Good evening everyone. Merry Christmas and a warm welcome to all who have joined us in the hall and tuned in online as well. We’re glad you’re with us and we pray that everything that is being done here today would serve you well and draw you nearer to Jesus.
During the month of December, we’ve been going through a short sermon series titled God’s Glory Revealed – and what we’ve been seeing is that among all the festivities, food and family gatherings, let’s not miss the point of Christmas.
The point of Christmas is about God revealing His glory to us through His Son Jesus – God revealing His character qualities, His beauty, His worth through His Son Jesus. Before I begin, I’d love to pray for us.
On the 19th of November this year, the world had witnessed a major spectacle. Yes, it was the Cricket World Cup final between India and Australia. We won’t talk much about the outcome of the match, but nevertheless it was a major spectacle.
Over 1 Lakh people watched the match live in the Narendra Modi stadium. Everyone who was a somebody was there present at the stadium from SRK to Asha Bhosale. Our PM and HM were also present for the match. And this was just within the stadium – on TV there were about 300 million people who watched the match live. And despite this just being a sporting game, it garnered such huge attention and media coverage.
And yet, if we go back a little over 2000 years ago there was a history altering moment which took place – when God sent His Son Jesus to the earth. This was the most glorious event in all of human history. All of the Jews in the OT eagerly waited for this to happen and yet it happened in obscurity.
It wasn’t published anywhere. It had no coverage. It wasn’t attended by heads of state or religious leaders of that time. In fact, the invitees for this event were ordinary shepherds. But they witnessed glory!! And so today we’ll be following the journey of these ordinary shepherds to understand what was this glory that they witnessed with their own eyes. Maybe there are some take aways for each of us as we follow their journey.
- Joy (v8-12)
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
10 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. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
The passage starts out by describing these shepherds who were on a night shift. Until this moment, they didn’t even know that they were invited.
And then an angel of the Lord appears to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and the verse tells us that they were “filled with great fear”.
And maybe that’s an automatic reflex action – the moment we realize that we’re in the presence of God (Holy God), our reflex action is fear thinking “I’m in big trouble, I’m in danger because I’m sinful, I’m unworthy”.
But the response of the angel (representing God) is so interesting. The angel responds by saying “Fear not” – don’t fear.
(Parents / kids) And the reason for not fearing is because the angel came as an agent to bring good news of great joy! And this good news of great joy was not just meant for these shepherds or a specific group of people alone.
This good news of great joy was meant for “all the people”. Which includes everyone in our family. Everyone in our neighborhoods. Everyone in our workplaces. Everyone in our city. Everyone in our country. Everyone in the whole world.
And then in v11 – the angel goes on to describe this good news of great joy. He said that in the city of David (Bethlehem) a child was going to be born who is a Savior, Christ and Lord.
- Savior: Someone who was going to save, rescue & deliver
- Christ: Anointed One, Messiah who was promised in the OT
- Lord: Supreme authority, Controller, Master, Ruler
And so in that way of describing Jesus, the angel was basically dropping a hint on what Jesus was coming to do. He was coming to save and rescue us from something.
Some kind of serious trouble that we’re in, and Jesus was coming to save us from that. He was the one was expected and promised right from Genesis. He was the one who will be the supreme authority overall.
And just as the shepherds heard that, I’m sure they were expecting this to happen in a palace. They would have expected to be invited to the “Buckingham palace” of the day.
But to their surprise and astonishment, they are told that this Jesus who is Savior, Christ and Lord would be found in a stable.
And instead of a nice, comfortable cushion, Jesus was going to be placed in a manger – which is basically a feeding trough for animals.
And I can imagine them being taken aback by that. I wonder if they asked the angel to repeat the sign again because it doesn’t make sense.
As confusing as this seems to be, God was telling the shepherds and all of us, that His Son Jesus was not coming to this world to Lord it over us. He was coming to humbly serve us – even if it meant being embarrassed and humiliated by sleeping on a feeding trough for the first night on the earth.
He has not come to make you afraid, He has come to give you Joy. He is Your Savior and Lord. He’s not come to enforce His authority over you.
He has come to serve you by humbling Himself no matter what the cost. In all of this – I can see that here is our God who is not finding reason to go away from us, but is drawing near to us and that’s why it brings us Joy…Great Joy.
But not only does it bring us Joy, it also brings us
- Peace (v13-14)
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]
Just right after this encouraging message by the angel, a multitude of heavenly host break out into the most amazing Christmas carol song.
Last night we had such an amazing time singing Christmas carols (with the mic, sound and music) and now think about what it might have been to have witnessed a choir filled with all the heavenly hosts singing songs of praise. I can imagine the shepherds being speechless witnessing all of this.
And now take a look at what they were praising and singing. V14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]
They start by praising the greatness and uniqueness of God. (Glory to God in the highest) He is all-powerful. He is all-wise. He is all-knowing. There is nothing in all of creation which can be compared to Him.
He is of a different league altogether. And even as the song talks about the greatness and uniqueness of God, it tells us that God has come to make peace among those with whom He is pleased.
And let’s ask ourselves – who is God pleased with? The one who reads His Bible everyday? The one who attends church every week? The one who doesn’t use foul language? The one who doesn’t drink? The one who doesn’t smoke? Who is God pleased with?
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7,8)
We simply cannot please God in our sinful nature – no matter who we may be – we might be super-spiritual like the Pharisee or unspiritual like tax collector – either way we are on the same boat – we cannot please God.
And so that poses a big problem. So if we cannot please God, then how is God going to maintain peace with us? That’s the problem right?
Which is why Jesus had to come. Jesus came to the earth so that He could live the life which we needed to live but couldn’t live. He lived a perfectly pleasing life unto God.
Then when He was 33 years old, He died the death that all of us deserved to die as enemies of God. Imagine if you or I were a hostile enemy of the king of the land (monarchy), what do you think would have been our judgment?
Jesus took that punishment upon Himself and died as our representative – our substitute on the cross.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. (Isa 53:5)
He was buried and on the third Day He rose again so that whoever may repent of their sins and trust in Jesus’ work for them would now be “made” pleasing to God thereby maintaining a permanent relationship of peace between us and God.
So not only does it bring Joy and Peace but is also evokes
- Praise (v15-20)
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Let’s remember that the shepherds were still on their night shift. They are supposed to guard the flock but upon seeing this great sight and proclamation from the heavenly hosts, they immediately leave for Bethlehem and found that things to be exactly how it was described to them.
And V20 mentions that they returned glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told to them.
That was their response to the birth of Jesus something so marvelous that they witnessed.
Let’s take a moment to pause and ask ourselves – as people who are on this side of the cross – where we’ve not only seen Jesus’ birth but His death and resurrection, what should our response be to the good news of Jesus?
Shouldn’t we be praising and glorifying God in response to who Jesus is and what He came to do for us? And if we are not experiencing that sense of joyful praise in our hearts, could it be that we’ve allowed other things of the world or anxieties to steal that from us? What is God calling us to repent of today?
Or maybe we haven’t yet believed in Jesus and today as we’ve heard that good news of Jesus, our hearts have been moved to realize that our need to repent of our sins and trust in Jesus’ work for us and make Him our Lord. Then here’s the opportunity to do that today in response to the good news.