I know better than to think my mother was genuinely astonished at my little stories so eagerly told. Yet, at times, adults will say, “Imagine that” when amazed at something told them.
As I read the story of the shepherds and their remarkable encounter, first with the angels, and then with the Child Himself, I am always touched by the words in the narrative, “…just as they had been told.” These angelic communications were the opposite of my childish ones to my mother. The ones who had revelations made to them did not say, “Imagine that.”, as a polite but unbelieving comment. Rather they might have said “Imagine that!” in astonishment.
In these words we ponder the remarkable accuracy of the stunning communications that went on between heaven and earth that first Christmas. There was Luke 1:5-25 where Gabriel came to Zacharias and told him that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a remarkable son at a time in life when people have grandchildren and great grandchildren, not children. Zacharias discovered in the next 9 months that everything told him was exactly “as [he]… had been told.”
Then Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she too would have a miraculous conception and would bear a son Who would be the Saviour of His people. Mary believed God and after hearing from the angel that her older cousin was also to have a child went to visit her. Mary came to Elizabeth and learned things were “just as [she] …had been told”.
Then Joseph was visited by an angel and told that Mary was morally pure and he should take her as his wife because the baby she carried was the Son of God. During the next 30 years (Luke 2:40-52; 3:23) Joseph and Mary came to realize more and more that the Child Jesus was a perfect man and more than a man. The angels were right again as it happened “just as [he]…had been told.” The shepherds heard a glorious story from angels and when they went and investigated it they found it was “just as they had been told.”!
Then angels visited the Magi (Matthew 2:12) and they were warned of God in a dream that they should not return to mad King Herod but go home another way. They did as told and those in the area of Bethlehem soon learned the accuracy of the God’s message as all the boys 2 years of age and under died by his sword. So once more it all happened “just as they had been told”.
On it goes as we continue reading the biblical accounts of the opening days of Jesus’ life among us. Everything God forecast came to be exactly as He prophesied. Is this not enough evidence for us to trust the Lord for the future? Remember He says to you, His child, [Matthew 28:10,20 (NIV)]
“Do not be afraid…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”