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Monday, December 23, 2013

Good News and Great Joy

What difference would it have made if Jesus had been born at another time? News bulletins are for world events, and our Lord’s birth was in obscurity. The first people to hear were shepherds. There were senators in Rome, princes in Jerusalem, and philosophers in Athens. But there were shepherds living out in the fields, and to them the wonderful news was given. It was indicative of how God works even today. Notice three features from Luke 2:8-20:

1.     An Unexpected Surprise (v. 8). They were minding their own business, (or their own sheep) just another day in their lives, another night in their shepherding. Probably the most exciting thing that happened was a visit from a marauding wolf, which is why they kept watch. Suddenly an angel appeared, and a bright light, the glory of the Lord, filled the sky. The creation story in Genesis begins in a similar way, with God speaking in the darkness. Throughout history, God brings light into human darkness. The prophets looked forward to the day when the people walking in darkness would see a great light. But for these shepherds it was an unexpected surprise. God still breaks into human history in unexpected ways to bring light into our darkness. He comes to those not expecting or even seeking Him. He comes to those going about the ordinary business (and busyness) of living. Shepherds were not highly esteemed in those days. The very nature of their work precluded regular observance at temple and synagogue. Their honesty was not rated highly (they weren’t allowed to stand as witnesses in court). God still surprises people like that today (1 Cor. 1:27–29). Some of you can look back to last Christmas and you are surprised to find yourselves here today. Who would have dreamt that God would meet you and bring you into His family? Others here are perhaps still in the dark, going about your business with little thought of angels and glory and God. He longs to break into your life. This Christmas could be a great surprise for you as you understand for the first time what it all means.

2.     An Unusual Sign (v. 12). Bethlehem may have been a “little town,” but finding the right baby wasn’t easy, so the shepherds were given an identifying sign—not just a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, for most babies would be in that state. The identifying sign would be a baby lying in a manger. This baby was in an animal feeding-trough, His first bed. The New Testament word “sign” means not just an identifying mark, but something that has in itself significance. So what is the “significance” of the manger? It indicates the depths to which the Son was willing to stoop in love (2 Cor. 8:9). It marks the beginning of the life of one who was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. It marked the kind of lifestyle He would adopt in His earthly ministry (Luke 9:58). He was born a Savior in a manger, and He died a Savior on a cross. The manger also meant the shepherds could visit Him freely. Spurgeon says: “We might tremble to approach a throne, but we cannot fear to approach a manger.”

3.     An Unbelievable Story (vv. 17–18). These shepherds were the first Christian missionaries. They had seen the Christ, and they told everyone what had happened to them. The good news about Jesus is something to be shared, and the best people to share it are ordinary folk who have had a personal experience with Him. You may not know everything, but if God has unexpectedly broken into your life, you have something to share. We have someone to share—a baby in the manager, a man on the Cross, a returning King!

O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray;cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel.

Be wise today and always - praise God for sending Jesus!