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The Benefits of the Angel’s Proclamation
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A young boy asked his grandfather to tell him his most exiting story. The old man stared at his grandson for a moment and said, “Alright, I’m going to tell you the most exciting thing that ever happened to me. It happened 40 years ago in a field outside of Bethlehem, as a group of us were watching over the sheep, and suddenly there appeared an angel who lit up the entire area.”
The boy asked, “Were you afraid.”
“Yes,” the grandfather replied, “But then the angel told us not to be, because he was bringing to us good news that would fill us with great joy.”
The boy excitedly asked, “What was it Zayde,” which is Yiddish for grandfather.
“He said that in the town of David, that is, Bethlehem, there was a baby that had been born who would be our Savior, Christ our Lord.”
“But how would you know which baby and where he was,” the boy asked.
“The angel said,” the grandfather continued, “That he would be born in a stable wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.”
“In a manger,” the boy gasped. “I thought the Messiah would be born in a palace, in a place of honor, not in a stable and laid in a feeding trough for animals. Was there at least music being played and singing about this great event?”
“Yes, there was a choir,” said the grandfather, “But it wasn’t of human origin, but a great company of angels appeared praising God singing ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to whom God’s favor rests.
“But Zayde,” the boy continued, “How is this your most exciting story?”
And his grandfather replied, “Well, for the first time in my life as a shepherd, I felt honored and privileged to hear the most wonderful of all announcements, one denied to even kings and religious leaders, and that is the proclamation that Christ our Savior had been born.”
Let’s now take a moment and look at the angel’s proclamation found in Luke 2:8-14.
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 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, goodwill toward men!’” (Luke 2:8-14 NKJV)
For our time together, what I’d like to share with you, and again something special at the end, the benefits that Jesus’s birth brings into our lives and to our world. In other words, the good news that brings great joy.
At Jesus’s Birth Fears Fade
“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.’” (Luke 2:10a NKJV)
There are many reasons why the angel told the shepherds not to be afraid. First, it’s only natural for someone to be a little terrified when seeing such a heavenly personage, and the glory of heaven shining around him. The shepherds believed like so many today that angels are superior beings to humans.
But what they failed to realize is that humanity is God’s greatest creation, and that’s because we have been created in the image and likeness of the Lord God Himself (Genesis 1:27), something angels never were.
Also, back then, shepherds were considered third class citizens and religious outcasts, in that their line of workprevented them from participating in the feasts and holy days.
There are several reasons why. First, someone had to watch over the sheep. When everyone else was making the trip to Jerusalem to make sacrifices at the temple, or participating in one of the annual feasts, they were out in the fields keeping watch over the flocks.
They were also looked down upon from a religious view point because by Jewish law, not God’s law, they were considered to be unclean. So, no matter what may have been in their hearts, they weren’t able to participate fully in the religious life of the community.
But not only were they religious outcasts, but social outcasts. They were constantly on the move and were looked upon with suspicion. If something came up missing it was often blamed upon the shepherds.
They were also not allowed to give testimony in a legal proceeding either, because their word was considered untrustworthy.
But why tell them not to fear? Shepherds would have had many fears. There were the wild animals that set their sights on the sheep or them, and they feared bandits for the same reason. And they would have also feared the Roman soldiers who harassed them, and they no one to speak on their behalf.
Now can we see why they would have been excited to hear the angels say not to be afraid?
But also, like every human being, they would have had the fear of death. But unto them had been born that day the Savior, the Great Shepherd Himself, which is what we celebrate as Christmas. And He specializes in vanquishing fear from the human heart. He conquered the fear of death by conquering the grave and thus death when He rosethe third day after being crucified.
You too may have a heart filled with fear this Christmas. Fear about your health, family, job, the economy, not to mention the world we live in. But we don’t need to fear because of these good tidings of great joy, that Jesus, who is both our Savior and Lord, the Great Shepherd, was born, lived a perfect sinless life, and then died upon the cross for our sins and rose the third day conquering both sin and death.
And when this if fully understood, believed, and becomes a reality in our lives, then our fears will begin to fade as well.
At Jesus’s Birth There’s Great Joy
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.” (Luke 2:10 NKJV)
Being a shepherd was a loneliest career back in those days. It denied a person the opportunities to attend many social gatherings and activities. Shepherds could not even attend the synagogue, the Jewish feast days, or offer their sacrifices at the temple because they not only had to watch after the sheep, but they were considered unclean.
But now comes the Great Shepherd, and although He was called a man of sorrows, He came to bring us great joy. We see this exact thing stated in Isaiah’s description of the coming Messiah.
“He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:3-5 NKJV)
This is God’s promise to all those who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, “Christ,” being the Greek word for “Messiah.” And this promise in Isaiah is seen and will be fully realized in Heaven.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 NKJV)
And so the angels said, “I bring you good tidings of great joy.”
Now, the word “great,” is the Greek word “megas.” It is where we get our English word, “Mega.” And I love this. The good news the angels proclaimed was not just the good news of joy, but it was the good news of MEGA JOY; mega joy for all people, mega joy for you and me.
I am reminded of a popular Christmas Carol, “Joy to the World.” It says, “Joy to the world the Lord is come,” and “repeat the sounding joy.” But joy, real joy, great joy, seems to elude so many in today’s world. But that’s not news. We’ve all seen how this time of year is one of great depression for many.
But with the coming of Jesus, there is great “mega” joy. But not because our troubles will disappear, but rather because our sins that separate us from God have been dealt with.
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJV)
And so, the second benefit the angels tell us is our receiving Great Joy.
At Jesus’s Birth Walls of Discrimination Tumble
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” (Luke 2:10 NKJV)
Shepherding was a job back in those days that was given to servants, or the least family member, as we see with David, who was the youngest of eight boys, was given the job of watching the family’s flock.
What a sweet message then for these lowly shepherds to hear, that is, a word of assurance from the angel that this good news that brings great joy was not just for the rich and famous, but for everyone, including lowly shepherds like themselves.
It is this very message that has broken down the walls of discrimination, so that for those who believe there is no longer red, yellow, black, or white, male or female, just children of God.
When Jesus died upon the cross, the veil of the temple separating the holy place from the holy of holies had been torn in two from the top to the bottom. This is to illustrate that the wall between God and humanity has been broken down, including the wall of discrimination between the races and sexes.
The grace of God has been extended from the Jews to the Gentiles; to all who will believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. The grace of God abounds to all people and forgiveness becomes available to all through the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God.
Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 NKJV)
When Adam and Eve committed sin in the Garden of Eden, it broke the close relationship between God with His human creation, and they were cast out of Eden. But when Jesus was born, and then died upon the cross, and was raised from the dead and is alive, He brings us back to God and reestablishes our relationship with God through His redeeming blood, and it is this that breaks down the wall of discrimination.
At Jesus’s Birth God Becomes Personal
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day” (Luke 2:10-11a NKJV)
One of the names given to Jesus is “Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.” God personally chose to involve Himself in the redemption of humanity. Quoting from the prophet Isaiah about the coming Messiah, Matthew talks about how this name describes Jesus.
“‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 6:14 NKJV)
And of Jesus, John said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 14 NKJV)
During the Old Testament period, God spoke to the people of Israel through prophets like Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. But when Jesus was born, God communicates His message to us through Jesus.
The writer of Hebrews tells us, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” (Hebrews 1:1-2 NKJV)
This concept of God’s personal touch is best demonstrated in that God wants to have that personal relationship with us so that we can be His sons and daughters.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12 NKJV)
Therefore, we benefit at the birth of Jesus in that God becomes personally involved in our lives.
At Jesus’s Birth Our Salvation is Guaranteed
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11 NKJV)
Every Jew has been waiting for the coming Messiah, or Savior who will sit on the throne of David to liberate them. At this time in history, Israel was under Roman rule. But when Jesus came, He didn’t liberate Israel, or for that matter, the world from Roman rule. Instead, He liberated all who come to Him by faith, from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, or the Kingdom of God.
Humanity’s problem is sin. Ever since that very first sin in the Garden, humanity has been in need of a savior, because sin has separated humanity from God.
The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 NKJV)
That is, humanity has fallen short of Gods’ holy and righteous standards for life. Paul then goes on the say in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death, which is not only physical death, but also spiritual death, which is eternal separation from God in Hell for all those who do not repent and come to God through Jesus Christ.
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 NKJV)
Because of sin, humanity has been separated from God, but it was God’s plan to send Jesus to reconcile and restore humanity back to God’s original design and back into that personal relationship with God that sin spoiled.
1 Timothy 2:5-6 in the Living Bible states, “God is on one side and all the people on the other side, and Christ Jesus, himself man, is between them to bring them together, by giving his life for all mankind.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6 LB)
And so, God decided to involve Himself in humanity’s salvation by restoring our relationship with Him through that baby lying in a manger, who willing gave up His life so that we could have eternal life in heaven with Him.
Now, that’s what you might call personal.
If I could conclude our time together, I’d like to do so by looking at what the multitude of angels sang at the end.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14 NKJV)
There is no other way that the glory of God can be best demonstrated to humanity but through Jesus’s incarnationfor the redemption of sinful humanity bringing peace and goodwill to all those who believe.
And so, now that we have heard the same proclamation the angel gave to those shepherds, will we like the shepherds, go and seek out Jesus, not just for Christmas, but for the rest of our lives? If we do, then we can expect our lives to be forever changed.
When I made the point that at Jesus’s birth how God gets personal, the Lord wouldn’t let me loose on this whole concept or truth that with God its all personal.
We’ve all heard people say when they do or say something that upsets us, they say, ‘Don’t take it personally.” But for us it is personal. Well that’s how it is with God. Everything we say and do is personal with Him.
Like when we blow it, that is, when we sin; it hurts God, and it’s personal to Him. Why, because He created us in His image and likeness and we are part of His family, and this sin separates us from Him.
The prophet Isaiah said, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” (Isaiah 59:2 NLT)
Prior to God flooding the earth in the days of Noah it says that the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was so great, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually that He was sorry and grieved in His heart. (Genesis 6:5-6). And He said that same about Israel when they rebelled against Him in the wilderness, that He was grieved.
And so, God made a way to get us back into that right relationship with Him, but He didn’t do it through religion and all of its rules and regulations, rather He got personal. He sent His Son, Jesus to be one of us, and tells us this very thing in the name that He will call His Son, “Immanuel,” or “God with Us.”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 14 NKJV)
Jesus became one of us. He became God with us. And so, when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, it’s all personal.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6 NKJV)
Notice Jesus didn’t say when you come to the church, or come to a religion, He said “I am,” not Judaism or Christianity, or this particular denomination or that denomination. But rather He was saying that it’s personal, that is, our salvation is through He Himself and no other, as He said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
And what this tells us is that God doesn’t want a religion, He wants a personal relationship with each one of us.
And we see this in how God wants us to be a part of His family, where He will be our dad.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12 NKJV)
Jesus came to redeem us and to make us children of God, members of God’s divine family. And God placed within us the Spirit of adoption where we can call Him Dad which is seen in the Aramaic word, “Abba,” which is a word of endearment, like when we call our fathers, Daddy, or Papa.
“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:15 NKJV)
But when it comes to this personal relationship it doesn’t get more personal that in our prayer time with God.
Let me use an Old Testament example of the tent of meeting to explain.
The tent of meeting was the place where the people of Israel could plead their needs before the Lord. The tent of meeting, therefore, was a visual representation of the availability of God throughout Israel’s journey to the Promised Land.
“Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the ‘tent of meeting.’ Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.” (Exodus 33:7 NIV)
Only Moses would make use of this tent, however. The cloud of God’s glory would descend upon tent of meeting while Moses talked with the Lord. And what really got my attention is when it says, “So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11 NKJV)
I love Psalm 61, because it speaks directly to this very thing.
“Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth, I will cry to Thee, when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For Thou has been a refuge for me, and a tower of strength from the enemy. And let me dwell in Your tent forever.” (Psalm 61:1-4a)
In our time of prayer, God wants to talk with us the same way. God wants us to talk with Him as with someone we love and can’t wait to be around. He doesn’t want rote prayers, or prayers we recite from a book or some prayer card. He wants to speak with us directly, like Moses, face to face.
And so, we are told that as believers we have direct access to His throne of grace.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV)
That word “Boldly” means with all speech.
And so, this Christmas, or for that matter from here on out, let’s start getting personally involved with God who wants to get personally involved with us. And He proved it when He sent Jesus to die for our sins so that He could then reside within all those who believe.
Hopefully, you can now see that it’s personal with God, and that God wants to get personally involved in our lives. He doesn’t sit in heaven looking down upon us, rather He lives within us. So, let’s get personal with God, because God wants to get personal with us.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study