The Lectionary splits up Luke’s birth narrative so that part one can be read on Christmas Eve and, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story can be heard on Christmas morning. The reality for most congregations is that there will be distinct audiences at each of the Christmas Eve/Day services, so it would behoove the preacher to bite the bullet and read Luke 2:1-20 every time the faithful come together between sunset on December 24th and sunrise December 26th.
If you read the whole thing on Christmas Eve, presumably where the biggest crowds are to be found, then your audience will have the opportunity to hear the story of the first ever response to Christian evangelism. The angel of the Lord, having told them the Good News, literally – the Gospel, departs from the scene and the shepherds, still very much unsure of what just happened, look at each other and basically say, “let’s go see if any of this is true.” After running down the hill and into the city proper, they find the babe, wrapped in swaddling cloth, and lying in a manger. They saw it just as the angels had predicted.
I was initially drawn to the way in which they traveled to down: “with haste,” but as I dug into the Greek, what I found more interesting was the word Luke used to describe both their desire to see and what they saw. Eido isn’t the passive sort of seeing in which a spectator might engage, but it carries the double meaning of both seeing and knowing. The Shepherds, having just experienced something amazing in the fields, desire to see and to know the Good News for themselves. It is only after they see, and presumably come to know the truth of the angels message, that, with awe, they share the story with Mary and Joseph.
As Christmas comes again this year, my prayer is that you might see and know the good news that God has sent for all people, that in the city of David was born for us a Savior who redeems the world and sets us free to seek after the will of the Father. Merry Christmas!