Christmas 2008:  “The Angelic Announcement Made To Shepherds – Luke 2:6-20

By

Jim Bomkamp

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Luke 2:6-20 (NASB95)
6
While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord 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 all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared 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 men with whom He is pleased.” 15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”

 

 

1.                 Introduction:

 

I have always been intrigued at the means which the Lord used to declare the arrival of His only begotten Son on that first Christmas morning.  The whole Nativity story to me is shocking because of its lack of pomp and circumstance; it is so not what I would expect.  Yet, this very fact itself lends credibility to it.  No one would have made up a story such as this.  Think about it, if one person of the Almighty Trinity were to leave His Throne of Glory ruling over every creature and all created things, to inhabit a woman’s body and then be born as a manchild, what kind of an introduction would you expect creatures so mighty as cherubs would make for this child?  The option that you would never expect is the very one our story tells us.

 

2.                 This passage brings up many questions in my mind, including: 

 

2.1.         The angels in our story sing, but why would the angels not have prepared for a millennia an entire symphony concert on this morning instead of a single chorus? 

2.2.         Why did the Lord not make this announcement and singing to occur in one of the great amphitheatres of the day instead of it occurring out in the fields? 

2.3.         Why would an announcement that was to be for all people be made to just a few? 

2.4.         Why would the Lord make this angelic announcement to those of the class of shepherds, considered to be the dregs of society in that day and included many criminals? 

2.5.         Why would the angels state that this event was to bring peace on earth? 

2.6.         Why was this peace announced to shepherds when it was only for those whom the Lord was pleased?

2.7.         It is great men who are worshipped, why would a baby deserve such worship?  What about baby Jesus deserved such worship?

2.8.         Why would such a manchild who was inhabited by the King of the Universe have for His birthing a manger, a cave or shack which was nothing more than a place where horses and donkeys were fed and housed?

2.9.         Couldn’t the Lord have thought ahead and made sure there would be an inn that had room to put baby Jesus in after He was born?

2.10.    Why didn’t the Lord choose to reveal His Son to the religious leaders and experts of the Law of the very nation He had called to be His people, instead of shepherds and Magi from a far away land?

 

3.                 The answer to all of these questions is enshrouded in the mystery of the incarnation, and the purpose for why God would send His only begotten Son to earth to save mankind.

 

4.                 Note that the message that was declared by the angels to these shepherds was an “understandable” message and contained concrete truth, a truth from God that was intended to be communicated to all mankind.  How magnificent the song was which they sang, we can never on this earth imagine.  Spurgeon once preached about this song that was sung and said the following:  What is the instructive lesson to be learned from this first syllable of the angels’ song? Why this, that salvation is God’s highest glory. He is glorified in every dew drop that twinkles to the morning sun. He is magnified in every wood flower that blossoms in the copse, although it live to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness in the forest air. God is glorified in every bird that warbles on the spray; in every lamb that skips the mead. Do not the fishes in the sea praise him. From the tiny minnow to the huge Leviathan, do not all creatures that swim the water bless and praise his name? Do not all created things extol him? Is there aught beneath the sky, save man, that doth not glorify God? Do not the stars exalt him, when they write his name upon the azure of heaven in their golden letters? Do not the lightnings adore him when they flash his brightness in arrows of light piercing the midnight darkness? Do not thunders extol him when they roll like drums in the march of the God of armies? Do not all things exalt him, from the least even to the greatest? But sing, sing, oh universe, till thou hast exhausted thyself, thou canst not afford a song so sweet as the song of Incarnation. Though creation may be a majestic organ of praise, it cannot reach the compass of the golden canticle — Incarnation! There is more in that than in creation, more melody in Jesus in the manger, than there is in worlds on worlds rolling their grandeur round the throne of the Most High.

 

5.                 If beings as powerful as angels give and sing “Glory to God,” how much more should less human creatures follow their lead!  And everything about Christ has and will give glory to God.

 

6.                 When we consider the angels of God, we know that the scriptures describe them as being mighty in power.  In the book of Revelation, there are angels that actually hold back the winds (Rev. 7:1), have power over fire (Rev. 14:8), have the key to the Abyss (Bottomless Pit), and have a great chain with which they bind Satan for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-2).  In fact, the angels had already been witness to all of the incredible and vast creations that the Lord had made, such things of which we at best understand but a miniscule amount.  Yet, here we see that to the angels it was the incredible sight of God incarnate in baby Jesus that caused them to declare glory to God “in the highest.”  No greater expression of God’s glory had these angelic beings seen.

 

7.                 What it was about this baby that inspired the angels’ praise of God’s glory and worship of God, was the Lord Himself.  Even as a baby, the Lord Jesus was what the book of Hebrews  declares Him to be, “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” in bodily form, (Heb. 1:3).  There was nothing about Jesus Christ at any age that was but a reflection of God’s glory and a representation of His nature.  The urge and impetus to worship of these angels was even greater on this day than that which Isaiah described in his book of his vision of heaven:  Isaiah 6:1-7, “1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”

 

8.                 There is more to why the angels made this declaration.  A light is most bright and distinct when it shines in a dark place, and it was the fact that the Lord of Glory was now dwelling in human form, the child born to fallen and sinful humanity, 100% man and 100% God, that made His glory and radiance all of the more bright and clear to these angelic beings.  This further explains their declaration of “Glory to God in the highest.”

 

9.                 Not only did this light shine most bright and distinct because of the dark place from which it came (fallen humanity), the glory of God was seen in the Christ child by the angels because of the fact that the humility of God was revealed in it.  The God of the universe had humbled Himself laying aside His power and glory in order to inhabit one of His own creations, a human body originally created out of nothing but dirt.  This is the amazement of the incarnation that the apostle Paul wrote about in Philippians 2:5-8, “5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  

 

10.            The angelic beings also recognized God’s glory in Christ the manchild because of the purpose for which He had been born into the world.  God’s glory is seen in that men deserved judgment and justice for being born a sinful race descendent from the first Adam, their federal head, and for having sinned over and over breaking God’s law (“the wages of sin is death”-Rom. 6:23), but instead of holding mankind responsible to the fullest extent of which God’s holiness and Law demanded, instead this baby had been born so that he could one day have the full extent of God’s justice and wrath deserved by sinful men, poured out upon Him.  The angel declared Him to be the “Savior” of mankind.  It was the glory of God in the face of Christ, the one born to be man’s substitute that inspired the angel’s praise and worship:  2 Corinthians 4:6, “6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 

 

11.            The history of mankind has been a history of war and of hate and enmities among men.  Further, because mankind is a sinful race and all have sinned over and over again throughout their life and thus been at enmity with God, thus the declaration concerning this child that He was come to bring “Peace on earth,” is amazing.  The peace that is mentioned is the peace that comes from knowing Christ as one’s Lord and Savior, of being washed in the blood of Christ, and having been “justified” by Christ with the Lord declaring, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

 

12.            The angels also announced that they were declaring from the Lord through this manchild, “Good will to man.”  Christ was being given not that the world should be judged but that He should be a savior to mankind (John 3:17).  Spurgeon once preached the following about the good will of God towards mankind apparent in the incarnation of Christ:  Philosophers have said that God has a good will toward man; but I never knew any man who derived much comfort from their philosophical assertion. Wise men have thought from what we have seen in creation that God had much good will toward man, or else his works would never have been so constructed for their comfort; but I never heard of any man who could risk his soul’s peace upon such a faint hope as that. But I have not only heard of thousands, but I know them who are quite sure that God has a good will towards men; and if you ask their reason, they will give a full and perfect answer. They say, he has good will toward man for he gave his Son. No greater proof of kindness between the Creator and his subjects possibly be afforded than when the Creator gives his only begotten and well beloved Son to die. Though the first note is God-like, and though the second note is peaceful, this third note melts my heart the most. Some think of God as if he were a morose being who hated all mankind. Some picture him as if he were some abstract subsistence taking no interest in our affairs. Hark ye God has “good will toward men.” You know what good will means. Well all that it means, and more, God has to you, ye sons and daughters of Adam. Swearer, you have cursed God; he has not fulfilled his curse on you; he has good will towards you, though you have no good will towards him. Infidel, you have sinned high and hard against the Most High; he has said no hard things against you, for he has good will towards men. Poor sinner, thou hast broken his laws; thou art half afraid to come to the throne of his mercy lest he should spurn thee; hear thou this, and be comforted — God has good will towards men, so good a will that he has said, and said it with an oath too, “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but had rather that he should turn unto me and live;” so good a will moreover that he has even condescended to say, “Come, now, let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool though they be red like crimson, they shall be whiter than snow.” And if you say, “Lord, how shall I know that thou hast this good will towards me,” he points to yonder manger, and says, “Sinner, if I had not a good will towards thee, would I have parted with my Son? if I had not good will towards the human race, would I have given up my Son to become one of that race that he might by so doing redeem them from death?

 

13.            The fact that that the announcement was made not in a finely architected amphitheatre, but was made to none other than shepherds, and that the baby was born in a manger (horse stall) because there was no room in the inn, all further reveals God’s glory because God was at this time sending His son to every man.  It was not the mighty or powerful among men, not the rich who live in palaces and wear fine clothes and eat the best gourmet, and not the religious elite who ruled over and guided the masses, to whom the Christ child should be announced.  It was to the man in the field, the poor and homeless, the weak and despised, the helpless and the hopeless, the ones who would truly understand, receive and appreciate such a gift of the grace of God, to whom this Christ child would be announced.  It would be among them that He would rule and establish His kingdom in their hearts.  He came to call sinners to Himself.  This is exactly what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:26-27, “26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.”

 

14.            That shepherds were chosen as the vehicles of this announcement has to do with the fact that they weren’t pretentious and hypocritical as was the case of the religious authorities and rulers in Israel in that day.  What the shepherds went out and declared about this announcement and the baby they found in the manger brought “wonder” to those who heard.  The shepherds saw and heard what the angels were declaring.  They “got it” because they weren’t blinded by their own preconceptions and prejudices, plus they realized their own unworthiness to be vessels chosen by God.

 

15.            Look at this first statement that the angels make as they begin their announcement:  Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;  for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

 

15.1.    This announcement was not to produce fear, for it was not God’s will to make men fearful. 

 

15.1.1.God was sending Jesus Christ to not to judge the world but rather that the world might be saved, just as Jesus said in John 3:17.

 

15.2.    The news was intended to be “good news of great joy.” 

 

15.2.1.The Messianic promise first made to Abraham was that of being a blessing to all mankind.  Good news means “gospel,” and the gospel is to bring “great joy” to those who receive it.  Mens’ sins were no long to be counted against them because Jesus had born our sin and taken our judgment.  If men received Him they would be forgiven and given the free gift of eternal life.

 

15.2.2.Issac Watts once remarked the following:

 

“Religion never was designed
To make our pleasures less.”

 

15.2.3.This great joy comes from the wells of salvation and is the river of water that Jesus said would flow from the innermost being of those who believe in Him (John 7:37).

 

15.3.    The news was not intended to be just for shepherds, but rather it was intended “for all the people” on the earth.

 

15.3.1.Shepherds were receiving an announcement that would eventually echo from one end of the earth to the other.  It would be heralded not by angels by but redeemed men acting as evangelists and stewards of the mysteries and oracles of God.

 

15.4.    The manchild’s purpose was to be “a Savior.”

 

15.4.1.Sinners cannot save themselves.  The scriptures tell us that mankind is lost in sin and thus could never be pleasing and accepted in God’s sight because of their sin:  All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” Rom. 3:23. 

 

15.5.    He was to be their Savior, for as it says He is, “for you.”

 

15.5.1.The angels made announcement to angels because a Savior had been born for them.  The offer of salvation through Jesus Christ was being made to them, and to every man.

 

15.6.    The appellation of this manchild is declared by the angel to be “Christ the Lord.” 

 

15.6.1.The “Messiah” and “Master” of all is what the angel declared the baby is to be called.

 

16.            I never want to leave Jesus Christ as a baby whenever I teach about the story of the Nativity.  The angelic announcement reveals the glory, awe, and worship that is inspired by the manchild.  But, Jesus grew up to be a man, and as a man He accomplished salvation upon Calvary’s cross for all who will believe in Him.  The “Maker of the Universe,” a poem that was written by F.W. Pitt, and was later put to music by Phil Keaggy, reveals these same contrasts seen in the baby who is incarnate, only when as a man He became mankind’s sin-bearer and Savior:

The Maker of the universe,
As Man for man was made a curse.
The claims of Law which He had made,
Unto the uttermost He paid.

His holy fingers made the bough,
Which grew the thorns that crowned His brow.
The nails that pierced His hands were mined
In secret places He designed.

He made the forest whence there sprung
The tree on which His body hung.
He died upon a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill on which it stood.

The sky that darkened o'er His head,
By Him above the earth was spread.
The sun that hid from Him it's face
By His decree was poised in space.

The spear which spilled His precious blood
Was tempered in the fires of God.
The grave in which His form was laid
Was hewn in rocks His hands had made.

The throne on which He now appears
Was His for everlasting years.
But a new glory crowns His brow
And every knee to Him shall bow.

 

17.            Do you know Him today?  Do you know if you died today that you would go to heaven?

 

The scripture tells us that we can know now in this life that we have the free gift of eternal:  1 John 5:11-13, “11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

 

You can learn how to come to know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and thus have the assurance that you have eternal life at the site I have created to shave this good news:  http://www.calvarychapelgb.com/gospeltract.htm  

 

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