ADVENT – SHEPHERDS (Joy)
Men Of Action
Do you remember the excitement of the birth of your first child? It was a joyful occasion and you wanted to tell the whole world. Instead, you made a few phone calls to family members and close friends and the grape vine took over from there.
After returning from the hospital you probably wrote out special announcements and sent them in the mail to a larger number of people, with all of the statistics about your new baby. Maybe you handed out pink or blue bubblegum cigars to everyone that you came in contact with.
Today it can be almost instantaneous if you have Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook on your cell phone or tablet. The minute the baby is born, you can broadcast it to the world within seconds.
We didn’t have Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook for any of our boy’s births
We had to use a regular camera or digital camera
Do you remember the days when extended family, who lived far away, had to wait until you developed the film in your camera and then mailed a picture of your new baby?
Those days are long gone
How many of you still use a camera that takes film?
We did have a video camera for all three births
We had email capabilities for Seth and Levi’s births, but not Wade’s, if I remember correctly
We didn’t have a cell phone for Wade’s birth and if we had one for Seth’s birth, there was a cost per minute to use it
We may not have had a cell phone for Levi’s birth, but if we did, it wasn’t like cell phones today – it would have been a flip phone with calling and texting capabilities (no internet or camera capabilities)
Waiting by the phone
Our parents and siblings had to wait by the phone to hear about the birth of our children
I had to go home and use the land line phone in order to communicate with family and friends
Things have certainly changed
It wasn’t instantaneous
How many of us remember those days gone by?
How many of us don’t have any idea what I’m talking about?
Well, God used an instantaneous delivery system when His Son was born. He didn’t Tweet, create a post on Facebook or Instagram, Snap Chat, or make a TikTok or YouTube video, since the electronic age had not yet arrived, instead He Angeled and used Shepherdbook.
The angels told the shepherds and the shepherds spread the news from there. They jumped into action to go see the baby and then tell everyone they saw about the news!
BIG IDEA – Jesus’ birth should cause us to be people of action.
The Birth Announcement
Mary has just delivered Jesus by herself and is wrapping Him in swaddling clothes and laying Him in a manger.
At the same time, there are shepherds living out in the fields around Bethlehem taking care of the flocks at night.
These were the third shift shepherds, who spent the night around a camp fire watching the sheep
It was probably a pretty uneventful job to have, although they would have seen things that others would not have
They probably saw shooting stars
They knew the various constellations
Perhaps they saw certain planets in the night sky
Maybe they saw the aurora borealis
These shepherds, by most commentators’ writings, were known to care for the temple flocks – these were the perfect sheep, without blemish used for sacrifices.
This would seem like an unlikely group of people to send your instantaneous message too, but God had a perfect plan.
These shepherds would have been ceremonially unclean, because of their work
They would have been away from the temple for weeks at a time so they couldn’t be made clean
The shepherds were hearing about Jesus, whom scripture identified two ways:
Lamb of God (John 1:29)
Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14-15)
God revealed His grace to mankind when He sent the angels to visit the shepherd’s first
They were the unclean ones, the outcasts
Wiersbe states, “God does not call the rich and mighty; He calls the poor and the lowly.”
Luke 1:51-53, He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29, Brothers think about what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
While these lowly shepherds are hanging out in the field, checking out the night sky, they see something they’ve never seen before
An angel appears
In the middle of the night outside Bethlehem, a bright light pierces the darkness and an angel appears.
Shepherds were not usually fearful of much – think about David taking on the bear and the lion.
They were terrified/sore afraid – Greek is fo-be’-ō, meaning “to be struck with fear, to be seized with alarm, of those startled by strange sights or occurrences.”
The angel reassures them, “Do not be afraid.”
The angel’s announcement
I bring you good news – Greek for good news is
yü-än-ge-lē’-zō, “in the NT used especially of the glad tidings of the coming kingdom of God, and of the salvation to be obtained in it through Christ, and of what relates to this salvation.”
It literally means that they preached the Gospel to the shepherds
Of great joy! – this was the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world, the Anointed One. This was definitely something to be excited about. Jesus was going to bring great joy, because He came into the world to provide a way to bridge the gap that sin had created between God and man
For all people – this meant everyone. No one will be excluded. It was for the Jews, Gentiles, rich, poor. It includes us today. This Good News is for you!
A Savior was born today in the town of David, Bethlehem
They identify Him as Christ the Lord
the Anointed One
They gave the shepherds specific instructions, so they would know that they are in the right place.
A baby wrapped in cloths – this was not unusual and could have identified any newborn baby in Bethlehem
Interesting note – the strips of cloth used to swaddle a baby were very similar to those used in the embalming process. John Courson states, “This was fitting because Jesus came to die. Although death interrupted the ministry and teaching of Socrates, Plato, Buddha, and every other philosopher and thinker throughout history, it did not interrupt the ministry of Jesus Christ. Rather, death fulfilled Jesus’ ministry because Jesus alone came to die.”
Lying in a manger – this would have been very unusual, a baby lying in a feeding trough?
These two combined would identify the Christ Child for the shepherds.
They already knew that the baby was born that day (Today!)
The shepherds receive an amazing free concert from heaven
A great company of the heavenly hosts join the angel
They glorify God
They speak about peace on earth to men on whom His favor rests
This was a welcome message to the shepherds and to the Israelites.
This was the first time in centuries that the glory of God returned to earth.
The Roman world had been under much war, so peace sounded great!
They were currently living under the “Pax Romana” (Roman Peace), but they were not experiencing the peace that they had hoped and prayed for.
We see that the absence of war did not bring peace to the Jewish world. They were experiencing some of the same things we are experiencing today – high taxes, high unemployment rates, poverty, immorality, division, disorder, etc.
The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.”
Wiersbe shares, “The Jewish word shalom (peace) means much more than a truce in the battles of life. It means well-being, health, prosperity, security, soundness, and completeness. It has to do more with character than circumstances.”
The Shepherd’s Obedience
We see from verse 12 that there is an expectation that the shepherds will go to see baby Jesus – “This will be a sign to you”
The shepherds were expected to do something with what they just heard from the angels.
They were to be doers of the word and not hearers only
This is an example for us today – when God speaks to us through His Word, we need to be men and women of action.
The shepherds have a quick meeting
They decide to go to Bethlehem
They recognized who the message was from, the Lord
They left the flocks immediately and went to Bethlehem to find what was told to them
Jesus’ birth should cause us to be people of action.
We need to obey God immediately
Has God spoken to you?
What has He told you to do?
My Next Step Today Is To: Obediently do what God has told me to do.
The shepherds obediently left the fields outside of Bethlehem and went into the city to begin their search
They hurry off to Bethlehem and find Mary and Joseph and the baby
The verb found in the Greek is ä-nyü-rē’-skō, which means “to find out by search” or “found after a search”
NASB renders it this way – “So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.”
They knew they had to look in a stable since the baby was in a manger
They probably started going from stable to stable looking for a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger
Luke reminds us again about the specific sign that would identify baby Jesus – “who was lying in a manger.”
That is exactly where the shepherds find Him
They followed the signs given to them and continued to search until they found the right place
Jesus’ birth should cause us to be people of action.
We need to follow the signs that God gives us through His Word and the wisdom of those around us and search diligently until we find the place where God is leading us.
Have you diligently searched until you found where God is leading you?
Many times we search tentatively, but not diligently because we don’t want to be obedient to what God has told us to do
My Next Step Today Is To: Diligently search until I find the place where God is leading me.
After finding Jesus, the shepherds can’t keep silent!
Just imagine seeing the heavenly host and having an angel speak to you and then finding exactly what they told you
You would be really excited!!!
After the shepherds see Jesus, they spread the word
They share with everyone about what they were told about this child
They share the Gospel with others, just as it was shared with them
They share that the Messiah, “the Anointed One,” has arrived
This was the long-awaited Savior of the world. Everyone would have known who they were talking about when they used the words, “Christ the Lord” or “Christos kyrios”
They shared with everyone the Good News about Jesus
Jesus’ birth should cause us to be people of action.
When we are obedient to God, follow the signs and search until we find the right place, we can’t help but share with others the Good News of Jesus Christ because we have been transformed by it.
Have you taken time to tell others the result of being obedient to God and searching diligently?
If you have had others praying for and with you, it is important to let them know how God faithfully answered your prayers
My Next Step Today Is To: Tell others how God faithfully guided and directed me when I was obedient to what He told me to do.
We can experience the same response from others that the shepherds experienced
Everyone that heard what they had to say was amazed
They returned to their sheep, glorifying and praising God
They were thankful for what they had heard
They were thankful for what they had seen
They had experienced God’s trustworthiness firsthand, because everything they saw and heard, was just as they had been told
We can claim the promise today that God is trustworthy
We can count on Him to speak to us about His plans for us and to guide us as we seek to be obedient to His plan
When He proves to be trustworthy, we can rejoice and tell others what He has done
While the shepherds are excitedly sharing the good news of great joy, Mary is quietly thinking about all that has happened
Mary is a very mature young lady for her age
She treasured all these things – She kept them within herself, lest they be forgotten
She pondered them in her heart – she brought them together in her mind, she went over them again and again in her mind.
She did not want to forget how God had used her to further His kingdom and bring salvation to the world
She had experienced some pretty incredible things, that most everyone else had not
She was visited by the angel of the Lord and told that she had found favor with God
She had become pregnant as a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit
Her relative Elizabeth tells her how her baby leaped in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice
Joseph still takes her as his wife even though she is not pregnant by him
She has strangers visit her in the stable worshipping the baby Jesus because an angel told them about this child
Has the Lord spoken to you and told you to go do something? Have you been obedient?
Have you diligently searched until you’ve found the place where God is leading you?
Have you shared with others how God faithfully guided you when you were obedient to Him?
We have a responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ to be people of action
The Christmas season is a natural time to share with family and friends about the joy we’ve experienced as a follower of Jesus Christ – His birth has transformed us in a powerful way!
Jesus’ presence on earth had transformed these shepherds. They would never be the same again, because they had experienced the glory and majesty of the Lord!
“Did you ever read Bret Harte's story The Luck of Roaring Camp? Roaring Camp was supposed to be, according to the story, the meanest, toughest mining town in all of the West. More murders, more thefts – it was a terrible place inhabited entirely by men, and one woman who tried to serve them all. Her name was Cherokee Sal. She died while giving birth to a baby.
Well, the men took the baby, and they put her in a box with some old rags under her. When they looked at her, they decided that didn't look right, so they sent one of the men eighty miles to buy a rosewood cradle. He brought it back, and they put the rags and the baby in the rosewood cradle. And the rags didn't look right there. So they sent another of their number to Sacramento, and he came back with some beautiful silk and lace blankets. And they put the baby, wrapped around with those blankets, in the rosewood cradle.
It looked fine until someone happened to notice that the floor was so filthy. So these hardened, tough men got down on their hands and knees, and with their hardened and horny hands they scrubbed that floor until it was very clean. Of course, what that did was to make the walls and the ceiling and the dirty windows without curtains look absolutely terrible. So they washed down the walls and the ceiling, and they put curtains at the windows. And now things were beginning to look as they thought they should look. But of course, they had to give up a lot of their fighting, because the baby slept a lot, and babies can't sleep during a brawl.
So the whole temperature of Roaring Camp seemed to go down. They used to take her out and set her by the entrance to the mine in her rosewood cradle so they could see her when they came up. Then somebody noticed what a dirty place that was, so they planted flowers, and they made a very nice garden there. It looked quite beautiful. And they would bring her, oh, shiny little stones and things that they would find in the mine. But when they would put their hands down next to hers, their hands looked so dirty. Pretty soon the general store was all sold out of soap and shaving gear and perfume and those kinds ... the baby changed everything.
That's the way it is for those of good will. That's the way it is for those who please God. The baby enters into their lives, and he slips into every crevice of their experience, until they say ‘Hark! Listen, the herald angels sing! God is for us. And Christmas is forever.’”
Bruce W. Thielemann, "Hark! The Herald Angels," Preaching Today, Tape No. 63.