8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11)
We may have known kids that were live wires or extraordinary in some way, children that made us wonder and anticipate the mark they would make on the world. And some of you who are older may have had the experience of finding these hopes and expectations were not realized. Or we may see kids with troubled childhoods or teenage years who eventually made good in a way far beyond our expectations. (I know of at least one of the girls from my home ward growing up who had a rather rebellious teenage time, but who straightened up later. I was startled to hear she had a career, got married, had kids, and was made a Relief Society president.)
So with that in mind, if we were the shepherds in the Christmas story, what meaning might we assign to this angel announcement that this particular child born in Bethlehem is a Savior, the Messiah, the Christ, the Annointed One? And too, this child is pointed out to our notice before he is even old enough to know there is anything to be saved from.
It is really going to depend on our faith. (Remember, without faith, Laman and Lemuel dismissed the words of an angel to them, and they went right back into their fear of Laban and reluctance to get the plates.) Without faith, the shepherds might have eventually dismissed the child as just another child, one for whom others had high hopes, but who wasn’t going to live up to them. Such a child could be safely ignored because he would be swallowed up by the anonymity of history and never be heard of again.
Ah! But with faith, once the Savior has been pointed out to you, you would keep a very careful eye on that child and watch with wonder and great anticipation. Any time you hear of something neat that child has done, you hug yourself and do a little happy dance and elbow your believing neighbors and have little excited conversations with them because you just know he is going to bring salvation and you can’t wait to see it!
But of course, it also depends on what kind of salvation you expect from this Savior. If you’re expecting a military salvation immediately, you might start to be disappointed if the child doesn’t show any signs of fighting prowess or an affinity for military strategy. But if you’re looking for salvation from sin, then signs of goodness and long-suffering and kindness in him and extraordinary changes of character in those around him are going to be very encouraging.
I think the heavenly announcement of the Savior’s identity so early in His life gave faithful people both a test of their faith that would have the eventual reward during Jesus’ ministry if they could believe in Him to salvation from their sins.
For us in the church today, we still have much to look forward to. We’ve had the benefit of 185 years of Restored-church history and revelations showing us that Christ is very much involved in preparing the world for His return in glory. But of course, our faith and our expectations will determine how we interpret those things, whether we fight it because we thought it was supposed to be different, or whether we dismiss it out of hand, or whether we see its divine origin and guidance and rejoice with every sign of progress.