Historically there was great anticipation for the birth of a royal baby.The entire kingdom would wait with bated breath: is the baby a boy or girl, is he healthy?After all this baby may be the next king or queen that will sovereignly govern over their lives.
Yet here we have the birth of the one who the Bible calls King of kings and Lord of lords and we don't really see any fanfare, or anxious expectations on the part of the citizens of his kingdom.As a matter of fact, nobody is aware or even cares that Mary is about to have a baby!In spite of the lack of fanfare on the part of the people of Bethlehem, the one being born there was the ultimate king.
Our text tells us the best news in the world, but two factors make it difficult for people to appreciate it.First, the Christmas story is perhaps the most widely known story in history.As a result, many people, even Christians, shrug it off as not being especially exciting or relevant to their lives.Second, many people do not realize what dire straits they are in regarding their standing before God and their eternal destiny.So when they read the familiar story that a Savior has been born in the city of Bethlehem, they yawn and say, "That's nice. What's for dinner?"Not seeing their desperate need for salvation, they fail to appreciate the fact that this story is the best news in all of history.
Consider five aspects of this good news:
I.The Good News about Christ the Savior Is Historically True.
A.So many legends, such as Santa Claus, have become intertwined with the Christmas story that people lump them all together and forget that the birth of Jesus Christ as reported in the Bible is true history.
B.Some may ask, "Who cares if it's history or not? The story about the virgin Mary, the Christ child, the angels, the wise men, the shepherds, and all that stuff is a heartwarming tale that children love to hear. It helps everyone focus on peace on earth for a few brief days every year. So what difference does it make if it's really true or not?"
1.It makes all the difference in the world.
2.If it's just a heartwarming legend, you can choose to believe or disbelieve it.
a.It's your option, based on how it makes you feel.
b.It's a completely subjective decision, binding on no one.
3.But if the story is actually happened as reported by Luke, then the birth of Jesus the Savior confronts every person with some objective facts that cannot be shrugged off as personal opinion.
a.The fact that these events happened as reported means that God exists and that he truly broke into human history in the birth of Jesus in fulfillment of many prophecies.
b.The fact that God actually sent a Savior implies that people without the Savior are alienated from God and desperately need to be reconciled with him through the forgiveness of their sins.
C.This means that the relationship between God and his people is not based on an inward experience inside their own heads, but upon a reality that was seen, heard, and authenticated by these witnesses.
1.It means that you don't just believe in Jesus because it makes you feel warm and happy inside, or because he helps you face life's problems or because you like the Christian traditions of worship.
2.It means that you believe the Christian message because it is true.
3.Even if it brings you persecution and death, you cling to it because it is better authenticated in history than even the fact that George Washington was the first president of the United States.
D.The good news about Christ the Savior is historically true.
II.The Good News about Christ the Savior Is Based on His Unique Person.
A.The angel states it plainly in verse 11: Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, is the "Savior, who is Christ [Messiah, "Anointed One"] the Lord."
B.Consider who this Savior is:
1.He is fully man.
a.He was born in the city of David, to descendants of David who were there to register for their taxes.
b.That sounds pretty human, doesn't it?
c.Contrary to the popular Christmas carol, this baby did cry!
d.There was no halo around his head.
e.What the shepherds saw was a wrinkled, red, newborn human baby.
f.Jesus the Savior assumed full humanity so that he might bear the sins of the human race.
2.He is fully God.
a.The angel told the shepherds that this one who had been born in Bethlehem was Christ the Lord.
b.We must interpret this title in light of its use in the Old Testament and in light of its context in Luke.
1)In the Old Testament, the Lord clearly is God, Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!
2)Luke uses the same word in 2:9, where is says that the angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.
3)He uses it in 2:23 to refer to "the law of the Lord" and "holy to the Lord."
4)If the word means something different in verse 11 than it does in verse 9 or verse 23, surely Luke would have clarified it.
c.The Savior had to be man to bear the sins of humans; but he also had to be God so that his sacrifice had merit before the holy throne of Almighty God.
d.These angels had seen the Son of God in his eternal glory – Isaiah 6 and John 12:41 – "These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him."
e.Before moving on from this term, Lord, we must note that it implies that Jesus has authority over every person, as well as over all angelic and demonic powers.
1)It is absurd for a person to say, "I've accepted Jesus as my Savior, but not as my Lord."
2)We can't divide him into neat categories to serve our selfish needs!
3)Jesus is both Savior and Lord, which means that submitting our entire life to him is not an option for us to consider adding to the salvation package at some later date.
4)It is demanded by virtue of whom he is, the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth!
3.This Savior is the Christ (or Messiah).
a.Messiah is the Hebrew and Christ is the Greek word for "Anointed One."
b.It refers to Jesus as the special Anointed King and Priest, who brings God's salvation to his people.
c.The title, Christ, especially focuses on the fact that Jesus is the One who fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies about the promised Savior.
4.Finally on this point, note that this one who was born is the Savior.
a.This implies that those he came to save are lost, alienated from God, under his just condemnation because of their sins.
b.What Jesus saves us from is the awful wrath of God.
c.The term also implies that we are helpless and can do nothing to save ourselves.
d.We need outside intervention if we are to be delivered from God's judgment.
e.Jesus alone provides salvation for sinners.
C.So this combination of terms, that this Jesus who was born is a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, attributes to Jesus the highest possible view of his person.
D.Any message that implies or states that Jesus is less than fully human, less than fully God, less than fully Lord, or less than fully the Savior from sin and judgment, is not the good news of the Bible.
E.The good news centers on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
III.The Good News about Christ the Savior Is for All People, but Especially the Common Person.
A.Have you ever considered why the story does not say, "Now there were in the same region scribes and Pharisees, keeping watch over their scrolls and religious rituals"? Or, "There were kings and princes keeping watch over their treasures at the palace."
B.God chose to reveal the birth of the Savior to simple shepherds who were going about their duties.
C.Why shepherds? God chose shepherds to show that:
1.The good news is for all people, not just for the elite.
1 Cor. 1:26-29 – For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
a.If the gospel were some complicated philosophy that required years of graduate study and a high I.Q. to grasp, then those who attained it would boast of their intelligence.
b.If the gospel required sums of money or high social standing to attain, there would be no hope for the poor and lowly.
c.But the beauty of the good news is that even an uneducated, illiterate tribal man in the jungle can understand that he is a sinner and the Jesus Christ is God's Savior, and by God's grace, he can believe and be saved.
2.The good news involved the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
a.It is likely that the very sheep these men were tending in the fields that night were being prepared for slaughter at the Passover in Jerusalem.
b.Thus it is symbolic that the shepherds who were watching the Passover lambs would be invited to Bethlehem to view the Lamb of God who would be slain for sinners.
c.In his perfect justice, God has declared that the wages of sin is death.
1)But in his love and mercy, God provided the very penalty his justice demanded.
2)The entire Jewish sacrificial system pointed ahead to Jesus Christ, the perfect sin-bearer, who offered himself as the acceptable substitute for sinners.
3)If you trust in him as your sin-bearer, God transfers your guilt to him and his perfect righteousness to you.
3.The good news provided us with a Good Shepherd.
a.God has always had a special place in his heart for shepherds.
1)Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were shepherds.
2)King David was called from tending the sheep to shepherd God's people.
b.David was a type of his promised descendant, who would reign on David's throne, who said of himself, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11).
c.He came to give his sheep abundant life (John 10:10-13).
D.So God revealed his Savior to these simple shepherds to show us that His good news is for common people.
IV.The Good News about Christ the Savior Brings Light, then Fear, then Joy.
A.The events that happened to those shepherds on that historic night were symbolic of what happens to every person who responds to the good news of Christ the Savior.
1.First, they were sitting in the darkness of the Judean night.
a.Coming immediately after Zacharias' prophecy that the Sunrise from on high would "shine upon those who sit in darkness" (1:79), the story of the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night is more than a coincidence.
b.It shows a fulfillment of God's promise.
c.Their sitting out in that black night is a picture of every human heart without the Savior.
d.We all sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
2.Then, suddenly, there was a great flash of light – an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them (the Shekinah).
a.This is an illustration of what happens to every person when the Holy Spirit illumines his or her darkened heart with the light of the Gospel.
b.Whereas before they were blind, now they see.
c.As Isaiah prophesied, "The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them" (Isa. 9:2).
3.It's easy to understand the shepherds' next response: they were terrified.
a.Sitting in darkness in a deserted place is enough by itself to make you a bit jittery.
1)They were watching their flocks because of the danger of robbers or wolves.
2)So they are sitting there, kind of on edge, but also fighting drowsiness, when suddenly the sky lights up like the noonday sun, and a being who had not been there seconds before was instantly standing before them, brilliant in his appearance.
b.It's much the same when the light of the gospel flashes upon our mind.
1)Sitting in the darkness of sin may have been a bit spooky, but it was tolerable.
2)But suddenly the glory of God's absolute holiness shines into your sin-blackened heart, and you realize, with Isaiah when he got a vision of God, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts" (Isa. 6:5).
4.Thankfully, God in his tender mercy does not leave us in that terrifying situation – Joy comes!
a.The angel immediately spoke words of comfort and joy, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of a great joy ..." (2:10).
b.With John Newton, we sing, "'Twas grace that caused my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed."
1 Pt. 1:6-9 – In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, beingmuch more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
B.The intensity and the sequence of these events will vary from person to person.
1.There is a sense in which as we grow in our walk with God, our awareness of the utter blackness of our hearts, the blinding intensity of the unapproachable light of God's presence, and the joy of knowing that our sins are forgiven, will continually increase.
2.They aren't all present in fully developed form at the moment of conversion.
3.But they will be present to some extent in the heart of every believer.
V.The Good News about Christ the Savior Requires a Personal Response.
A.The shepherds did not hear this great news and then sit around discussing it.
B.They didn't send a delegation to the rabbis in Jerusalem to get their view of things.
C.They didn't say, "We've always believed these things. After all, we're Jews, we know the Scriptures, that Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem. Thanks for telling us!"
D.Rather, they responded in several definite ways:
1.They responded with faith.
a.Although the text does not explicitly say that the shepherds responded by faith, it describes their response of faith.
b.They obviously believed the words of the angel or they would not have left their sheep and gone to Bethlehem to see for themselves what the Lord had revealed to them.
c.And, what did they see when they got to Bethlehem?
1)Did they see a kingly child arrayed in royal robes in a golden cradle with servants attending him?
2)Did he and his mother have halos over their heads?
3)Not quite! They saw a common couple from Nazareth in a primitive stable with a normal-looking newborn baby.
4)It wasn't exactly the way you would expect God to bring his Anointed Savior into this world.
5)But the shepherds viewed this baby with eyes of faith, in accordance with the word of God given through the angel.
d.When God reveals Christ to our soul, we must respond with eyes of faith.
1)Jesus may not be the kind of Savior we expected.
2)We might have had in mind a Savior who could give us everything we have always wanted.
3)Our thoughts about the Savior might not have included birth in a stable, let alone crucifixion on a cross.
4)But this Jesus is God's Savior and we must personally believe in him as revealed in the Bible.
2.They responded with proclamation, 2:10, 17.
a.The shepherds didn't stop to think about how people might respond.
b.Some might have said with raised eyebrows, "You saw a bunch of angels and then you went and saw carpenter and his wife with a baby in a feeding trough, and you think he's the Messiah, huh? Right!Lay off the eggnog!"
c.But that didn't stop these men from relating the story.
d.Once we have seen the Savior with eyes of faith, we cannot stop telling others the great news.
3.They responded with praise, 2:20
a.When God has taken us from the darkness of our sin and by his grace revealed his Savior to our soul, our heart will be filled with praise and joy.
Heb. 13:15 – Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
b.Those who have heard God's good news should respond with faith, with proclamation, and with praise.
4.They responded with endurance. "The shepherds went back ..." (2:20).
a.Went back where?
1)Went back to sign a book contract and to appear on Christian TV shows?
2)They went back to launch a ministry called "Shepherd's Vision," and they became famous throughout the land
3)No! They went back to their sheep.
b.That's kind of a letdown, isn't it?
1)After the great things that they saw, they went back to the routine job they had been in before.
2)They didn't set up tours of Bethlehem.
3)They didn't put on seminars on how to have visions of angels.
4)They went back to their jobs, but praising God for his abundant grace to them.
c.God doesn't call us to a spectacular, flashy, constantly exciting life.
d.He calls us to believe in the Savior, and then he sends us back into the routine to learn to rejoice in him and his great salvation day in and day out.
The news that Christ the Savior is born is great news, the greatest of news.We can't afford to be numb to it or forget it.John Newton, when he was 82 years old and was nearing his death, said,
"My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior."
If you know those two things personally, you know the best news in the whole world, that a Savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord!