Luke 2:8-11Amplified Bible
8 In the same region there were shepherds staying out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone around them, and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for [a]all the people. 11 For this day in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (the Messiah).
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
The way all too many of us approach Christmas has not changed in years.
Consider this illustration I just received from a friend ….
A family during the great depression was unable to afford anything but the bare necessities, and even then, barely.
One day the news came that a circus was coming to town.
Tickets cost one dollar.
The little boy came running home excited with the good news and eager to get the money from his dad, he jumped up onto his fathers lap as he read the paper.
The father regretfully told his son that he could not provide him with that much money, but if he went out and worked on some odd jobs, he might make enough to purchase a ticket on his own.
The dad promised to match what the boy could earn.
The boy worked feverishly around the neighborhood and, just a few days before the circus came to town, he found that he had just enough, including his dad’s contribution, so, He took the money and ran off to town to buy his circus ticket.
The day the circus came to town, he grabbed his ticket from his dad and rushed out to the main street, where he stood on the curb as the circus parade went by.
He was so thrilled to watch the clowns, elephants, and all of the performers. A clown came dancing over to him and the boy put his ticket in the clown’s hand.
He eagerly watched as the rest of the parade went by.
After the parade, the boy rushed home and told his father that he had been to the circus and how much fun it was.
The father, surprised that the boy was home already, asked him to describe the circus.
The boy told of the parade that went down the main street and of giving his ticket to the passing clown.
The father sadly took his son in his arms and said,
“Son, you did not see the circus; all you saw was the parade.”
That boy reminds me of myself and so many other people at Christmas time.
They get caught up with “stuff of the season,” the carols, trees, lights, gifts.
They think that they are experiencing what Christmas is all about.
But the reality of it all is this, all they are doing is seeing the parade passing by and do not realize they are missing the main event, the true joy of Christmas.
More importantly we go through life thinking everything is good with our souls – we walk like ducks, smell like ducks, quack like ducks but we are not ducks…
get the picture?
Good time to remember that the first Christmas night:
“The glory of the Lord shone around them”
This season of Christmas let us be more aware, make it about God’s glory.
Luke 2:8-11Complete Jewish Bible
8 In the countryside nearby were some shepherds spending the night in the fields, guarding their flocks, 9 when an angel of Adonai appeared to them, and the Sh’khinah of Adonai shone around them. They were terrified; 10 but the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, because I am here announcing to you Good News that will bring great joy to all the people. 11 This very day, in the town of David, there was born for you a Deliverer who is the Messiah, the Lord.
Let’s go through the passage and comb through to learn…
We will make pit stops and pickup 7 words to help us take it in.
I. LUKE 2:8. SHEPHERDS
“IN THE SAME REGION THERE WERE SHEPHERDS…”
The greatest event yet on the face of planet earth has just happened in Bethlehem; and we read that in that “same region” there were shepherds.
A. Same region:
i. In the same region: The divine dignitary shares the same space.
I understand the narrative requires this telling but I had to pause to take it in.
This is the first pit stop.
Let me explain what caught my attention…”same region”
This ‘divine dignitary’ invited the shepherds to share his space —“in the same region”.
ii. In the same region: Translation = This was David’s city.
The fields were probably the same area where he kept watch – fought the lion and killed the bear and confronted with God’s aid, the Philistine giant Goliath.
Now in this same city is now born another Shepherd like no other.
A shepherd who is also a lamb – the Lamb of God. [John 1:29; John 10:11].
B. The Shepherds:
i. The Status
Shepherds were the lowest on the social ladder.
They lived in the fields and cared for the sheep 24/7 and so could not keep the Mosaic law, the Sabbath, the other traditionally required temple ceremonies.
Not very different from all those long years ago from a land called EGYPT.
Genesis 46:33-34Complete Jewish Bible
33 Now when Pharaoh summons you and asks, ‘What is your occupation?’ 34 tell him, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth until now, both we and our ancestors.’ This will ensure that you will live in the land of Goshen — for any shepherd is abhorrent to the Egyptians.”
“Shepherds were an utter abomination to the Egyptians”. Genesis 46:34.
They were infinitely worse than social outcasts.
ii. The privilege accorded to the shepherds
Why is this important?
Many years later when Jesus begins His ministry we read how crowds were amazed at Jesus’ teaching.
…”How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” [Jn 7:16].
This statement was not about being literate but about being a Scholarly Rabbi which took years of disciplined learning.
They had come to believe only such will receive and explain the revelation of God.
This first Christmas the privilege accorded to the Patriarchs, the Pharisees the Priests and the Rabbis was now granted to shepherds.
The first proclamation of the glad tidings was to those who were poor and social outcasts.
C. Fulfillment of the Isaiah 61 Prophecy
This beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 61 starts with the lowly shepherds.
This is what the Lord reads in Nazareth when the scroll was given to Him.
“The Lord has anointed Me to preach the good news to the poor,” [Isaiah 61 / Luke 4 / Luke 2].
“IN THE SAME REGION THERE WERE SHEPHERDS…”
All praise and thanks be to God that even today just as the shepherds, you and I are invited to “the very same region,” watch the Divine unfolding, centre stage.
Then this story that happened 2000 years ago is something you and I can be a part of.
II. SILENT NIGHT
LUKE 2:8. “…KEEPING WATCH OVER THEIR FLOCK BY NIGHT.”
This is our second pit stop.
It was a ‘silent night’ as the carol goes.
That night seemed no different from any other night – except of course that the hands of Almighty God pulls apart heaven’s veil for all those glorious moments.
However, on earth it was a different story.
There were political and social rumblings that’s worth noticing.
A. Augustus Caesar’s taxation:
Luke Chapter 2 opens with the news of taxation.
Bethlehem was probably swarming with ‘Censees’ and ‘Censors’—those who came to give their census and those who were there conducting the census.
However, I sincerely doubt that the census experience was a pleasant one.
Years later as Luke’s readers would read or hear about the birth of Jesus they would be confronted with the context or the time when Jesus was born; and it would have undoubtedly brought up past memories that were not pleasant.
Let me explain:
i. Taxation changed from ‘kind’ to ‘coins’:
Paying taxes in kind was acceptable in some sense by the Jews but the coins contained the image of Caesar which led to a revolt by Judas and his bands.
Acts 5:34-37English Standard Version
34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered.
Gamaliel refers to Theudas when confronted with the issue of Peter and John and the Council determining the acceptable disposition of the other Apostles.
Theudas and his group had believed God will give them victory for opposing the coin taxation since they were standing up against idolatry.
However, the uprising was squelched by the Romans.
The Jewish rulers were increasingly cautious not to upset the Romans and thus lose their temple and their land and their livelihoods if not their very lives too.
But the issue of coin taxation continued to be a contentious even 30 years later.
Luke 20:19-25English Standard Version
Paying Taxes to Caesar
19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. 20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality,[a] but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius.[b] Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
That was the ‘trap’ question that Jesus was asked, “Is it lawful to pay tax to Caesar?”
We know the Lord’s classic answer –
whose image does it bear? And whose do you bear?
Luke 20 verse 25: He said to them “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s ….”
ii. Poll Tax:
Poll tax is a tax not on the income of the person but on the number of heads in the family.
Apparently Joseph was not a ‘clever’ businessman but an obedient servant.
Joseph did not wait till after the census for him to avoid having to pay for two additional heads.
2000 years ago we read about the timing, Quirinius was governor of Syria, the lives of all those so affected are wonderfully connected to the Gospel narrative.
Truth be said: Whether AD First Century or our 21st Century the incident that occurred that silent night is something that will 100% change our lives forever.
It is in the ‘light’ of those darkest socio-economic, socio-political moments the rest of the first Christmas story unfolds before every single coming generations.
We can be thankful to God the silence of that night [indicative of the silence for the past 400 years of the inter-testamentary period between Malachi and the Gospels] was torn apart by the angels long awaited announcement of Messiah.
III. SH’KHINAH OF THE ADONAI [GLORY OF THE LORD]
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 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. [Luke 2:9-10].
This is our third pit stop.
A. NOT THE GLORY OF THE ANGEL
In the two appearances of Gabriel, Gabriel prefaced his announcements with “fear not”.
While we do not know the identity of this angel, we still hear the phrase “fear not”.
However, we are now not confronted by a “mere” angel but by the glory of the Lord – which is certainly, definitely, a more fearful experience than any other.
We read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, about their Mt. Sinai experience that the children of Israel had:
Hebrews 12:19. and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them.
Here now for the first time, the revelation of God’s glory was with ‘glad tidings of great joy’.
• A ‘terrible thing’ that froze the feet and the vocal cords of their fore fathers and killed their priests, suddenly, is now, an indescribable matter of great joy.
B. UNDERSTANDING GLORY
We have a terrible time wrapping our head around the theme of “Glory of God”.
i. What is Glory?
Manifestation of His holiness
Isaiah 6:3. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, the whole earth is full of His… [not holiness] but glory.
• Glory of God from this passage is the inherent quality of God.
• Glory is the manifest beauty of God’s holiness.
No wonder it has been a terrible thing.
How could sinful men ever meet a glorious God?
God’s answer is Jesus Christ.
ii. Glory of God in Jesus Christ
Though we cannot know what the shepherds experienced that night,…
We too are given the privilege to experience the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
He is the radiance of the glory of God and
• the exact imprint of his nature,…
John 1:14. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory,
• glory as of the only Son from the Father,
• full of grace and truth.
A PASSAGE BY REVEREND DR. JOHN MAC ARTHUR:
Excerpt from: Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas.
“..…God only whispers in His creation. He revealed a shadow of His glory in the Shekinah. But He speaks with absolute clarity in his Word.
“God…spoke” [Hebrews 1:1] – and not in a whisper but in full voice.
Still, there was an incompleteness in it all until,
“[God] has in these last days spoken to us by His Son. [Hebrews 1:2].
Now that is God shouting.
You cannot mistake it.
John 1:1-5Amplified Bible
The Deity of Jesus Christ
1 In the beginning [before all time] was the Word ([a]Christ), and the Word was with God, and [b]the Word was God Himself. 2 He was [continually existing] in the beginning [co-eternally] with God. 3 All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him not even one thing was made that has come into being. 4 In Him was life [and the power to bestow life], and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines on in the [c]darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it].
Christ is 100% God, and you see every attribute of God manifest in Him: His judgment, His justice, His love, His wisdom, His power, His omniscience.
It is all there in person as we read and study and pray through these Gospels, we see Him physically walking through the world, working His work, living His life.
The fullness of God may be seen as it was never seen before in Jesus Christ.
Who is Jesus Christ?
He is the glory of God. He is the “express image” of God’s glory.
He is the embodiment of the brightness of God’s glory. [John 1:14].
Jesus is the shining forth of God.
– Just as the bright untouchable radiance of the Sun reaches the earth to light us, to warm us, to give us life and growth, so in Christ do we sense the warmth and fullest radiance of the glorious light of God touching on the hearts of men.
– The sun is never without its brightness.
The radiant brightness of the sun cannot be separated from the sun and yet it is distinct.
And so, Christ is God and yet distinct.
– He is God and yet He is the manifestation of God.
– He is the glory of the Lord who shouts the reality of God, which was only whispered in time past.
God’s answer to the dilemma of sin is Jesus Christ – the glory of God made manifest in human flesh.”
We are thankful that the Son of God became the Son of man that first Christmas.
C. No common ground
In the old Hebrew covenant, when the glory of the Lord came down, all business stopped.
• Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle [Exodus 40:34-35].
• When Solomon built his temple for the Lord as a place to offer sacrifice and the glory cloud came down, the priests were so overwhelmed with its presence that they could not do their priestly duties. [1 Kings 8:10-11].
In the old covenant the glory cloud and the presence of the Lord did not abide in the same space that was occupied by men.
Moses: The glory of the Lord left Moses wanting more. Even though Moses had personally witnessed such astounding miracles and the coming of the cloud on Mt. Sinai, on the Tabernacle, his true longing was to see the glory of the Lord.
He had to be “merely satisfied” with “seeing” the “back” of the goodness of the Lord, and obviously ONLY after the Lord fully passed by where he was standing.
D. A promise that “all flesh will see the glory of the Lord”
The first part was fulfilled by John the Baptist [Luke 3:4-7]; and the later part by Jesus Christ though its complete fulfillment is still in the future.
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
E. This coming of the ‘glory of the Lord’ is the good news of great joy
The angel announces the Gospel – “the euaggelizō”.
The original expression is: “I evangelize unto you great joy”.
• Jesus is the “Good news”
• Jesus is the matter of great joy.
• Jesus makes possible for the revelation of the glory of God to all flesh.
In Jesus, heaven’s gate have been opened wide – the news is to “all people”.
• You are now no more the outcasts of the society.
• You and I can now become the citizens of heaven.
IV. THE SAVIOR
Luke 2:11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
A. The gift: Jesus is our Christmas Gift
• “Unto you”: God’s gift to us on Christmas day is Christ Himself.
• Born…City of David: Christ is born in the city of David, so that Psalm 87 will be true for us with regards to the city of God:
Speaking about the city of God,
we read in Psalm 87.4.
“This man was born there.”
This possibility for man and woman to be born in the City of God opens up because of the incarnation, death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
• Christ the Lord: Your savior is Christ the Lord.
He is Immanuel, God incarnate.
B. The Result: Our transformation, as we “Behold the glory of the Lord in Jesus Christ”
2 Corinthians 3:18. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image [the image of Christ] from one degree of glory to another.
John Owen: One of the greatest privileges and advancements of believers, both in this world, and unto eternity, consists in their beholding the glory of Christ.
If the glory of the Lord does not grip our attention exactly today and in this exact world, we are exactly eternally lost.
C. The Warning: Consequence of rejecting the glory
Woe to the one who rejects the glory of God made manifest to us.
We read in Romans chapter 1.
Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:22,23, NASB).
Earlier, we read about the children of Israel:
Psalm 106:20. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of a golden ox that eats non existent grass.
The nation of Israel, having seen and experienced the glory of God thought Him being no more glorious than a golden calf utterly incapable of eating or moving.
The natural expression of glory of God is praise that must bubble over; an over zealous thanksgiving that cannot, under any circumstance, ever be contained.
• Anything less is spiritually dangerous.
• Anything less indicates that we are still dead in our sins.
Luke 2:12-20Complete Jewish Bible
12 Here is how you will know: you will find a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” 13 Suddenly, along with the angel was a vast army from heaven praising God:
14 “In the highest heaven, glory to God!
And on earth, peace among people of good will!”
15 No sooner had the angels left them and gone back into heaven than the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go over to Beit-Lechem and see this thing that has happened, that Adonai has told us about.” 16 Hurrying off, they came and found Miryam and Yosef, and the baby lying in the feeding trough. 17 Upon seeing this, they made known what they had been told about this child; 18 and all who heard were amazed by what the shepherds said to them. 19 Miryam treasured all these things and kept mulling them over in her heart. 20 Meanwhile, the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen; it had been just as they had been told.
V. A SIGN
Luke 2:12. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
This is our fifth pit stop.
Sign is “Semeion” in Greek means the “finger-marks” of God.
A. The paradox
Not sure if you caught the paradox of this passage yet?
a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.
a statement or proposition that, despite its sound (or its apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems utterly senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.
Shepherds had just seen the great display of Divine glory.
What could be the next possible steps?
• That they would have expected now to be invited to the palace?
• That they would witness the transformation of Bethlehem – the city of David because the Messiah is now here?
We all probably expect to see something that would top this experience or at least something that somehow or in some minimal was, almost matched it.
Instead, they are invited to go and find “a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger”.
Notice 3 things that’s in stark contrast to what they just observed:
a. It’s a baby.
• How can a baby be a savior? The Christ?
b. In swaddling cloths
• A baby just like any other. For they were all wrapped just the same. You wouldn’t be able to identify the Messiah if laid in a nursery together.
• If they had not witnessed the grand spectacle they would never have identified this baby as the Savior of the world.
c. Lying in a manager
• Something is terribly wrong with this picture – a picture framed by human mindset.
Notice: the revealed Glory of God by His angel armies on one hand; and the humility of a lowly mom and dad, the baby in a feeding trough on the other.
No wonder we sing:
Wisdom unsearchable, God the invisible. Love indestructible in frailty appears.
Lord of infinity stooping so tenderly.
Lifts our humanity from our own lowly troughs to the heights of His throne.
O what a mystery meekness and majesty.
Bow down and worship for this is your God.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
Cherished Sons and Daughters of the Most High God,
This is our God.
B. The sign screams He is now one of US.
The sign screams out that He who is the Christ has become one of you.
Not just a human but one whom even the poor can associate with.
The good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this that none of us are excluded in the glad proclamation.
We all can be a part.
VI. THE SONG/SHOUT
Luke 2:13-14. 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!
This is our sixth pit stop.
A. And Suddenly with the angel…
R C Sproul:
“All heaven broke loose… [and I think that hell must have frozen over]”
This angelic choir would make Handel’s Messiah concert look like a class of kindergarten singing.
B. “Glory to God in the Highest; and peace on earth”
A praise that rose heavenward; and a peace that came downward.
“Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.”
Peter talking to Cornelius and his household says:
Acts 10:36. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
Angels in heaven praise the Lord.
But now even the shepherds – so you and I can say:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”
VII. THE SPONTANEITY
Luke 2:17, 20.
verse 17. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.
verse 20. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
The seventh and final pit stop.
A. The speech of the shepherds
[verse18] What do you make of the phrase “all who heard”?
• Was it Joseph and Mary?
• Was it the milling of those who like Joseph had come to Bethlehem for the census?
Who saw the baby but had not idea what they were beholding till the shepherds told them.
• Was it crowding of the heavenly hosts in that cramped cavern or the open courtyard, trying to catch a glimpse of Deity.
The shepherds were hyper excited to tell the story:
• The shepherds didn’t seem to care that they would not be believed for such an improbable story.
• They didn’t seem to care that no one would listen to them.
They just could not an would not stop talking.
• They had just seen the ‘fingermarks’ of God – a baby laid in the manger.
That’s the timeline of the Gospel story isn’t it?
• The Gospel story reminds me that the one who was laid in the manger by Mary [Luke 2:12] is the one who was, some 30 years later crucified upon a wood cross.
Three days after being sealed into an impenetrable tomb, HE walked out ALIVE!
However, the story neither begins in the manger nor ends in the grave.
My response is therefore to rejoice. I cannot and will not ever keep quiet.
VIII. WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
Why this unnatural silence?
Why isn’t our spirit extolling in the glory of the Lord?
If the shepherds were UNABLE BUT to talk about the what they saw, why is it that we are silent?
A. Telling all who will hear
We often wonder how can we can tell our neighbors about Jesus?
• I don’t know where to begin?
• I don’t know what to say?
If those are your questions, then learn from the shepherds.
• They said what they saw.
• They repeated what they heard.
And so can you and so can I.
Let me end with two closings.
A. Remember the Shepherd was also the Lamb
Because of Jesus, I can face anything.
That is something I will share.
1954 film, White Christmas:
“When I’m worried and I can’t sleep.
I count my blessings instead of sheep.
And I fall asleep Counting my blessings.
When my bankroll is getting small.
I think of when I had none at all.
And I fall asleep Counting my blessings.
If your worried and you can’t sleep.
Just count your blessings instead of sheep.
And you’ll fall asleep Counting your blessings.
B. Remember that gratitude cannot be silenced.
Shepherds and the glory of the Lord in the same sentence.
Shepherds enjoyed a great heritage in Israel with Abraham, Moses, and David as notable shepherds, God being identified through Psalm 23 as a great shepherd.
But by this time in Israelite history, they were not highly regarded.
They smelled like sheep.
They spent their time with sheep.
They were not really clean and religious enough to be considered spiritual.
So when God chose to announce the birth of Jesus to shepherds with his contingent of angels he makes his point clear: Everyone is loved by God, everyone has immediate access to God, and everyone is desired by God.
Because of Jesus, I am grateful.
That is why I will share.
Let your gratitude and praises last forever!
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Heavenly Father, thank You in Jesus’ name for purposing to redeem mankind, by sending Him to be born in Bethlehem of Judea on that astonishing night, while shepherds watched their flocks. Thank You for the good news of great joy, which is for all people who trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. Thank You, Father, that You did not leave us dead in our sins, but purposed from the foundation of the world, to give Jesus as the perfect Lamb of God, Who would take away the sin of the world and become the good Shepherd of the sheep, for all who would trust in His holy name. Thank You that in my Savior Christ I have nothing to fear and everything for which to be thankful. Thank You in Jesus’ name, AMEN.