Text: Luke 2:8-14
On the Judean hillsides the shepherds who were tending to their flocks saw a sight they would never forget as long as they lived. It was so spectacular and moving that they glorified and praised God for the things they saw (Lk. 2:20). When God comes to us in whatever way He chooses to do so, our lives are impacted and changed forever.
It is interesting that the "shepherds were given the first announcement of the Savior." Because of their occupation of being shepherds, the sons of Jacob were not allowed to dwell near the Egyptians in Egypt, for shepherds were considered as unclean (Gen. 46:34).
In fact, in the time setting of those shepherds being in the field and hearing the startling announcement of the angels about Christ, shepherds were considered on the lowest rung of the social ladder. Because of what they did, their work kept them away from the temple and the synagogue. In addition to that, it rendered them ceremonially unclean.
Oh, what a God of grace we serve! When the Lord gave the announcement of the birth of our Savior, he came to a shepherds field, to a group of lowly shepherds, to tell them that the Savior would be born in the city of David, which is Bethlehem. Religion would not have done it the way God did, but to those ceremonially unclean men, the Lord announced the birth of the Christ child. The shepherds may not have deserved that visitation of God, but neither do we when God comes to us to reveal something about Himself.
Lets take this very familiar part of the Christmas story and glean some things from it that I trust will help make Christmas an especially wonderful time of the year for each one of us gathered here today.
I. Busy Shepherds (v.8)
The Bible says they were, "Keeping watch over their flocks by night"(Lk. 2:8). Most other folks were sleeping, but their was always a faithful shepherd taking care of the sheep and driving back the predators that would overtake the flock if not resisted.
Since society felt the way they did about the ceremonial cleanliness of shepherds, the shepherds must have been startled and surprised that God would send an angelic host to inform them of the birth of Christ. They could not hardly believe their eyes: this was actually happening to them! They were amazed that God would come to them.
In Luke 10:21the Bible tells us, " In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight." The appearance to the shepherds reveals the truth of this verse.
Never cease to be amazed that God would come to you in salvation and let you know that His Son, the Lord Jesus, is the only Savior, in which man can rightfully trust.
Bethlehem was a place of beautiful pastures. It was there that David shepherded his fathers sheep (1 Sam. 17:15).
Many scholars believe that Christ was born in the night for many reasons. Note the angelic appearance to announce His miraculous birth was at night. The Jews had a tradition that said Christ will come in the middle of the night, like the observance of the Passover in Egypt.
I am going to give you some things the shepherd does in regard to his sheep:
A. He Feeds His Sheep
He leads the sheep into green pastures, where there is plenty of food and water to be found. He felt a sense of responsibility to care for his flock.
B. He Folds His Sheep
He would bring them in close, especially at night, so the predators would not kill the sheep under the cover of darkness.
A good shepherd would give his life trying to defend his sheep from other animals who would kill them if possible.
One reason there were several shepherds with a flock, was so at night, one could stand watch to protect the sheep from harm and danger. There were actually four watches : even, midnight, cockcrowing, and morning. While some kept their watch, other shepherds would sleep in the tents, getting rest for the day ahead.
C. He Finds His Sheep
If a sheep wanders astray, the good shepherd would leave the ninety and nine, and go search for that lost one. Sheep tender to wander and get easily lost. That is why they must have a shepherd.
There are other things the shepherds did, but these I have mentioned seem to be the three main ones.
It is evident that these shepherds were on the job, doing what they should do, faithfully serving the sheep and their owner.
By the way, one of the days, Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the Sheep, is coming the second time for His church, so lets be found busy doing what we should be doing when He comes again. Lets not be ashamed at His coming.
We should faithfully serve the Lord.
At a railroad station a man had a job to sit, opening and closing a gate when signaled to do so. Someone complained and criticized him for shutting the gate when he did. When asked how he could work there when there was all that criticism, he answered, "See that man up there? When he signals for me to shut the gate, I shut it regardless of what others say, because he is the one I work for and who gives me my pay."
We should faithfully serve the Lord unceasingly and unflinching from day to day. No one should have to ask of you, "Is he or she still serving the Lord?" You should be so faithful that one can assume you will be serving the Lord.
II. Beautiful Sight "glory of the Lord shone round about them"(v.9)
On the 4th of July many of us go where there is a fireworks display given. It is so beautiful when the multi-color rays of light burst forth from a central place. The only problem is that they do not last very long. Also they give out a very brillant but short lived light.
What these shepherds saw in the field outside of Bethlehem far excelled any fireworks display you have ever seen. There was so much glory (or brightness), that great fear came over all of the shepherds who were abiding in the field that night. The darkness of the night was overtaken and dispelled in the brilliant light of the glory of God!
How would you have responded if you had been present that night in the shepherds field? How would you have reacted to the wondrous sight?
"The glory" verified the truthfulness and authenticity of the message they were about to hear. This was no magic trick, it was a display of divine glory.
A. The Glory At Sinai
Ex.24:16 tells us the glory cloud covered Sinai for six days. Out of that glory came the voice of God and the writing of the ten commandments.
B. The Glory In The Tabernacle
Exodus 40:34 tells about- "A cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle."
C. The Glory In The Temple
1 Kings 8:11 says, "So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD."
D. The Glory On The Mt. Of Transfiguration
Matthew 17:5 says, "While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him."
E. The Glory Around The Virgin
In Lk. 1:35 the power of the highest "overshadowed" the virgin Mary. To "overshadow" means to envelope in a haze of brilliancy. Out of that brightness came Jesus.
F. The Glory In The Field
Luke 2:8-14 teaches us that the most insignificant, looked down upon, and despised of man, can experience the wonders of the grace of God and glory of God. Thank God He came to me. When I could not go, to where He was, He came to me. That is shouting ground for the saints!
Think about it a moment! The saints will be able to enjoy that glory and brightness forever and ever, worlds without end. Christ is the light of the eternal city of God. That is why there is no need of the sun, the moon, or the stars, for He is the light. If we had no moon or sun, it would be completely and totally dark in the day and in the night.
III. Blessed Statements-
Two main things are said by the angel, maybe Gabriel, the announcing angel, that night on the Judean hills. Those same words have special significance for us today in our modern day. They have relevance for us today in the modern space and computer age.
A. Good Word- "fear not"(v.10a)
1. The reason for their fear
If all the sudden the sky lit up at night and an angel came speaking to you, would you not be afraid? If that were Some today they would go around saying an alien from another planet had come getting ready to invade planet earth.
Sometimes fears are justified..
Something happened years ago in Spain. A truck was rolling along carrying a empty coffin. A farmer who was hitch-hiking thumbed a ride. He was bouncing along in the open bed of the truck, when it began to rain. There was a coffin beside him . He looked inside and found it empty. He crawled inside the coffin to keep dry. While inside, he fell asleep.
Further on, two other hitch-hikers got on the truck. They were going along at a lively pace when the farmer inside pushed open the coffin lid, stuck his head out, and began to look at the two hitch-hikers. In a few moments he spoke up and said to them, "Oh, I see it has stopped raining." The two other men in the truck bed were so scared and frightened they leaped from the speeding truck and one was killed. Their fears on the surface were justifed.
On the other hand many of our fears are not justified.
I think of the old man who was afraid to go to sleep at night because he feared that his neighbors rooster might crow, wake him up; he felt he could not go back to sleep if that happened.
I read of a Japanese soldier who lived in a cave on the island of Guam. He went there in 1944 when the tides of war began to change. For twenty eight years, he stayed hidden, for fear of his life. He would come out of the cave only at night. During that time, he lived on frogs, rats, snails, shrimp, nuts, and mangoes. He had carried a pair of trousers and a jacket from a burlap cloth made from tree bark. He knew that the war was over because of the leaflets that were scatted throughout the jungles of Guam. But, he was afraid that if he came out of hiding, he would be executed. Finally, two hunters came upon him and told him that he need not hide any longer. At last, he was free; he was given new clothes to wear and food to eat and was flow to his home by airplane. His fear was unjustified because the war was over.
We have a loving Heavenly Father who cares about us; thus, we should not fear about our lives. See Matt.6 where Jesus commands His disciples not to worry. In Matthew 6:31 Jesus said, "Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?"
Jesus gave them a promise that should have relieved their fears if they practiced it: ( Matthew 6:33)-- " But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." God is saying, "I will take care of you. You see to My business and I will see to yours."
2. The release from their fear
When the Lord tells us to fear not, that means that He will give us adequate resources and strength to keep us from doing that which displeases Him.
If I were to summarize the Christmas message and could not use the name of Christ in any way, I believe for Gods people it would be the words, "Fear Not," since Jesus has come.
To live in fear is like living in a prison. That prison is far worse than being in a maximum security prison. A persons intellect, emotion, and will is all affected by the monster of fear.
Some of you may be afraid today, but Jesus says, "Fear not."
**Because the Lord is competent
**Because the Lord is caring
**Because the Lord is controlling
You do not have to allow fear and frustration to rule your life. There is One who can "untie" our knots of fear.
I found the some of the old Boatswain Mates in the Navy could tie some knots that were pretty tough to untie. There is no knot that Jesus cannot untie through His mighty power.
This world is filled with so much gloom. All around us we hear bad news event after event and wonder if it will ever end. Most of the time to make the news, you must have something bad or negative to build on for the story.
"Joy" can be ours because Jesus is come. It is a great joy, an everlasting joy, a holy joy, a wonderful joy, a hope-sustaining joy, a divine joy, and a glorious joy that we possess as Christians.
The Bible says, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." Notice the message is "UNTO YOU." The message of Christmas is a very PERSONAL MESSAGE. The divine messenger wanted the shepherds to know that Jesus came for them personally.
It is good to know that Jesus came for others, but it moves your heart when you think, " He came because He loved me."
Busy shepherds- beautiful sight- blessed statements
IV. Babe-Centered Sign v.12
"And this shall be a sign unto you, ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." The sign itself was not a miracle, but the prediction of it was. How did the angelic being know that Christ would be in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes? Because he was a messenger of God. They went and found what the angel said was so!
The shepherds would recognize Christ because He would be wrapped in "swaddling clothes." The swaddling clothes were somewhat like the bandages that we put around a dead body. That was unusual to see a baby wrapped in those kind of garments. It means "to wrap in strips."
How would they know which was the Savior? He would be wrapped in "swaddling clothes" and "lying in a manger." Why would a babe have on grave clothes or wrappings? It testifies why Jesus came down to this sin cursed earth, to die for sinners.
That is why the angelic messenger said, "For unto YOU is born this day...."
John 3:16 is the reason--"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Jesus was born to die. Not just to die, but as the God-man to die for the sins of every sinner who would ever be born.
Thank God He camewas born, lived, died, arose, and ascended to the Father to be our Faithful High Priest.
V. Burst of Speech
There suddenly is a host with the angel who in unison said with a loud voice, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace good will toward men."
A. Praise to God (v.14a)
It is proper to give glory to God for anything good.
It was good that Christ was willing to come to this world to become our sin substitute.
If angelic creatures praise and give glory to God, how much more should we who were lost but are not saved by the grace of God? I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.
The story of Christmas should motivate us to rejoice that God would care enough for us to give us the greatest gift of all the gift of His Darling Son.
Christmas would be a good time to start praise God or to "catch up" on our praise toward the Lord.
B. Peace to Men (v.14b)
In Isaiah 9:6 Jesus is called the "Prince of Peace."
Peace is available through Christ and through Christ only (Eph.2:14). There is not other way to find true and lasting peace.
There are two main kinds of peace:
1. Peace With God
Romans 5:1 declares, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
That happens the moment we are saved. The barrier is broken down created by sin, and the war is over. We were at enmity with God, but the moment we are saved we have peace with God. Nothing can ever undo that relationship that is established. It is permanent and forever.
2. Peace Of God
It comes as we do the will of God in our daily lives and deny sin and the flesh through Gods power.
Philippians 4:9 states: "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."
This kind of peace comes through obedience and can be lost.
One day Jesus will bring peace to this earth and will rule with a "rod of iron" in the future earthly millennial reign of Christ.
Lets praise God this day, and every day, that Christ is born. Is He yours today? Can you say I am His and He is mine? Have you received eternal life in the Son? If so you have life, if not you stand condemned and need the Lord.