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The Bethlehem Shepherds’ Message of Hope for America This Christmas

Posted on Saturday, December 23, 2023
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AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis

Border of Christian Nativity scene on blue background. Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, Joseph, sheep, animals, star of Bethlehem.

It is an unfortunate truth this Christmas that, according to public polling, more Americans than ever before, and in particular young people, feel lonely, spiritually lost, and searching for meaning in a chaotic world. But the story of Christ’s birth and the angel of the Lord’s appearance to a group of shepherds is a reminder of where authentic hope and direction can always be found.

We don’t know much about the shepherds who occupy a central place in the Bible’s account of the birth of Jesus. The Book of Luke tells us that they were the first who heard the good news that “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” They then came “with haste” to see Mary, Joseph, and Jesus before spreading word all around about what they had seen.

Dr. Richard Longenecker, an eminent Christian scholar and New Testament expert, has said that these shepherds were probably young men in their early 20s. “The younger shepherds usually took night shifts that required fewer farming skills but physical defense against possible threats,” he explained.

Moreover, we know from historical records that shepherds were far from the top of the social ladder – it was a humble occupation often reserved for those with no better prospects. The first people other than Mary and Joseph to see Jesus were thus likely poor, dirty, and uneducated.

Yet God chooses these men, not renowned religious scholars, kings, or the most respected members of society, to be the first evangelists. In all of the Gospel, there is perhaps no more powerful example of how Christ’s message is for everyone, and that the hope He brings is freely available to all who seek it.

We can’t know what many of those shepherds were feeling that night before they were suddenly surrounded by a heavenly host of angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to all those on whom his favor rests.”

But we can certainly imagine that many of them likely felt depressed, anxious, and dejected about their station in life. It must have appeared that there was no hope left for them before the birth of the Messiah changed everything.

Survey after survey tells us that this is the same situation facing many Americans today.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, roughly half of Americans are experiencing loneliness. Gallup polling has also shown that 29 percent of Americans say they have experienced depression at some point in their lives, up from 19 percent in 2015.

Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau also shows that a full 49.9 percent of Americans aged 18-24 report symptoms of anxiety or depression, compared to 38 percent of those aged 25-49, 29.3 percent of those aged 50-64, and 20.1 percent of those 65 or older.

These numbers go hand-in-hand with a decline in religiosity and church attendance. Just 31 percent of Americans now regularly attend church, compared to 40 percent in 2012 and 44 percent in 2000. One-third of Gen Z now identifies as nonreligious, compared to 29 percent of Millennials, 22 percent of Gen X, and 18 percent of Boomers.

According to a survey and report released by the Barna Group earlier this year, “No generation endured greater spiritual turbulence than Generation Z during the pandemic.”

In the survey, young Americans admitted that they trusted God less than older generations, doubting that He was the creator of the human person and an omniscient and omnipotent ruler of the universe. Gen Z Americans also said they had less desire to go to church, they read the Bible less, and they confessed personal sins less than their parents and grandparents.

But despite these alarming trends, there is reason for optimism.

A Wall Street Journal story from April documents a “surprising surge of faith among young people,” noting, “About one-third of 18-to-25-year-olds say they believe—more than doubt—the existence of a higher power, up from about one-quarter in 2021.”

According to another Barna Group study published in February, there is “rising spiritual openness in America.” 77 percent of young Gen Z Americans believe in God or a higher power according to the study, with 88 percent believing that a supernatural dimension exists. 73 percent say they wish to grow spiritually.

Commenting on the results, Dr. David Kinnaman, Barna Group CEO, said that despite falling church attendance, “spiritual openness and curiosity are on the rise.” That desire to grow spiritually was visible in Gen Z especially, with American teenagers seeing in Jesus someone “who reminded them that one could live in a good and right way.”

“Teens remain refreshingly open to Jesus as an influence in their lives,” Kinnaman continued. “These young Americans in our study are open to different faiths, including Christianity, and they’re open to friends, causes, and ideas. We have an unprecedented opportunity to share our Christian faith with a world in need,” he concluded.

In Bethlehem, where lowly shepherds met the Messiah, their hope became vibrant, and they believed that their future would be brighter than ever before. The good news offered by the angels that night two thousand years ago still rings true today, and millions of Americans may now be ready to discover what the truth of the Gospel and the joy of Christ’s birth can offer for their lives as well.

Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, and researcher.

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anna hubert
anna hubert
5 months ago

Perhaps people are starting to understand that man does not live by bread only That all the material comfort and advanced technology are useless if the soul is starving

Cap'n Bob
Cap'n Bob
5 months ago

When the angels saw that God’s son was born to man miraculously,they knew that He would satiate God’s wrath toward sinful, disobedient men and take all of God’s future wrath, and All of mankind’s sin-past, present,and future. We really can’t comprehend this amazing and precious gift from God, we must just have Faith and accept it so God’s wrath will never fall on us, believers. That is why the Angels sang ‘ Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.’. So since the birth of Jesus God has not smitten anyone, but the Word doesn’t say ‘peace between man’, nor peace between mankind and Satan. In fact, Satan has doubled down because he knows his days are numbered. So take your peace with God by accepting Jesus as your savior and receive God’s Power over Satan and enjoy peace and a fulfilling relationship with God through Jesus. That is good tidings of Great Joy! Amen and Merry Christmas

Patroit52
Patroit52
5 months ago

I would pray that everyone and anyone that reads this will put aside any doubts or concerns. Look beyond yourself look to our Heavenly Father Trust and Believe that no matter what you are blessed. Always remember that if you do your part to confess your wrongs, believe and have faith that God will forgive you then everything will be fine. Stand up, reach out and be there for someone else. God will bless you and He will protect you.

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
5 months ago

Very good article Mr Solis – in the last paragraph you mentioned truth and joy – that is the very important idea the message of the teaching of Christ is all about. In terms of having faith, and of expressing faith there are at least a few ways of doing that, and sometimes they can combine ,sometimes they are separate – thinking about ceremony, symbolism and substance. The substance would be the belief, the feeling , the thoughts that are in our minds – the soul and spirit of life – ceremonies and symbolism have their place but the substance of faith is what is of most importance. Well done with writing this Ben , it is appreciated – the truth and joy found in the Christmas story ,in the story of the teaching of Christ ,this is the substance that faith provides .

Linda
Linda
5 months ago

Very good article and interesting indeed Thanks for sharing MERRY Christmas and HAPPY New Year to all

Kathleen Gebauer
Kathleen Gebauer
5 months ago

Thank you. I have never thought that deeply about the shepherds. Our Lord id our Good Shepherd. Praise be to God.

johnh
johnh
5 months ago

Trump went off the deep end with Christmas wishes this week & indicates that he is not a good Christian like he claims. Christmas is our Holy Day & not a day to wish that some people that you do not like “Rot in Hell”. Are you for all Americans or not?

Bernie
Bernie
5 months ago

I’m happy that Christ was born and was so for many who believe in Him to encounter everlasting life. Amen.

Adler Pfingsten
Adler Pfingsten
5 months ago

There will be an awakening like no other very soon given the God of Abraham/Sinai, Yeshua and 1776 has empirically evidenced existence with the Convergence Matrix; a message written across the tablet of time fusing the probabilities mathematics of wager Blaise Pascal with history and Judaic scripture as only the God of Abraham/Sinai, Yeshua and 1776 could do.
You can rest assured God will make His presence known in no uncertain terms in the near term future.. 

Carmen
Carmen
5 months ago

There’s still hope!!!

Glenn Riquito
Glenn Riquito
5 months ago

Yes, there is reason for optimism. And that sounds like good news to me.

Mark
Mark
5 months ago

Thanks for the reminder.

Carol
Carol
5 months ago

As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, our diocese has seen lots of young people, mostly young males, flocking to our churches looking for God! These young folks are hungry for the message Christ brought to everyone! It’s all happening since the pandemic. Wonderful !!!!

Cap'n Bob
Cap'n Bob
5 months ago

I love to hear about the shepherds who were most likely unlearned in the Torah,yet they were open to believing and hearing from God – (just as young people today)-Directly from one of His chosen angels. It also harkens back to Joseph And Mary’s and thus Jesus’ most famous earthly ancestors who was a lowly shepherd on the same hills and pastures as these chosen by God to come see Jesus. David, who was so lowly, his own father didn’t believe he was worthy of seeing the Kings priest Samuel,who God had sent to anoint the chosen King of the Jews who would replace Saul and whose descendants would occupy the throne of Israel forever. From one shepherd to being a King and now most likely sitting in God’s throne room in heaven saying to God, “couldn’t we invite some of the shepherds to see my eternal ancestors birth?” And of course God said, “why not, I chose a shepherd to be King and now my own son is going to be King.” God’s perfect plan is so wonderful almost too wonderful for me. Merry Christmas and thank God we live in the most wonderful nation in the world, All because of the blessings of God.

Steven Alton
Steven Alton
5 months ago

Gee,I think our younger Americans are finally waking up to the fact the Jesus Christ Is Our Savior and that he came to save humanity.And I know there will be a few sceptic’s. But Wish would have accepted when I was younger,Because I probably wouldn’t have have had the problems I had when I was young and some of them I still suffer from.

steve
steve
5 months ago

Some CC posts for everyone:

One Solitary Life – – “All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the kings that ever reigned, put together . . . ”
commoncts.blogspot.com/2023/12/one-solitary-life-all-armies-that-every.html

“That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown” – Linus explains the true meaning of Christmas commoncts.blogspot.com/2023/12/thats-what-christmas-is-all-about.html

malft
malft
5 months ago

Jesus Christ is our safety net. Retreat into his embrace and let him protect and guide you.

Mike Vandeman
Mike Vandeman
5 months ago

Fairy Tale. A huge waste of time.

crebl
crebl
5 months ago

Honestly the Bible should be renamed the book of lies.

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