The Message of Christmas (Luke 2:8-20)



2011-12-25 The Message of Christmas (Luke 2:8-20)

Let’s Go See, Let’s Go Tell!

(ESV Lk. 2:8-20) And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13  And 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!” 15  When 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.” 16  And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17  And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18  And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 The Parable of the Unimportant Workers:

 A man was sent to deliver a message to some unimportant workers who lived in a small, unimportant region of an unimportant country. The man said that a baby, recently born nearby to an unimportant family visiting an unimportant town on some unimportant government business, was someday going to kick out the mean dictator that currently ruled their country and make it a peaceful place to live again. In fact, the baby was going become a loving and protective king who would kick out every mean dictator and set up peaceful governments in every nation in the world.

 

The man said to the unimportant workers, “You’ll know which baby I’m talking about because he’ll be wrapped in rags and sleeping in an animal feeding trough.”

 

But right after the man said that, a bunch of other people standing nearby erupted in enthusiastic applause and cheering. Well, that got the unimportant workers’ attention, so they talked it over and decided to go see what everyone was cheering about.

 

You know what? They found the unimportant family in the unimportant town and just like the man said, the baby was wrapped in rags and sleeping in a feeding trough! The unimportant workers were impressed! So they told the unimportant parents what the man said about their baby, and because everything the man told them proved to be  true, they told everyone they knew what they had seen and heard that night.

 

However, they got different reactions to their story. Some people were impressed at first, but quickly lost interest. The mother of the baby, though, she thought about what they told her for a long time, trying to understand it what it all meant. And that night on their way back to the job site – the unimportant workers – the more they thought about what the man said, well, they became so excited they broke out in applause and cheering just like those other people had done earlier.

 

Maybe you can relate to the unimportant workers in that parable. When asked in a survey which of the characters in the story of the nativity people could most relate to, over a third said they could best relate to the shepherds. They’re working people, just doing their job, unimportant in the world’s eyes, but important in God’s eyes. They were the first people outside the immediate family to receive the news of Jesus’ birth.

 

The purpose of this passage is to teach us the various ways people respond to the Good News of Christ and to show us appropriate ways to respond.

 

So we’ll look at four aspects of the story:

 

  1. The messenger
  2. The message
  3. The recipients
  4. The response

 

In the original story, God’s agent – the angel – is the messenger, he is announcing that God’s plan to bring peace to his people is moving forward toward fulfillment.

 

First, let’s look at

  1. The messenger

 

  • V 9 calls him “An angel of the Lord,” presumably Gabriel again, delivering yet another message about the birth of Jesus
  • This time, however, it is after the fact – the baby had already been born. He was about to tell the first people on earth that the promised child had been born.
  • As before, he is accompanied by the glory of the Lord which caused the first recipients – the shepherds – to be fearful
  • But the angel reassures them as he has the others and proceeds to deliver his message

 

 

 

Since we’re familiar with Gabriel from other passages, let’s move on to

 

  1. The message is a further expansion of Isaiah’s message in chs 40-66 of the coming of God to bring peace to his people.

 

  • The message is Good news. The word used is euangelizo: which means – to bring good news, to preach good news, found repeatedly in Isaiah 40-66.
    • Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
    • Isa 40:9-10 “Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; …”Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”
    • The Good news is about Yahweh’s eventual, ultimate deliverance of his people. God is coming himself to bring peace to his people.

 

The message is not only Good news

 

  • The message is For all people. He tells them that this good news is no longer restricted only to the Jews, but now it for “for all people.” The OT writers hinted at it but the NT writers made it plain.
    • Romans 15:12 interprets Is 11:10 to include the Gentiles. “And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” ((Isaiah 11:10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples–of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.))
    • Luke 2:32 interprets Isaiah 9:2 to include the Gentiles, “…A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” ((Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. ))
    • The message is for all people – Jew and Gentile alike.

 

The message is not only Good news and for all people,

 

  • The message is about the birth of a child
    • The child Is Born. V11 “for unto you is born this day.” The child of Isaiah 9:6, has arrived on the scene. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”   He is no longer merely promised, he has arrived!
    • The child Is a Descendent of David. V 11 “in the city of David.” He is the promised descendent of David of  Isa 9:7, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
    • The child Is Savior and Lord. V 11, “a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” Yahweh’s Lordship is being assumed by the child. In the OT, Yahweh is Lord and Savior –
      • Isaiah 43:3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior
      • Isaiah 43:11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no
      • But now the child is Savior and Lord
    • The child is a Sign that God had graciously begun anew to embrace his people through this child. The sign of the child presents a paradox, an oxymoron. Though he’s Lord, he’s born in a stable. God’s kingdom is very different from earthly kingdoms. The first are last, the weak are strong, etc. Things are not as they appear to human eyes.

 

 

We’ve looked at the messenger and the message, now let’s look at

 

  1. The recipients and their response
    1. The angelic hostimmediate and appropriate:
      1. glorified God in such a way as to model the appropriate response and to invite others to join them.
      2. Vv 13-14 “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
    2. The shepherdsdelayed, but appropriate; in three ways,
      1. verified the message with their eyes; by going to see that which they had been told;
        1. vv 15-16 “When 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.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”
        2. Their response was delayed because they took time to verify that the message was true.

 

  1. testified to what they had seen and heard;
    1. V 17 “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.”
    2. They were the first human evangelists. They published the message about the child with their own voices just as the angel had done

 

  • glorified and praised God
    1. just as the angels had done earlier as they returned to their work in the fields
    2. V 20 “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

 

We’ve looked at the response of the angelic host and the shepherds, now let’s look at the people to whom the shepherds passed on the message. They passed on what they heard to Mary and what they had seen and heard to what I’ll call the undifferentiated crowd

 

  1. The undifferentiated crowddoubtful and inappropriate; didn’t take it to the next step
    1. V 17 says the shepherds “made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.”
    2. V 18 “And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.”
  • Other versions say were amazed.
  1. But so were those who later heard Jesus’ teaching or witnessed miracles yet did not believe.
    1. Luk 4:22 And all speaking well of Him, wondering at gracious words falling from His lips; saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
    2. Indicates doubt rather than faith; they were amazed but doubted the message; they did not, like the shepherds, go see they child, tell others or they glorify God.

 

  1. But Marythoughtful, appropriate
    1. V 19 “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
    2. The “BUT” indicates that Mary’s response was different than the crowd. They didn’t give it another thought, but she treasured these things pondering them in her heart.

 

 

  1. How about You and me? What is our response to the message of the child? What is the proper response?

 

  • Heavenly host – immediately glorified God
  • Shepherds – delayed to verify message, but then testified to what they say, glorifed God
  • Mary – pondered the deeper meaning of what she had heard and seen
  • Crowd – merely amazed, did not believe

 

You have heard the message. Does it bring you immediately to praise and glorify God like the angels or to think deeply on its meaning like Mary or does it cause you to want to verify the message, to check it out to see if it’s true. I hope that you will. Don’t be like the man in this next story.

 

I DIDN’T GO AND SEE

There is a story about a shepherd who was a youth on that first Christmas night. And now he is old and as his grandson sits on his knee he recalls that night, “A long, long time ago, when I was a little more than a boy, I was out on the Judean hills one night with some other shepherds, keeping watch over the flock. And an angel of the Lord came upon us and the glory of the Lord shone roundabout us. And we were very afraid. But the angel said, “fear not… for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord… you shall find the baby in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

When he had said this the old man’s lips quivered and ceased to move and there was silence. Then the grandson turns and looks with wide, puzzled eyes into his grandfathers face and says, ” But, grandfather is that all? What did you do when you heard the good news? Was what the angel said really true? Was the Christ child ever really born?”

The old shepherd sadly shakes his white head and answers, ” I never knew. I never went to see. Some say that it is all a myth. Others say they found in Him the light of God and the power for life. But for me I could never be quite sure. Because I never did go to see.”

Contributed By: Darren Ethier

 

I pray that if you’re unsure about what you’ve heard today you’ll pursue it, you’ll check out the story – you’ll read further in the Bible, you’ll talk to others who have experienced the grace of God. You’ll continue to attend worship to learn what it’s all about. You’ll ponder it all in your heart as Mary did to understand what it means for you.

 

Others of you have pondered the message deeply, you have believed the message. I urge you to take the next step as the shepherds did to share with others what you have seen and heard and experienced. Let’s follow the example of the lowly shepherds … who “made known the saying that had been told them concerning [the] child” with the assurance of Jesus’ words when he commissioned the eleven to “go therefore” at his ascension. He said, “All authority is given to me in heaven and earth…I am with you always even to the end of the age.” He guarantees that we will not fail. Some will not believe as we saw in this story, but others will believe and glorify God because of your testimony

 

Listen finally to the following legend.

After Jesus had resurrected and ascended to heaven, the angels welcomed Him with great honor and gathered around Him. They had all kind of questions about his death, resurrection and ascension.
‘What was it all about?’ they asked him.
‘The salvation of the world,’ he answered them.
‘But now you have returned here. How will the world hear about it?’
‘I trained my people.’
‘To evangelize the entire world?’
‘Yes, every corner of the world’.
‘How many people did you train for such a gigantic task?’
‘Some twelve people.’
‘Twelve people? But what if they fail?’
‘If they fail, I don’t have other plans.’
‘But is that no risk?’
‘No. They will not fail.’

 

 

 

 

 

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