A Savior Is Born! - Part 4

Tom Pennington • Luke 2:1-20

  • 2019-12-22 AM
  • Sermons

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Couple of years ago, in 2017, Pew Research polled a large group of Americans to understand the current American thinking about Christmas. Some of the things they discovered and will be no surprise to you, but a couple of them might be. First of all, they found that ninety percent of American plan to celebrate Christmas - that's not too much of a surprise. Fifty-one percent of Americans plan to attend a religious service - either the Sunday before Christmas, as we're gathered here today, or perhaps on Christmas Eve. In terms of the basic facts of the Christmas story, that is that Jesus was born to a virgin, that His birth was announced to shepherds by an angel, that He was laid in a manger - some fifty-seven percent believe one or several of those things could be historically true. Now that to me is a surprise. That's a surprising high percentage. But there was also a piece of bad news. The researchers discovered that that percentage had declined by almost ten percent in the previous five years. There is reigning in American culture today, a great deal of confusion about the meaning of Christmas. In fact, thanks to all of the cultural traditions that make up this season, people who are new to the US or who come from other religious backgrounds, sometimes believe that Jesus and Santa Claus are related. And even in places where there is a strong Christian heritage, places like Britain for example, there is increasing confusion. In that same year, in 2017, the History Channel and a British institution conducted a survey there in Britain, and found that twenty percent of Brits, one in five, don't know that Christmas Day is the celebration of Jesus' birth. Now those surveys underscore for me the importance of our study of Luke's historical record of the birth of Jesus Christ. And so, we have been examining over the last several weeks and we'll finish our study today; Luke 2, one of Scripture's most familiar passages.

It begins in verses 1-7 with the historical record of the birth of Christ. We've already examined this but let me just remind you that, in those verses, we discovered that Jesus of Nazareth was qualified to be the Messiah because He was born at the right time. When you look at the historical context that Luke describes, it perfectly fits the prophecy in Daniel 9 of when Messiah would come. He was born at the right time. Secondly, He was born to the right family. Scripture prophesied that David and his descendants would be the line from which Messiah would come. And Jesus was born to two people - to Joseph, His adopted father, and to Mary, His mother, both of whom were descendants of David. He was born in the right city. He was born in Bethlehem which had been prophesied by Micah so many centuries before. And He was born in the right circumstances, specifically, He was born to a virgin, which was exactly what Isaiah had prophesied in his book.

Now the actual birth of Jesus Christ, that is the historical event itself, the physical birth went largely unnoticed in the busy little town of Bethlehem; busy because of the census ordered by Caesar Augustus. But it was never God's plan that the birth of Christ remains unnoticed. Instead, God had planned, as we began to see last week, the greatest birth announcement in history. Last Sunday, we began to study the divine announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ. That is the point of verses 8-20. We just read it together. In these verses, Luke gives us several amazing details about the divine birth announcement of God's Son.

First of all, we discovered last time, the unlikely audience - who God chose. Verses 8 and 9 tells us that He chose a group of unwitting shepherds. Notice verse 8, "In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night." So that night, just a couple of miles from the town of Bethlehem, there were these shepherds who were guarding their flock. There were in the same region, the text says, probably just east of the city of Bethlehem in fields, perhaps very much in these fields where David had kept sheep and where Boaz and Ruth had met before that. It was at night and so, at night, sheep would have typically been kept in some sort of a crude sheepfold; maybe stones stacked to provide a little bit of shelter and protection from thieves and predators. But God chose to tell these shepherds about the birth of His Son. And they were, as I noted for you last time, a most unlikely choice because of the patently bad reputation that shepherds had. They were looked down upon because they tended to be a lower class of people. They were wandering nomads, never settling down in one place but always looking for fresh pasture for their sheep. Because of that, they were often suspected of being thieves wherever they went, taking what didn't belong to them. In fact, they were considered to be so dishonest that they were not allowed to serve as judges nor even as witnesses in court. They were usually under the rabbinic ban. That meant that they were not even allowed to attend the synagogues or the Temple to worship because of the nature of their lifestyle and because of their characters. The ancient Jewish commentary on the Old Testament, the Midrash, says this, "No position in the world is so despised as that of the shepherd." And yet shepherds were the only ones that God invited to the celebration of the birth of His Son.

Why is that? Well we noted last week, it's because God wanted to show that the salvation that He would accomplish through this child, would always be unearned and unmerited. And so, He invited the lowest of the low to show that there is no one beneath the grace of God.

Verse 9, "And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them [these shepherds], and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened." So, an angel arrives, and around the angel was a blinding display of the glory of God. In the Old Testament, this word glory often refers to the Shekinah - that brilliant, blazing, cloud of light that indicated the actual presence of God; His personal presence. The Shekinah had last been seen in Israel 600 years before, in the time of Ezekiel. But it returned on that winter night and was revealed to the shepherds. No wonder these men were frightened.

Verse 10, we noted last time, introduces us to the divine commentary. We've seen the unlikely audience - who God chose - but in verses 10-14 we encounter the divine commentary - what God said. Verse 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'". The good news or the gospel, he says, produces (literally the Greek text says) mega-joy, in all those who receive it. And the announcement, notice, was for all the people not just the Jewish people but for the entire world.

So what exactly is this good news that God is announcing to the whole world, and those who believe it experience true and lasting joy? Well it's found in verse 11. Here is the heart of the angel's message. Here's the heart of the Gospel, the good news itself. "For", here's why it produces great joy, "...for behold…today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Now that verse sets forth all the important details about the birth of Jesus.

Notice, first of all, the time. The angel says today. He's just been born. It's just happened. And notice the location - in the City of David, the town of Bethlehem. As we noted, He's born in the right place. Micah 5:2, written more than 600 years before the angel said this, had said this, "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity." The One who will come as a ruler out of Bethlehem will have existed from eternity. The angel was announcing to the shepherds that Micah's prophecy had been fulfilled today. The good news, the angel says, is now embodied in time and space in a person.

Now notice what the angel told the shepherds about this person. It says in verse 11, "there has been born". In other words, this is a real, human-being. This is a real human newborn. "There has been born for you" - God sent Him, the angel says to the shepherds, on their behalf. Or we could say on our behalf. Or let me make it more personal - on your behalf. There has been born for you! John Calvin, in his commentary on this passage writes this, "The pronoun, you, is very emphatic for it would have given great delight to hear that the author of salvation was born unless each person believed that for himself He was born."

There has been born for you a Savior. That is a rescuer. A deliverer. Here is the heart of Jesus' mission. This is why He came. He came to be a deliverer; to be a rescuer. Now many in Israel were hoping for such a deliverer. They just wanted a political deliverer. But that wasn't the kind of rescue God had in mind. This newborn child will accomplish man's spiritual rescue. He came from God on a divine, spiritual rescue mission to save everyone who would believe in Him. You know nowadays if you talk to people because of the paganism of our nation, you talk to people and say Jesus came to save. The first question is - save from what? Well the New Testament says that He came to save us, ultimately big picture, Matthew 1:21, "...call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from [what?] their sins." That's a comprehensive way to say, He is coming to spiritually rescue them from their sins. Rescue us from sins in what sense? Well, He's come to rescue us from the penalty of our sins before God. The wrath of God that's coming. Romans 5:9 says, for those of us who have believed in Jesus, we will be saved, looking to Christ's return and to the end of the world, we will be saved "from the wrath of God through Him." It means rescue from the power of sin. Paul says to the Romans that we are no longer - we who believe in Jesus - are no longer the slaves of sin. We are rescued from the power of sin. Jesus said the one who commits sin, the one who is committing sin, is a slave of sin. If you're here this morning and you're not a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a slave of your sin. And if you doubt that, just try to permanently change. That's what Jesus said. He came to save His people from their sins.

Mary's child was to be named Jesus which means "Yahweh saves". He saves us from the penalty of our sin. He saves us from the power of our sin. He even saves us from the kingdom of sin. In Colossians 1:13 Paul writes that God has "rescued us [saved us] from the domain of darkness [Satan's reign] and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son [the kingdom of light]". This is how He came to save. So, understand this. Jesus didn't come to rescue us from a lack of personal fulfillment. Jesus didn't come to give you your best life now. Our problem and why He came, is sin. Each of us is legally guilty because each of us has rebelled against our Creator. Each of us has broken His holy law. And God's perfect justice can't allow, listen carefully, God's perfect justice can't allow one single sin to go unpunished. Not one sin that's ever been committed. Not one sin you've ever committed will go unpunished. Either you will endure the punishment for every single sin you've committed or, if you believe in Christ, God will allow Christ to stand in your place and He will have been punished for every single sin you've ever committed. But those are the only two options. God's perfect justice demands eternal punishment. So, Jesus, then, came to save His people from their sins; to rescue us, not just from feelings of guilt which are bad enough, but from real, objective guilt before God. Guilt that the judgment would cause God to condemn us and sentence us to eternal death. Now this salvation that He came to accomplish was first promised all the way back in Genesis 3:15 in the garden, right? There's going to come a human deliverer who will deal with Satan; who will deal with sin.

But how? How would He save His people? Well the first time we learned how was 700 hundred years before Christ in Isaiah; in Isaiah 53. Messiah would save His people from their sins by suffering and dying in their place. Listen to these familiar words from Isaiah 53:4 and following. "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted." We thought God was dealing with it for His sins. But He was actually "pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our [shalom, for our] well-being [peace] fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed." And then Isaiah makes this comprehensive statement, "All of us like sheep have gone astray". Collectively, we've all left God's paths. And then He makes it individual. "Each of us has turned to his own way". You left the path of your Creator and have chosen your own way. "But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him."

By the way, this explains why the incarnation, that is Jesus becoming man, was so essential. If somebody asked you why did Jesus have to be both God and man in order to save us, what would you say? What would your answer be? He had to be divine because only a divine person could save us. Isaiah 43:11, "I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no savior besides Me." God says I'm the only savior. So, He had to be a divine person to save us. But only a human could qualify to be our substitute, to stand in our place. Hebrews 2:17, speaking of Jesus, says, "He had to be made like His brethren [brothers, like us] in all things". In the Greek text it literally says it was necessary for Him to be made like us in all things, that is, to be fully human. Why? To make propitiation, to make satisfaction of God's justice for the sins of the people.

Now back in our text, in Luke 2:11, the angels told the shepherds the identity of this newborn that would accomplish their spiritual rescue from sin and wrath. Notice, "He is Christ the Lord", "who is Christ the Lord". "For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." That expression occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Literally, the Greek text says, "who is Christ Lord". It's two titles. Both of these titles are ones this child rightfully holds, and both are titles that have their roots in the Old Testament. Look at them. You know the first one - Christ. Christ refers to the special deliverer that the Old Testament prophesied. Literally, the anointed one. The Anointed One. In Hebrew, it's Hamaschiah or the Messiah in the Anglicized form of that expression. It means the anointed one. And then when Messiah, or the anointed one, is translated into Greek it becomes Christos. And then when Christos passes into English, it becomes Christ. Do you understand what the angel was saying? The angel was announcing to the awe-struck shepherds that the baby boy born that day was the fulfillment of all of those Old Testament promises. He was the one. The one specially anointed by God. The long-awaited Messiah, Hamaschiah, the Christos, Christ! He was anointed by God to be king and priest and prophet all in the same person. He was the Christ.

The angel adds a second title, "Christ the Lord". The Greek word, translated Lord here, occurs often in the Septuagint (in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament that was translated before our Lord was born; was the Bible of the New Testament era) That most often when this word is used in the Septuagint, it's used to translate or really to stand in place of God's personal name, "Yahweh". So, the most frequent occurrence of this word in the Old Testament is to refer to God. It is a title of deity. Now this shouldn't surprise us. I mean the angel said to Mary in Luke 1:32 that the child that's in your womb, that's going to be in your womb that you will carry, will be born to you, is the Son of the Most-High God. And here we're told He is Christ the Lord. He is Messiah God!

Now understand the deity of Jesus Christ is not something unimportant to the Christian faith. In fact, believing in Jesus' deity is essential in order to be saved from your sin. 1 John 4:15. John says, "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God." Now don't misunderstand. John's not saying, if you sit here this morning and say, "Yup, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God" that means you're saved. No! He's saying not that's all that's required because the demons believe Jesus is the Son of God. He's saying, you can't be saved if you don't believe that He's the Son of God. That has to be an element of your faith for you to be truly converted; for you to be truly saved. So, don't miss what the angel is saying here. Don't miss the big picture. This newborn is a human being; a full and complete human being. He is a savior, the Savior God sent. He is the long-awaited Messiah, and He is God Himself. What an amazing announcement!

Now the angel finishes by giving the shepherds directions to find the child. Look at verse 12. "This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Now this sign was to do two things. First of all, it was to prove to these shepherds that what the angel said was true when they went to Bethlehem and found all these things were as they said. But secondly, it was also a sign to help the shepherds identify the correct child. I mean, after all, there may have been more infants in Bethlehem that night and all of them would've been wrapped in cloths. That was the common practice for newborns. But there was only one newborn in Bethlehem that night who was lying in a manger. As I pointed out, in previous weeks, an early tradition dating to the early 2nd century describes the place where Jesus was born as a cave, normally used as a stable. Jesus was likely born in the cave you see there on the screen behind you. You can still visit it today. It's under the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. According to Jerome, who lived in the adjacent cave around 400 AD (that's where he translated the Vulgate), he said that the manger was still visible in his day. He described it as a rock groove, with plain clay walls, located in a small cave just off of the main cave. The point is, this child would be found in a most unexpected place. And that's how the shepherds would know it was the right one.

Now with that, the angel announcement was finished. Verse 13, "And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host". Literally, a multitude of the army of heaven. That word, host, just means army; a multitude of the army of heaven. Now we're not told here exactly how many angels showed up, but there are a lot of angels to show up if they chose to, if God ordained it to be true. Every time Scripture gives a number to the angels, it is more than a hundred million. In other words, there are as many angels, at least, as a third of the population of United States. We don't know if there were hundreds that showed up on this occasion or if there were thousands that showed up, but regardless, they suddenly appeared. You know Scripture tells us that angels surround this planet. And here, as He did in the Old Testament, God opens the eyes of the shepherds to see an army of angels surrounding them. Instead of just one witness to the birth of His Son, God sent an army of angelic witnesses. And this army, however, didn't come to make war but to announce peace. Look at verse 13, "And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'"

Now, put on for a moment your sanctified imagination and place yourself in this surrounding. You are a lowly, despised, often considered dishonest shepherd. You're guarding this small flock outside the City of Bethlehem. It's nighttime and so your compatriots are sleeping. You're on watch and suddenly an angel shows up. That wakes everybody up and now we're all looking. But not just an angel. But surrounding that angel is the Shekinah glory of God; this blazing light that represents the physical presence of God. And then the angel gives you the announcement that he wants to give and suddenly, when he's finished, your eyes are opened, and you see an army of angels. Now Luke doesn't say the angels sang here. I hate to reign on your parade, but they may have sung that song. Notice, at creation, we know they sang. It's possible they did that night. In fact, notice, there's such a rhythm and parallelism in what the angels said that our English translators treated it like poetry in our English text. So it may have been a song that they sang. It may have been something they chanted together. But what is clear is that these angels were captivated by what was happening that night. Think about the angels for a moment. These are real beings who relate to others, who are brilliant in their intelligence. These angels had worshipped the eternal Son of God in heaven for thousands of years since they were created. They were there, we're told, and witnessed the creation of the world. They had witnessed the fall shortly thereafter in the Garden of Eden. They had seen Adam and Eve choose sin over God. They had seen the results of that spread across our world like leprosy. They had watched men sin again and again and again. But they knew that salvation was coming. In fact, 1 Peter 1 says the angels longed to look into this salvation; to understand who and what time the Messiah would come. They were waiting. Perhaps these angels even understood Isaiah 53 that the Father would punish His Son as a substitute to purchase redemption. We don't know what all they understood but this much is clear, they were overwhelmed with the great love of God that would move Him to allow His eternal Son to enter the world as a human infant. Can you imagine how staggering that would have been as an angel to have witnessed? And to come into the world, not only as an infant, but in such poverty and such humility. William Hendrickson, great commentator on this portion writes this, "Whether literally sung or not, the words of Luke 2:14 are, above all else, an outpouring of adoration. These angels never before had been so thrilled. No wonder, therefore, that from bottom of their hearts they shout, 'Glory to God in the highest'".

Now verse 14 is, first of all, a hymn of praise to God. "Glory to God in the highest". "In the highest", by the way notice, is opposite of "on earth". So we could translate it, "Glory to God in heaven". The angels were clearly expressing their desire, but I think they're also expressing the reality that in heaven, at the very moment, God was receiving and always will receive glory and praise. On this occasion, why? For sending Christ the Lord into the world as a man in order to accomplish our spiritual rescue. Again, listen to John Calvin on the angels' hymn here in Luke 2. He says, "Let us remember, then, the final cause, why God reconciled us to Himself through His Only Begotten Son." Why did God do this? It was that He might glorify His name by revealing the riches of His grace and His boundless mercy; that He might glorify His name by showing His grace and showing His mercy. So this is a hymn of praise to God.

But notice verse 14 is also a blessing to man - "peace on earth". Now, if you're familiar with the Old Testament, you know that in that great Isaiah prophecy (Isaiah 9:6) it was prophesied that the Messiah would be the Prince of Peace. He would be the one who would bring peace - real peace. Remember the time period. Caesar Augustus is on the throne of the Roman Empire. He was the first and greatest Roman Emperor. He ended a century of civil wars and ushered in an era of peace and prosperity that was unparalleled in the ancient world - known as the Pax Romana, the Roman peace. But the peace of Augustus wasn't real peace. And even people of the time recognized that. Here was what a first century philosopher wrote. He said, "While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea... He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace." That's so true. You know, we all would love for there to be political peace for the wars and the fighting - whether it's between countries or even between our branches of government. We'd love for there to be peace. We'd love for there to be peace in families. We'd love for there to be a cessation of hostilities at every level between human beings.

But Jesus, not only brought that kind of peace for those who are His followers, but He also brought, most importantly, peace with God. That's why He came. The peace Jesus brings is, first and foremost, peace with God. Romans 5:1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." So who can have peace with God? That's what our hearts yearn for - to know that we're in right relationship to God. If you're honest with yourself in your quiet moments, you want that if you don't already know that. Who gets it? Well, notice what the angel says, "Peace among men with whom He is pleased". Now, that translation can be a little misleading. Literally, the Greek text reads this, "Peace among men of good favor". It means peace among men who are the objects of God's good favor because every time this word pleased occurs in the New Testament it speaks of God's pleasure not man's; of God's sovereign pleasure. So here, what he's saying is this, peace is a gift for those on whom God has set His favor or on whom He has set His grace. This child will bring peace with God for all of those on whom God has set His grace. Leon Morris puts it this ways. He says, "the angels are saying that God will bring peace for men upon whom His favor rest...It is those whom God chooses, rather than those who choose God, of whom the angels speak." You see this is a lesson in sovereign grace. And what could be a better illustration of that than the shepherds? They were sinful. They were despised. They were dishonest. They were untrustworthy. And spiritually, they weren't out looking for the Messiah. Yet, God sovereignly displayed His grace to them. He chose them to hear about the birth of His Son. They are perfect examples of those on whom God's grace comes to rest.

Now, folks, you and I didn't get the privilege to be there to witness all of this unfold personally. And yet, don't feel like you're a second class citizen here. Because you and I have received the same unprecedented revelation about this child that they did. We don't hear the angelic announcement directly. We don't hear the witness of the shepherds directly. But we receive it recorded in a book that claims to be the very breath of God; the product of God's breath. This is God's own authorized account of the birth of Jesus Christ announcing to us the good news of spiritual rescue in Jesus Christ. That's the divine commentary.

So we've seen the unlikely witnesses. We've seen the divine commentary - what God said about all of this. I want you to notice, thirdly, the appropriate response. The appropriate response - what God expects from those who hear this announcement. We find this in verses 15 to 20. You see, the shepherds' response to the grace God showed them, provides a wonderful model for us. It's how you and I should respond to the Savior's birth. As you think about celebrating our Lord's birth in just a few days with your family and friends, here's how that should unfold. Here's what it should involve. Here's what the heart of your celebration should be.

First of all, you should believe the gospel. Verse 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.'" Now the emphasis here is on the response to the angel's message. Notice the kind of faith these shepherds exhibited. First of all, they were convinced that this revelation was from God. Notice what's said here, "this thing…which the Lord has made known to us". They believed the source of this message was God Himself.

Secondly, they were absolutely certain of its truthfulness. Notice, let's hurry to Bethlehem and see this that has happened. They weren't there to see it. They believed the announcement. They were certain of the content - the truthfulness of the content of the message they'd heard.

So they believed that the source of the message was God. They believed the content of the message was true. And, thirdly, they were in a hurry to obey. They were in a hurry to obey. The angel had not explicitly told them to go to Bethlehem, at least in the text that's recorded for us here. But it's certainly implied by giving them directions; by telling them how to find the child. And they were eager, then, to do what God had said. That is always a sign of true faith. True faith always is eager to obey. If you're here this morning and you profess to be a Christian. You say, "Yes I'm a follower of Jesus Christ" and, yet, you don't love Jesus Christ, you don't seek to obey Him in your daily life, you never look at His Word, you never involve yourself in telling others about Him. If there's nothing about your life that we convict you of being a Christian except your profession, then you're probably not a Christian. True faith expresses itself in obedience and that's how they respond immediately.

Verse 16. "So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger." They may have had to work out the details of how to care for their sheep or they may have just entrusted them to God and left them alone. But they left in a hurry for the city. We aren't told how long they had to search or exactly how they went about researching and eventually finding the child, but what we are told is they found the Savior. But don't miss the big point here of verses 15 and 16. They believed the good news. I told you, last time, that the gospel - the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ by His life, His death, and His resurrection. That good news is an announcement to be believed. It is an invitation to be accepted. And it is a command to be obeyed. Repent and believe. And they responded in all those ways.

Listen, if you want, if you're here this morning and you are not a believer, if you've never been saved from your sins by Jesus Christ, if you want to be spiritually rescued, then like the shepherds, you must believe the good news of the Savior's birth. And the shepherd's search for Jesus, I think, illustrates what true saving faith looks like. When you believe the good news of the gospel, you come to Jesus. In our case not physically, like they did, but spiritually. In fact, often in the New Testament, Jesus describes faith like that. He says, Come to Me. Matthew 11:28 Jesus says this - He says this to you, if you're here this morning and you're not His follower - "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden". If you are weary of your sin, if you're tired of being a slave, if you're tired of bearing the guilt of it, tired of not knowing your Creator and having a right relationship with Him, He says, "if you are weary and heavy-laden, come to Me and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." You want rest for your soul? It's only found in one place. Jesus says, "Come to Me". In Luke 2, God is announcing Christ to you today just as clearly as He did to the shepherds that night. For today, in the City of David there are has been born for you, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And your response must be to believe in that gospel.

The second way we must respond is that once we have believed, we must share the gospel. Verse 17. "When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child." To make known mean to reveal, to declare, to explain. They told others the good news that had been announced to them. The text implies that, as they searched for the child in Bethlehem, they ran into a number of people in the town and they told them. Verse 18, "And all who heard it wondered", that is, were amazed, astonished "at the things which were told them by the shepherds." And of course, once they actually found the child, undoubtedly, the shepherds told Mary and Joseph all that had been told them about the child. So the shepherds repeated the good news to everybody who would listen. Once you have experienced God's sovereign grace in your own life, you just want to tell others. If you've truly come to Christ, you desire to tell others what you have found, what you have learned, what you have discovered about Jesus Christ. So, share the gospel with others.

There's a third appropriate response. We learn it from Mary's reaction, and it's meditate on the gospel. Meditate on the gospel. Verse 19, "But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart." She treasured them in her heart. Literally, she held these things in her heart. The idea here is she retained all of these things she had heard in her memory. I think Luke makes this point explicitly because, as we've seen, as a historian he researched, he investigated, he undoubtedly interviewed Mary and the shepherds, and so he makes it a point here to tell us that Mary carefully treasured. She held all these things in her heart. But she didn't just remember them. Notice, "she pondered them." She meditated on them. She thought how they related to one another. She meditated on the truth of who her Son was and what He would accomplish. She wanted to understand. Mary is such a great encouragement to us. If, like Mary, we have believed the truth of the gospel then we too should continue to meditate on it. After you believe in Jesus Christ - let me just tell you this - I've been in Christ many years now - after you believe in Christ your initial excitement will subside. There's no way you can maintain that same level of excitement throughout your entire Christian life. But that's okay because what will happen, is while that initial excitement may subside, your desire to know Him better will only grow and deepen and become more profound. You will long to have a fuller, more profound understanding of the person and the work of Jesus Christ. And how does that happen? It only happens as you meditate on the gospel; as you meditate on the truth of who He is and what He has accomplished for you. As you contemplate the Christmas celebration coming up, don't you dare just get caught up with the traditions that even unbelievers do. Instead, set aside time to meditate on Jesus our Lord - who He is and what He has accomplished.

A fourth way that we must respond is to glorify and praise God for the gospel. Look at verse 20, "The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them." Wherever God displays His sovereign grace in salvation there will be praise. If you truly know and love Jesus then your life is going to be marked by a prevailing attitude of adoration and worship. You'll love to sing praises to God. Your prayers will be filled with praise. You'll love to tell other people around you about what God has done in your life. You can't help yourself. If your heart has been changed, it's filled with this kind of glorifying of God, in praise of God. Again, if you're here this morning and you would say, yes I believe the facts of the Christmas story and that's why I'm here, but if your life isn't marked by a life of praise and worship of Jesus Christ, and you're not eager to lift Him up in your thoughts and in your words and in your attitudes, then understand your profession is an empty one. In the words of Hebrews, those who are truly Christ's will continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.

Now there's one really important thing that I haven't told you about the shepherds; about these specific shepherds. The sheep that they kept, likely, were not ordinary sheep. The Jewish Mishnah tells us that the flocks which normally pasture year-round in Bethlehem were destined for the Temple. They were destined for sacrifice. So a few days later, these shepherds likely took some of their little lambs to Jerusalem, less than five miles away, and there those lambs would have been slaughtered as a sacrifice picturing the ultimate sacrifice fulfilled by this very child. And at the Temple, as they arrived there with the lambs, they would've told their story about the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord, to anyone who would listen. Perhaps they told their story to an old woman named Anna, and to an old man named Simeon who, just a couple of weeks later, when Jesus arrived at forty days old to be dedicated to the Lord, they would recognize Him and exalt Him as Savior and Lord.

So understand what happened here. That cold winter night, these shepherds who likely kept sheep headed to sacrifice, through an act of sovereign grace, heard the gospel, believed the gospel, and were allowed to witness the birth of the perfect Lamb of God; the One who would fulfill all that those little lambs pictured. And their response to the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord, is a model for our own response. This week, as you gather with family and friends to celebrate Christmas and even in the year before us, our appropriate response, what God expects from each of us is, believe the gospel, share the gospel, meditate on the gospel, and glorify and praise God for the gospel. That is how you should celebrate this Christmas season. May God give us the grace to do so. Let's pray together.

Father thank you for the reality of the birth of Your Son. Thank you for the historical record that we studied together. Thank you for the birth announcement. And Lord, thank You that You made it to the shepherds - making it clear that Your grace could never be earned, could never be merited. But it gives us hope because it means there's no one too low to experience the benefit of the birth, the life, the death, and the resurrection of this child. Father, I pray, for those of us who already know Your Son. I pray that this season would be filled with sharing the good news with others, with meditating on who He is, and all that He's accomplished on our behalf. And Father, may you fill our minds, and hearts, our voices with adoration, and worship, and praise for He, alone, is worthy. And Father, I pray for those who may be here this morning, who are historical Christians, that is, they believe the truths of these things in the same way the demons do, but they have never truly submitted themselves to follow Him as Savior and Lord. Lord, may this be the time, even today, this Christmas, when they respond like the shepherds did; in humble, repentant faith. Lord, only You could accomplish that. And we pray that Your Spirit would be working that in hearts here even now. We ask in Jesus' name. Amen!