Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Thursday, December 25, 2014
The Shepherds - Christmas Morning - December 25, 2014 - Text: Luke 2:8-20
Our text is Luke 2:8-20: 8And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. This is our text.
This year our Advent through Christmas and New Year’s Eve theme has taken us from the promise of a Messiah to its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. We began three weeks ago hearing some of the promises or prophecies and we heard how those promises and prophecies had their fulfillment according to God’s perfect timing. Two weeks ago we revisited some of the timing issues that have been in the Nativity Tradition for so many years. Last week we took some time to scrutinize some of the extra Biblical people and items that have been in our Christmas Nativity Tradition to see if our tradition really does follow the Bible. Our purpose is to make sure we get it right so that when we tell others of these historic events they will not come back later and say, hey, you mixed up some stuff or added some stuff in and thus will not believe anything we say. Last night, Christmas Eve evening, we looked at the issue of time and God’s perfect timing. This morning as we celebrate the birth of the Christ, we will do so with the shepherds, those few who were the first to hear the good news of the birth of the Christ. Again we will look at this account correcting those traditions that have been skewed by human sentiment.
The account of the shepherds begins with setting the shepherds “out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” The shepherds were doing what shepherds do, tending their sheep. As for these sheep, it has been suggested by some that these might possibly be some of the sheep that were used for sacrifices in the temple, which would add some bit of importance, if you will, I guess, to these sheep and shepherds as if we need to add to their importance for God to choose them to be the first to hear of the news of the new born Christ. Perhaps we might better understand the grace of God if we were to think of them as no more important than we and yet, out of His great love for them, God chose these shepherds to be the first to hear of the new born Christ.
Again, these shepherds were out in the field, tending their sheep and it was night time. The sheep had all been gathered and counted. The sheep and the shepherds may have been getting ready to go to sleep or they may have already been asleep when the angel of the Lord appeared to them. The angel appeared to them and announced the birth of the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior. The angels announced that this was the Christ and that He was born from the line of King David, which makes sense since they were guarding sheep just outside of Bethlehem, the city of David, which was also announced by the angels that is that the Savior was born in Bethlehem.
One question we might have right off is why this angel host here in Bethlehem, except possibly to make this announcement and speak these words of praise and notice we are not told that they sang, but that they spoke these words. We are told that this was an angel host, that is a host which is in reference to an army of angel. This army of angels was in Bethlehem at the birth of the Christ child because they were there to protect the baby, God in flesh. Certainly, just as we heard about Herod killing all the babies to protect his throne, Satan’s knowledge of the birth of God in flesh would enrage him enough to send his evil minions to attempt to kill God in flesh, if he could.
And the shepherds were there to witness the birth of the Christ, the Messiah so that they may then be able to tell others of what they had seen and heard. Luke tells us that those who heard about these events, presumably from the shepherds, wondered about what they had heard. We can only image the lives of these shepherds as they spoke with others, and especially with other shepherds from time to time, telling them of these wonderful events.
A second question we might ask is “Why were the shepherds chosen to be the first to hear the good news of the birth of the Messiah?” We know that Jesus often spoke of sheep and shepherds. We also know that He often spoke of Himself as the Good Shepherd. Jesus knew and understood the close relationship of a shepherd and his sheep, that is that each shepherd knew his sheep by name and each sheep knew its shepherd even the very voice of its shepherd so that the sheep would not respond to the voice of one who was not its shepherd.
Jesus also knew that sheep tend to stray and in the same way He knows that we tend to stray. We do not always live as the people He would have us to be, we sin and we sin boldly. We sin in thought, word and deed. We sin sins of omission and commission. We stray and we need a shepherd who will keep us on the straight and narrow.
Jesus came to shepherd us, to care for us and tend to our greatest need, forgiveness of sins which is why He is the Good Shepherd. We are conceived and born in sin and our greatest need if forgiveness of sins. Jesus came to earn forgiveness for us, to pay the price for our sins. Just as a shepherd would risk his life for his sheep, so Jesus gave His life for us.
What does this mean? Jesus is true God in human flesh. As a newborn baby certainly according to His human nature He needed the protection of the host of angels. Thus, not only did the host of angels announce His birth to the shepherds, they also were their to protect the newborn Christ.
Although He is the King of Kings, Jesus did not come as a king to rule this earth. His Kingdom is not of this world but is the eternal kingdom of heaven. Jesus came as our prophet and priest to proclaim the message of salvation, and as priest to offer Himself for us on the cross. Thus, Jesus was born lowly in a manger and yet, His birth was announced so that all people from the lowest to the greatest might know that He was born and that He would save the world.
Finally, Jesus did what no one else could do. He fulfilled all of the promises of Holy Scripture proving Himself to be the Christ. He obeyed all God’s laws and commands perfectly for us in our place. He lived perfectly for us because we can not. He took our sins upon Himself in order to pay the price for our sins. Yes, this is Christmas and we are celebrating the birth of our Christ, but His birth would mean nothing if He had not completed and accomplished the purpose for His birth, to shed His blood, to give His life for us in our place on the cross.
Today we celebrate the beginning of the end. Indeed, Jesus’ birth ushered in the end times. We are living in the last days of this world. Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection as well as His ascension ushered in the last days. Every day we live brings us one day closer to His return and the ushering in of His eternal kingdom in heaven, a day we so eagerly look forward to. And while we wait, we rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.