19 December 2022

The angels’ song: How can we receive God's love and encouragement?

Lieut-Colonel Ann Hawkins

Lieut-Colonel Ann Hawkins reflects on the difference light brings to our world.

Key text

Working quietly on the dark, silent hills, as they did night after night all year round, a group of shepherds are suddenly startled when the entire sky is lit up. An angel appears to them in bright light. The shepherds are in shock. They have never had the experience of anything like this before.

Many of us have experienced being asleep in a dark room, when someone suddenly comes in and switches on a light. Our hearts beat faster, our mouths go dry, the lights blind us and we feel disorientated.

Pause and reflect

  • Have you ever experienced total darkness?

So often today, our villages, towns and cities are never in total darkness. At night, even the countryside might be illuminated by the orange glow of a nearby town.

I have lived in Africa for 11 years and have experienced total darkness around me. I remember nights when we were staying at a village near Chikankata Mission in Zambia. We couldn’t see anything beyond our hands unless we had a torch. Deep darkness at night can inspire fear, because of what you can hear but can’t see and the worry of what could be lurking in the bushes around you.

The shepherds in our study passage work in darkness, possibly only aided by the dim embers of a small fire. Their job is to guard sheep. Every sound would make them alert and nervous. When the angel of the Lord appears to the shepherds, they are terrified as they are surrounded by the brightness of God’s glory.

The photo shows a bare lightbulb with an orange glow hanging in front of a plain grey background.

Luke 2:14

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.

Read the passage

Into the darkness and fear experienced by the shepherds, the angel speaks words of comfort and reassurance: ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people’ (v10).

The angel’s message is restated in the words of the well-known carol ‘While Shepherds Watched’: ‘Fear not! said he; for mighty dread/ Had seized their troubled mind;/ Glad tidings of great joy I bring/ To you and all mankind’ (SASB 132).

Having told the shepherds not to be afraid, the angel gives them the good news: ‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord’ (v11). Then, after the proclamation, the company of angels grows in number. They praise God and say: ‘Glory to God in the highest Heaven, and on Earth peace to those on whom his favour rests’ (v14).

Pause and reflect

  • Can you think of a time when God has spoken to you through another person, bringing encouragement and assurance?

Today, there are many people who feel they live in deep, continuous darkness. That darkness might be caused by any number of things, such as health challenges, family issues, financial difficulties or personal conflicts. This list is by no means comprehensive. For everyone experiencing difficult challenges, life can easily become overwhelming and dark.

Pause and reflect

  • What other difficult issues are people facing today?
  • How might they rob someone of their wellbeing and contentment?
  • Take a moment to pray for those known to you who are facing difficult issues this Christmas.

The angels’ song provides hope to ordinary people living in darkness. When they hear it, the shepherds respond immediately and rush off to find Jesus: ‘So they hurried off and they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby’ (v16). They are among the first visitors to set eyes on Jesus. Their fears are quickly transformed to joy. They are so excited to discover the child and just have to share the news.

In his song ‘Wonderful Counsellor’, Chick Yuill highlights the identity of the baby the shepherds hurry to see and the hope he brings:

Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God among us;

Everlasting Father, Prince who rules in peace.

To us a child is born, to us a Son is giv’n.

To those who walk in darkness the light has come.


For God so loved the world, he gave his only Son;

No more we walk in darkness, the light has come

(SASB 133).

Pause and reflect

  • Take a moment to remember again that God still comes into our world, bringing encouragement and love.
  • In what ways does God bring love and encouragement to you today?

Through Jesus, God still shines his light on the world. This Advent season as we consider the coming of the Saviour of the world, may God shine his light brightly on us. May we receive and believe the angel’s message and meet Jesus, who brings hope into our lives and dispels the darkness of our world.

Bible study by

Lieut-Colonel Ann Hawkins

Lieut-Colonel Ann Hawkins

Curriculum Development Officer, The Salvation Army Leaders’ Training College of Africa and Resource Centre

Let's pray

Lord, thank you that the song the angels sang is a living reality to us. We glorify you and praise you, along with the shepherds, because we know you are our Saviour. Inspire us to witness to others about this glorious truth.


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