Sermon on Luke 2:8, 15, 20
Text: there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. . . When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” . . . The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
There are many familiar figures involved with the Christmas story. There is, of course, Mary and Joseph. There are the angels who proclaimed the wondrous message of the birth of the Savior. Another set of figures found in most nativity sets, though they would have come much later, are the wise men. This morning, we want to focus our attention on another group of people involved with the first Christmas and those are the shepherds. We are going to look at their reaction to the announcement of the birth of the Christ and, also, how it changed their lives. So, dear friends, LET US GO TO BETHLEHEM. 1. Leave the Busyness For A While and 2. Return Glorifying And Praising God.
Whew! It’s finally here. Christmas is finally here. All of those days of shopping and decorating have come to an end. The extra Christmas baking is done. All of the hustle and bustle of the holidays is about to an end. Aren’t you glad? Isn’t it a shame that we get to feeling that way about this time of year? All of the busyness, at times, seems to take away from the joy of the season.
The shepherds were busy that first Christmas, as well. They were, as our text tells us, “living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” (Verse 8) They had the everyday type of things to take care of. They had watch over their sheep that night. They had their job to do to provide for themselves and their families. No doubt they had the everyday type of concerns that many of us have today. These were average, ordinary people. They were busy, taking care of the things that had to be done.
Oh, but how things changed for them that night! There, as they sat in the darkness, an angel of the Lord appeared to them. The glory of the Lord shone around them. No wonder that we are told they were terrified! Wouldn’t you have been? Yet, the angel told them not to be afraid. Instead, he had some wonderful news for them. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Then the night was filled with angels, praising God “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
What was their reaction to this message? Did they sit around and say to themselves, ‘I’ll get around to this later.’? Did they say, ‘That’s nice, but I’m awfully busy now. I’ll look into this later.’? That wasn’t their reaction at all, was it? Instead we read, “The shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” (Verse 15) They were so excited, they dropped everything to go and see. They put aside their busyness to go and see.
Dear friends, I know that we all have very busy lives. There are things to do and people to see. There always seems to be more things to do than there is time to do them. Today, however, let us also leave our busyness for a while and go and see this thing that has happened, which the angels have told us about. “In the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” This little baby born in Bethlehem is the Lord. This is the Almighty Son of God, who took on our humanity. This is the Christ, the Messiah, the one who was promised to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to David. This is our Savior. Another way to think of the word “Savior” is to use the word “rescuer.” Imagine being trapped in a burning building. There doesn’t seem to be any way to escape from the flames. It looks as though your end is fast approaching. Then, through the flames, comes a fireman. He reaches down and helps you up and out of those flames. You have been rescued. You have been saved.
That is a very accurate description of what that little baby in Bethlehem came to do. He came to rescue us from something far worse than a fire. He came to rescue us from our sins. He came to save us from the punishment that we deserve because of those sins. As we read through the rest of the gospels, we see Jesus grow up. Throughout his entire life, he perfectly followed his Father’s will. We also know that the story of Jesus doesn’t end at the manger. That is just the beginning. Behind the manger looms the cross. That is the reason he came. He came to live for us, to suffer and die for us and to rise again. Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we have been saved. Let us set aside the busyness for a while and just reflect on the wonderful fact that, “A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
Eventually the shepherds did have to go back to their flocks. They couldn’t just leave the sheep to fend for themselves. So they went back to their busyness, but they were changed people. We read in verse 20, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Even though they had to go back to their daily lives, they did so with a different attitude. They glorified and praised God for all the things that they had heard and seen. Elsewhere we read that “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” (Luke 2:17) They were so excited about what they had seen, that they told everybody they met. Yes, they did have to go back to their flocks, back to the daily grind. Now, however, they did so with a heart filled with joy. Their Savior had come!
The same holds true for us. Soon we will have to go back to our daily schedules. The packages either have been opened or will be opened. The decorations will come down. The Christmas music that fills the airwaves now, will be gone tomorrow. But, don’t pack Jesus into the box and forget about him. Return home today, having again heard the message of your Savior’s birth, glorifying and praising God for all the things you have heard and see. By faith, you heard the angel’s message and songs of praise. By faith, you have gone to the stable in Bethlehem and seen the baby lying in a manger. By faith you know that the child born in Bethlehem all those years ago is your Savior and King. This cannot help but change the way that we live our lives. When we are given a gift, we want to say “Thank you.” We may even do something special for that person to let them know how much we appreciated the gift that they have given us. In the same way, we say “Thank you” to our God by living lives that glorify him. We want our lives to be one giant “Thank you” letter to our God.
When we receive a special gift, we cannot wait to tell others what we have been given. In doing so, we often credit the giver of that gift. “Look what so-and-so gave me.” We have been given the greatest gift of all at Christmas. God gave his Son to be our Savior. He loved us so much that he gave the very best that he had. Having received this gift by faith, may we go and tell others. May the same things be said of us that was said of the shepherds, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” In doing so, we will be glorifying and praising God for all that we have seen and heard.
This truly is a joyful time of year. We have again heard the beautiful message of our Savior’s birth. We know that he came to rescue us from our sins. This morning, we have left behind the busyness of life for awhile. We joined the shepherds who encouraged us to go to Bethlehem to see this thing which has happened. We have meditated on the joyous news of salvation. May it be that this message has once again touched your lives and hearts. May we leave this place glorifying and praising God for all that we have heard and seen. Amen.
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