LUKE 2: 8-22

How do you react when I tell you there are only ten more days until Christmas? I think I sense a rustle of excitement
among the youth and children—Christmas means a vacation from school and presents. Did I hear it right?
Among some mothers I hear a sigh of despair—only ten more days? She is thinking, “I will never get it all done!
There is no way to finish my shopping, take care of the things that require my attention, and be ready by
Did I hear a sign of despair from a Dad for a different reason? He is wondering how he will ever pay for all of it. He
knows that they have added too much to their credit card debt, and he wonders if they will ever get it paid.
But I sense something else from some senior and single adults. They have dread in their minds. From past years
they know that Christmas can be loneliest time of the year. It is no accident that incidents of illness and even
suicide go up at Christmas time. Loneliness is a terrible burden to bear.

But I thought Christmas was about joy! Do you have to be a child to experience joy and excitement at Christmas?
Maybe we need to revisit the Christmas story and hear again the Good News of Christmas. If we will listen to the
encounter between the heavenly messenger and the lowly shepherds that took place in the fields not far from
Bethlehem, we might just find joy for ourselves—regardless of our circumstances.
Let’s start at the beginning. On the same night Mary delivered her “Firstborn” in Bethlehem, some shepherds were
watching over their flocks not far away. It may have been on some of the same hills where David, the famous son
of Bethlehem, led the flocks of his father Jesse. The night was still all around them until it suddenly came alive with
a heavenly display. A heavenly being, an angel of God, suddenly appeared in their midst. He came with a message
from the Highest to the shepherds who represent the lowliest. They have come to share the Good News of
Christmas with these keepers of sheep.

1.        It comes ultimately from the heart of the Most High God.
The message of Christmas originates in the heart of the Most High God. The Most High God, the God of Abraham
and David, has sent His only Begotten Son to earth. The One born to Mary is none other than the only Son of the
Most High. He has come to be the Savior of the world. God wants the world of humankind to know what He is doing,
so He sends a message to some lowly shepherds.
You must not forget this fact: Christmas is about what God is doing. The Most High is invading the human scene on
a mission of grace and mercy. He wants the human family to know, so He sends an angel to deliver the message.
The brightness that accompanied the presence of the angel was nothing less than the presence of the Lord God,
the shining forth of His glory.
2.        It is delivered by a heavenly messenger.
While angels are familiar with the geography of earth, and evidently spend a good bit of their time on earth, they
do not deliver messages to mortals every day. God ordinarily communicates with humans through less impressive
means. But when God has a Big Message with Supreme importance, He usually sends an angel.
The shepherds knew that much about the ways of God. Frankly, when the angel first appeared, it scared them.
They were terrified at the appearance of this messenger from God. They knew that angels could bear bad news as
well as good news. They also knew that such angels were not sent to deliver words of trivia. If an angel made the
announcement, then it must be a matter of great importance.
Do you understand? This Good News came to earth from highest heaven by the highest type of messenger
available to the Sovereign Lord of history.
3.        It comes to the lowliest of humankind.
To the lowliest? Yes! We have romanticized shepherds, especially because of the twenty-third Psalm and Jesus
calling Himself the Good Shepherd, but they were actually at the bottom of the social ladder in the days of Jesus.
There were not usually welcome in polite society. They had such a reputation that you locked everything up where
it would be safe if there were shepherds nearby. They had been known to steal and worse.
Spiritually they were considered unclean. Their vocation kept them from living up the rules that the rabbis had
established for the faithful in that day. They could not maintain the level of ceremonial participation that was
expected from the righteous. So they were labeled “sinners” by those in the “know”.
Is this not interesting? The Good News is not delivered to holy men in the temple in Jerusalem, but to very ordinary
men in a field near Bethlehem. It was not sent to the political leaders of the nation, but to some social outcasts who
had no power or influence—except over a few sheep. This is in itself Good News. Heaven is interested in the “little
people” of earth. Heaven has not given up on the lowly. So the movement is from the Highest to the lowliest. The
elite of the earth may not be concerned about you, but the Lord of Christmas is concerned about the poor and
The response of the shepherds was fear when the angel appeared. Fear was their natural response to anything
that had to do with God. They had been taught by those who were supposed to know that they were unclean,
unacceptable to God. If any angel was bearing a message from God it could only mean bad news.
1.        It replaces our fear of God that is rooted in our ignorance and sinfulness.
The reason for their fear has a two-fold cause. They were ignorant of God. Most of the impressions of God were
from the world of nature around them. The storms that moved across the landscape and frightened their sheep
also frightened them. The wonder of the moon and stars on a clear night impressed them with the vastness of the
universe and the power of the God that made it. The knowledge that they had of the law brought another reality
into their lives that brought fear—they were transgressors of the law. They knew that the penalty for transgression
was the judgment of holy God.

Do you find yourself afraid when you think about God? You know that you have not kept them Ten
Commandments faithfully. You know that you have not lived up to principles of love that Jesus taught. Doesn’t God
hate sin? Aren’t you a sinner? Does this not mean that God hates you? You know that you have never done
anything important enough to convince God to love you, so you are just naturally afraid of God. Christmas is good
news for those who are afraid of God.
2.        It announces joy through what God is doing in Jesus.
After addressing their fears, the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be to all the people.” It is
“Good News of Great Joy!” Not just joy! Great Joy!
What is the message that will result in such “great joy?" What will remove the fear and replace it with this great joy?
“ Today in the town of David a Savior has been given to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Ah, the greatest need of all
has been met. God is moving at last to meet this greatest need.
What is man’s greatest need? He needs a Savior. A Savior is one who rescues, one who delivers, one who heals,
one who saves. Because of his sin every person is in need of a Savior. He needs someone to rescue him from the
penalty of his sins and from the power of his sins. He needs someone to deliver him. The Good News is that such a
Savior has been given by God. In His love for us, God has provided a Savior.

“Beneath the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, a silver star marks the alleged precise spot where Christ was
born. A stone slab nearby is supposed to mark the exact site of the manger wherein He lay. The Holy Land is
littered with such shrines, divided up like African territories in the old colonialist days, between the different sects
and denominations--the Greeks, the Armenians, the Copts, the Latins, etc.--and often a cause of rancor among
them. Most of the shrines are doubtless fraudulent, some in dubious taste, and none to my liking. Yet one may
note, as the visitors come and go, ranging from the devout to the inanely curious, that almost every face somehow
lights up a little. Christ's presence makes itself felt even in this dubious birthplace.”
Malcolm Muggeridge, Jesus Rediscovered
The other need that He addresses is the need of a Lord. Man was created to live under dominion. He does not do
very well when he has dominion over His own life. He reaches his potential as a human best when he lives under a
Lord. Jesus came not only to be the Savior we need, but also to be the Lord that we need. He is “Christ the Lord.”
The title identifies Him with the God of the covenant in the Old Testament. God revealed Himself to Israel as the
Lord, the one with the sovereign right to rule in the affairs of life. The angel announces that Jesus is the Lord, God
come among us with the sovereign right to rule.
Most of you parents have been to the toy store searching for just the right toy for your children. On the day after
Thanksgiving there were so many wanting into the toy store in our town that they employed a policeman to control
the crowd, and to let only so many parents into the store at a time. You would not remember but this, but one of
the real blunders of all time in the making of toys took place in 1957. Ben Michtom was the president of the Ideal
Toy Company and he thought he had the greatest idea of all time for a doll. He wanted to make and sell a Jesus
His staff thought it was a terrible idea, but he would not listen. He reasoned that since most Americans claimed to
be Christians, and Christmas was a Christian holiday, it could not lose. The parents could use the doll to impress
their children about Jesus. He even visited with the Pope about the idea and received his blessing.
But the doll was an absolute flop. No one would buy them. Parents thought the idea was sacrilegious and
bemeaning to Jesus. They were horrified at the thought of the children dressing and undressing Jesus as a doll.
They could not imagine allowing the little ones to drag him around the house. Even though it was a company policy
not to take back merchandize that had been sold to stores, they took them all back. Gave a few away to
employees, but ground the rest of them up and put them in landfills.
The parents were right! Jesus is not a toy—He is Lord. He has come to rule in our lives and in our world. He has
come to be worshipped and obeyed—not to be used for entertainment.
The joy of Christmas is having a Savior and a Lord! Even Jesus, the Son of the Most High!
The shepherds deserve a commendation. They set out to investigate what they had heard at once. Unfortunately
some of us have not been as responsive. Give the circumstances and what they heard, surely it was appropriate to
mount an investigation at once.
1.        An investigation should lead to a commitment to what you find to be true.
They did what the angel had suggested—they went to Bethlehem to check out the word of the heavenly
messenger. They found it to be exactly as they had been told. “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph,
and the baby lying in a manger.” But what do you do now?
They did it right! They made a commitment of faith to the newborn Savior and Lord. “When they had seen him,
they spread the word concerning what they had seen, they spread the word concerning what had been told them
about this child.”
“They shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just
as they had been told.” Does it seem a little strange to you that you have heard this same account so many times,
but you have never investigated to see if it is true? Does it seem strange that you have heard what the shepherds
heard, but you have never praised God for sending Jesus to be your Lord and Savior? Such an event demands a
great response from each of us. God has given us a basis for great joy through the sending of His Son.
2.        An investigation should lead to a pondering of what you do not understand.
Luke includes a line about Mary, which is so precious. “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them
in her heart.” Mary knew things about the baby that the shepherds did not know. She knew about His mysterious
conception. She remembered the time when the Holy Spirit came upon her in power and the next day she was
pregnant with this Son. She remembered what Gabriel had told her about the mission of the Son. She remembered
what the same angel had told Joseph about the Child. It was more than her mind could receive; it was beyond her
What do you do when you investigate the Good News, believe the Good News, but still do not understand fully the
ways of God? You do what Mary did—you hide it in your heart and ponder it. You take a “wait and see” attitude. In
time it will all be clear—until then you just trust God.
How much thought have you given to the Good News? You search other things out, why have you been slow to
investigate this? Let me urge you to follow the example of the shepherds—respond to what you have heard.

When you come to know the Savior and Lord, you will know the great joy!