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Unlikely Eyewitnesses of the Nativity

Tom Pennington Luke 2:8-20


This last week I had the opportunity to do what I encourage all of you to do through this season that is to read the New Testament accounts of the birth of Christ. And as I read I was struck again with the fact that the birth of Christ really is remarkable, not so much for what happens that night, but for what doesn't happen. It's really remarkable in its utter simplicity. And it's complete lack of pomp and ceremony. If you or I had been God and we were fulfilling a great eternal plan to send our Son into the world to affect redemption, I'm afraid we would have made that entrance much more dramatic.

Think for a moment about all of those who were not invited to be present at the birth of Christ that if it were an event today would have been on the guest list. Think of all the Roman officials, the Roman political figures that were not there to welcome the Son of God. Herod the great lived and could be found most of the time either in his palace in Jerusalem, or he had built this monstrous fortress for himself, cut off the top of a mountain burrowed within the mountain six miles south of Bethlehem and created the great structure called Herodium. He could be found usually in one of those places, just a short journey from the city of Bethlehem. He wasn't included. Quirinius, the governor, the Roman governor of Syria who had ordered the registration that's mentioned in Luke 2 for the purpose of taxation. He was nowhere to be seen. No Roman officials came from the nearby Roman town of Caesarea just a few miles up the coast on the Mediterranean.

You might say well it's expected really that there were no Romans there, they were after all pagan: they weren't believing in the true God of Israel. So perhaps it's even more remarkable to realize that not a single leader of Israel was included by God that night. Jerusalem you remember was less than five miles away from the city of Bethlehem, an easy walk, but none of the seventy members of the ruling San Hedrin, the Pharisees, the scribes, the Sadducees – none of them were there that night. Not even the political leaders of the little village of Bethlehem were invited to be present and do you remember the reason that Mary and Joseph found themselves in Bethlehem that night? Every Israelite had been required to return to their ancestral town to register ultimately for the purpose of taxation. And in Israel some of the most important and influential people in the entire nation were those who could prove that they were in the line of King David. And of course their ancestral home therefore would have been the same of that of Mary and Joseph, the same as David the little village of Bethlehem. In other words that night Bethlehem was literally overflowing with the rich and powerful of the nation of Israel. And none of them were invited to the birth of Christ.

So exactly who did God invite to witness the birth of His Son? You know the answer; it was a most unlikely group, a group of poor, smelly, unimportant shepherds. From the time we were children we've known this. We've seen countless Christmas pageants and had a number of crèche's in our homes always with the shepherds dutifully present. But perhaps you've never considered how important the shepherds are to the story. You see, Luke wrote the fullest account of all the gospel writers of the birth of Christ and in Luke 2, he records the entire process of the birth in two verses. Look at Luke chapter 2 verse 6, "While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 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." Two verse's given to the most momentous event in human history, the birth of the Son of God. But beginning in verse 8 and running all the way down through verse 20 Luke writes about shepherds. It's because what happens with the shepherds goes to the heart of the Christmas story. It is a story of divine grace. This morning I want us to walk through this passage and watch together as the story of grace unfolds.

First, let's consider the unworthy recipients of divine grace. Look at verse 8, "In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night." The fact that these shepherds were living out in the fields has been used by some to prove that Jesus was not born in the winter, but rather in the spring. On the face of it that seems like a reasonable argument, but a number of Jewish sources indicate that there were flocks kept in the fields near Bethlehem throughout the entire year. And I'll explain why a little later. And so the best evidence, when you take the full evidence of scripture and all that it records, the best evidence according to Harold Hoehner in his excellent book Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, points to a birthdate for Christ probably in December of 5 BC or in January of 4 BC. It was in fact – winter.

Apparently that winter night several shepherds had brought their flocks together and each one took watch over the entire collected flock as the other shepherds slept. Shepherds included in the story of the birth of Christ. It seems perfectly normal to us because we've heard it for so many years. But if you had lived in first century Israel and you were hearing this account for the first time, it would have shocked you in fact it would have appalled you; because in everyday life of the first century, shepherds were despised.

Now there were several reasons for this according to the Jewish Talmud. They were in fact tended to be a lower class of people. They were at the bottom of the food chain, if you will the bottom of the culture. Only those who struggled to get other employment found themselves as shepherds. They were nomadic, they were always wandering to find fresh pastures for their sheep and so they had no roots, they weren't really connected to the community or to the culture or to the faith of Israel or even to their own families, usually roaming the life of a nomad. And in their wanderings many people suspected that shepherds had a very hard time distinguishing between what was theirs and what belonged to everyone else. In fact it was so bad that the rabbi's included shepherds in their list of occupations especially known for thieves and cheats. It was actually forbidden to buy wool, milk, or a kid from a shepherd because it was assumed that it would be stolen property. In fact they were so dishonest as a group, shepherds were, that they were not allowed to serve as judges in Israel and they were not even allowed to serve as witnesses in court because they could not be trusted.

But there's another reason why shepherds were really outcasts of the culture. Martin Vincent in his book writes, "Shepherds as a class were under the rabbinic ban, because of their necessary isolation from religious observances and their manner of life which rendered strict legal observance of the law of God nearly impossible." Their lifestyle took them away from the heart of Israel's faith. So it shouldn't surprise us that the Midrash, an ancient Jewish commentary on the Old Testament says, "No position in the world is so despised as that of a shepherd." One rabbi even asked with amazement, "How in view of the despicable nature of shepherds can one explain the fact that God is called a shepherd?" They couldn't understand it, because as a class they were so outcast and so despised and yet shepherds were the only ones God invited to the celebration of the birth of His Son.

John Calvin in his commentary on this passage writes, "It would have been to no purpose that Christ was born in Bethlehem if it had not been made known to the world. He was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem." But, Calvin's saying if it hadn't been known that that happened then it would have been of no value. So he goes on to say that "the method of doing so", that is the method of God making this known, which is described by Luke, "appears to the view of men very unsuitable." First Christ is revealed but to a few witnesses. There was no dramatic entrance in which all the world knew that the Son of God was coming as will one day occur when He returns the second time. He goes on to say, "And even that was amid the darkness of night. Again though God had at His command many honorable and distinguished witnesses, He passed by them and chose shepherds – persons of humble rank and of no account among men."

You know when you stop to think about that for a moment it's really no different for us, is it? Aren't we just like the shepherds? Utterly unworthy to receive God's grace. Utterly unworthy to worship at the feet of the Son of God. And yet that by God's grace is what He does for us. Like the shepherds God has shown us grace in spite of what we are and in spite of what we deserve. There was that first Christmas night a lesson in grace as these unworthy recipients were the ones chosen by God to witness the birth of His Son.

So that night there were these unworthy recipients of divine grace and as the story unfolds next we encounter the unprecedented revelation of divine grace. Verse 9, it says, "And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them," Now the angel here is not identified. The earlier announcements in chapter 1 had been the angel Gabriel. It was Gabriel that announced to Zacharias the birth of John the Baptist, and to Mary the birth of Jesus. Perhaps this is Gabriel again but we can't be sure. Regardless he suddenly stands before these shepherds. Now get the picture of this event. Typically when a number of flocks of sheep were gathered together, a small tower would be erected from which the shepherd on watch could have a view of all of the sheep. The rest of the shepherds would gather near that tower and that's where they would sleep until it came their time to take their watch. And so in the middle of that night as several of the shepherds slept at the foot of that tower and one perhaps up on the tower watching over the flocks, suddenly there stands before them an angel.

And verse 9 continues, "And the glory of the Lord shone around them." Along with the appearance of the angel came a blinding display of the glory of God. Glory is the splendor that is often associated with a visible display of God's presence. It is a brilliant, blazing, blinding light. And it brilliantly illuminates the area all around the shepherds. And so it's perfectly understandable the end of verse 9, that "they were terribly frightened."

You know when we think of angels, we tend to think of cute, chubby little cherubs, or of women or of effeminate men. But in the bible when an angel appears, fear is always the reaction. In the previous chapter in Luke 1 when the angel appears to Zacharias in the temple while he's doing his priestly office, verse 12 says, "Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear (seized him) gripped him." He was overcome with fear and just later in that same chapter when the angel appears to Mary, the first words of assurance he gives to Mary in verse 30 is, "Do not be afraid, Mary." Because that's the common reaction when we encounter these powerful beings made by God to serve Him and to serve those who believe in Him.

So in verse 10 the angel begins his message, "Do not be afraid, I bring you good news." Literally translated, I declare to you the gospel. It's the same word that's often translated as preaching the gospel. I declare to you the gospel, he says and he immediately explains that that good news or that gospel is going to become a source of great joy to these men. And not just to these men, but he goes on to say, it's going to be for all the people. The most common meaning for this expression would be the people of Israel, but here I think the angel means more than just the Jewish people. This message is universal in its scope. It reminds me of the angel in the book of Revelation chapter 14 verse 6 where John writes, "I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people." This message is for all the people, not only the people of Israel but for everyone around the whole world.

What is the good news that's intended for the whole world? What is this gospel? Well verse 11 really gets to the heart of the gospel. "For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is the Christ the Lord." Notice the time, today. Notice the location, in the city of David, that obviously refers to Bethlehem, but there's a deeper significance because he's telling the shepherds that the One who is born that day was a descendant of David and will fulfil the promise of a King that was made to David. The good news, don't miss this; the angel was saying the good news is now embodied in time and space and in a person. Notice what the angel tells us about this person. "He has been born." That tells us that he's human. He's a human baby, a human infant. "For you" that is He's been sent on their behalf. The pronoun you is very emphatic in the Greek text. For YOU this One has been born. You see it would have been no great delight to hear that a Savior had been sent unless these men knew that He was sent for them.

"For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior." That word Savior is a word we've become so accustomed to we really lose its significance. A rescuer, a deliverer. This really speaks of the mission of this child. You see unfortunately many in Israel were hoping for a political deliverer. Someone who would free them from Roman oppression. Who would get Herod off the throne and get a rightful descendant of David on the throne. But that wasn't the kind of rescue that God had in mind, at least at this point. I read for you earlier this morning from Matthew chapter 1, there God defines the kind of rescue He means. He says to Joseph, I want you to call the boy, Jesus. Do you know what the name Jesus means? It's the equivalent of the Old Testament Hebrew name Joshua, Yeshua; it means Jehovah or Yahweh saves. He rescues. And it wasn't political deliverance because the angel goes on to tell Joseph, call Him Jesus for He shall save or rescue His people from their sins. That's what we most need deliverance or rescue from; from the penalty of our sin and the power of our sin. A Savior, Christ the Lord.

Now this is a unique biblical expression that occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It literally says this, a Savior who is Christ Lord. You see both of these nouns that conclude this verse are titles that this baby wears. He is both Christ and He is Lord. Throughout the Old Testament the people of Israel were told to expect a very special rescuer or deliverer. He was first promised all the way back in the Garden of Eden after the sin of Adam and Eve God tells them that there's coming the seed of the woman who will crush the head of the serpent. Who will ultimately and finally deal with sin and its source. That promise continues throughout the Old Testament to gain, to grow and to gain more and more specifics. This special deliverer was not to be an anointed one. There were many who were referred to as anointed throughout the Old Testament. But He was to be The Anointed One. It's the Hebrew word HaMashiach, Messiah. In Greek it's Christos, and anglicized into English its Christ. That's what the angel is announcing to these awestruck shepherds. The baby born today is the fulfilment of all of those Old Testament promises. He is the One especially anointed by God. He is the long awaited Messiah, HaMashiach, the Christ. And then he adds, the Lord.

The word for Lord is used a variety of ways in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. But the most common way it's used is to translate the personal name of God, Yahweh. That's why most commentators believe and I whole heartedly agree that this last title, Lord is intended to be a title of deity. Not only is this person, a human being – He's been born today. Not only is He is a savior, a rescuer from sin and not only is He the long awaited Messiah, HaMashiach – He is God.

The angel finishes his announcement by giving the shepherds directions as to how to find Christ the Lord. Verse 12, "This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped cloths and lying in a manger." Now it's possible that in Bethlehem that night there were other newborns, as there are in most towns many nights. There might have been a number of children in Bethlehem that night that were wrapped in cloths, because wrapping the arms and legs of a newborn with strips of cloth to bind those limbs to the child for their protection as well as for their comfort, was a common practice in first century Israel, but there were certainly only one newborn in Bethlehem lying in a manger. As you know the word for manger is simply the word for a trough, a feeding trough for animals, because as we've already learned earlier in chapter 2 there was no room for them in the inn. And so instead they find their place in a stable, a place for housing animals.

A very early tradition, dating to the early second century describes the place where this event occurred as a cave there near Bethlehem that was used as a stable. It's very likely the spot that you can see today under the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. There's a very ancient tradition, probably of all the sites in Israel, it's one of the most sure as to where Christ was actually born. Verse 13, "And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host." Multitude means army. But this army doesn't come to make war; this army comes to announce peace. "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." By the way the picture behind this verse is not that simply now joining the one angel there is an army of angels and the rest of the angels throughout the universe are silent. The picture that's implied behind this verse in the original language is that these angels are merely part of a much larger choir. They're the only ones made visible to the shepherds but it's as if when the angel finished announcing the message of the Incarnate Christ to the shepherds every voice of every angel broke out in song, broke out and shout.

Verse 14 is really a hymn of praise. You'll notice that it's a poem. It's rendered in your bible as poetry because that's what it was. Probably was a hymn, probably was a hymn sung by the early church. It's a doxology you'll notice in the first half. A doxology directed towards God and the second part of verse 14 is a blessing directed toward men. Let's look at both parts. The first part of the hymn directed towards God as a doxology, "Glory to God in the highest." In the highest is simply a reference to heaven. It doesn't mean to the greatest extent, but rather it means glory to God in heaven, in the highest heaven. By glory to God the angels are saying we recognize that currently in heaven at this very moment, God is receiving glory and He's worthy of it we add our voices to bring glory to God. Why? Because He sent Christ the Lord into the world as a man, He sent His Son in the fulfillment of a great eternal plan. He sends His Son into the world as a God man. Glory to God in heaven for what He has done.

The second half of the verse renders a blessing toward man. "Peace on earth." We expected this to come with the Messiah, turn back to Isaiah's prophecy, Isaiah chapter 9 and verse 6; I read it for you last week. "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, and Prince of Peace." He was to be the Prince that brings peace. This One, this Baby would bring peace, real peace on earth.

Now to really appreciate this statement you have to remember the historical context in which it's uttered. If you remember from high school or college and you remember your history lessons you'll remember that it was in 27 BC a man by the name of Octavian became the emperor of Rome. He later, or actually in 27 BC became known for as Caesar Augustus, the first and the greatest Roman Emperor and when he became the leader of Rome, he ended a century of civil wars and he gave Rome an era of peace and prosperity and imperial greatness that was known as the Pax Romana, the great Roman peace. But the problem with Octavian's peace was that it wasn't real peace. Epictetus, a first century philosopher wrote this, listen to his profound words. "While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief and envy. He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even from outward peace." Exactly right, we needed peace of heart, but more than that, Jesus came to bring peace with God. Not a subjective feeling in one's heart that I feel this sort of feeling of peace but rather an objective cessation of hostilities with God.

Turn over to Romans chapter 5. In Romans 5 Paul makes this point after he has laid out our desperate need of salvation, of justification. And then beginning in chapter 3 verse 21 and following he lays out the wonderful message of justification, the heart of the gospel that God declares believing sinners righteous based solely on the work of Jesus Christ. And when he's completed explaining justification, he comes in chapter 5 verse 1 to the results of justification, to the benefits of justification to those who have been declared righteous by God. Verse 1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Less you doubt this is objective peace, the end of war with God, look down at verse 10 of the same chapter, "For if while we were enemies." Stop there.

You know when I read that verse it literally makes me shudder to think that there was a time in my life when God thought of me as His enemy. But through Christ there can be peace on earth. Peace with God, the war is over. But back in Luke chapter 2 we learn that it isn't peace for everyone, not everyone enjoys this peace on earth. You know there're a lot of songs that have been written and particularly in modern days, a lot of songs that talk about the birth of Christ bringing this sort of general peace to every man. That's not what the angel promised; he said there was peace only to certain people. Only certain ones would have peace with God. Notice what he says, that peace is only among men with whom He is pleased. Literally the Greek text says this; peace among men of good pleasure. Probably best to interpret it this way, peace among men who are the objects of God's good pleasure. John MacArthur writes, "In each case where this word 'good will' occurs in the New Testament it refers to God's sovereign good pleasure." So a better rendering here might be, 'Peace toward men on whom God's sovereign pleasure rests.' "God's peace is not a reward" MacArthur says, "for those who have good will but a gracious gift to those who are the objects of His good will." Or as Leon Morris puts it in his commentary, "The angels are saying that God will bring peace for men on whom His favor rests. There is an emphasis on God, not man; it is those who God chooses rather than those who choose God of whom the angels speak." He's really talking about those who receive God's grace. You see this is really a lesson in sovereign grace. And what better illustration could there be of that in the shepherds? They were sinful, despised, dishonest, untrustworthy – they weren't even looking for their Messiah. They were simply doing their job. But it was on them that God chose that night to sovereignly display His grace.

Verse 15 tells us that while the angels had appeared suddenly, they apparently departed gradually. While 'the angels had gone away' there's in that expression the concept that the shepherds watched as this army of angels ascends into heaven much as we watch our choir leave one by one during the service. What an unprecedented revelation of divine grace to these shepherds. When you think about it we too have received an unprecedented revelation of divine grace. Not some angelic announcement, none of us have had an angel show up and tell us about the grace of God. Instead we have a book, a book breathed out by God Himself that announces to us the good news that He is a Savior and that He extends His grace to those who are unworthy; just as these shepherds were.

The shepherds were unworthy recipients of divine grace and they witnessed firsthand an unprecedented revelation of divine grace, in verse's 15 to 20 we learned of the unconditional response to divine grace. You see once they had enjoyed and experienced that grace from God, they responded to it and their response to the grace of God provides a model for us. They responded to the grace God showed them that night in three ways. First of all by believing 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 in these verses is on their response to the angel's message. They were convinced that the angel's message was in fact from God. Notice what they say, "This thing which the Lord has made known to us." And they were absolutely certain that it was true. Verse 15, let's hurry to Bethlehem and see this thing which has happened. You see the shepherds didn't go to Bethlehem to see if the angels were telling the truth. They believed and they went to Bethlehem to see it in person.

Because they believed, they were in a hurry to obey. You know although the angel had not commanded them to go into Bethlehem, he certainly had implied that they ought to go by giving them directions. And they were eager to do this, they were eager to do what God had said. And as we learned from James that's always a sign of true faith, isn't it? There're several words here that point to their eagerness, verse 15, 'they began saying.' Now this is one of those times when the English language can't pick up the nuances of the original text. The idea here is that immediately when the angels departed they all began talking at once. And they all began saying, 'we've got to go'. And they kept on telling each other we've got to hurry and go. The word straight in verse 15 is a word which has a strong sense of urgency. It means immediately. Verse 16 says, 'they came in a hurry.' You see these shepherds believed the message the angels had brought; the good news that there was born for them a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

Now as they head to the city of Bethlehem, logically their first stop would have been the city's inn. A small town like Bethlehem would have probably only had one inn. It would have been the regular place for those out of town guests to stop, but of course the city of Bethlehem was absolutely filled to overflowing because everybody whose ancestral background with Bethlehem was there, so many people had opened their homes, people who had distant relatives showed up and gained housing there. The inn itself was packed; we learned earlier there was no place for them there. But the shepherds were logically thinking this through. If Mary and Joseph had been staying with an extended family or with old family friends it would have been highly unlikely that Mary would have been forced to keep the baby in a stable. And so I'm sure it made sense for the shepherds to say, 'let's start at the inn.' And there they found, verse 16 says, "They came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger." They absolutely believed the good news and they responded to it.

If you want to experience God's grace, then like the shepherds you must begin by believing the good news that for you there is a Savior, a Rescuer from sin. And it's Jesus Christ the Lord. How do you come to believe and embrace that? Well, you remember, or perhaps you don't remember, but in Jesus' very first message of His ministry in Mark chapter 1, He says, "Repent and believe the good news." Repent simply means to turn from all that you know to be sin, a willingness in your heart to turn from everything that you know to be sin and an offense against God, and putting your faith and confidence in Jesus Christ as your only hope. That's what these men did and that's what we must do too. The first way they responded to God's grace was by believing the gospel.

The second way they responded to the angel's message was by proclaiming 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 simply means to reveal, to declare, to explain. They told others about the good news that they had heard. Verse 18, "And all who heard it wondered" that is were amazed, astonished "at the things which were told to them by the shepherds." Undoubtedly these shepherds started with other people there at the inn. I'm sure that while there appears to have been no one to help Mary initially in the birth process, and she herself wraps the Child, as time went on word spread that a Child had been born there in the stable in the cave adjacent to this inn. And as word spread the shepherds explain all that they experienced. The text also implies in verse 18 that they ran into a number of other people in the city on their comings and goings. And of course, verse 19 tells us that they told Mary and Joseph, and notice Mary's reaction, "Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart."

Now Luke makes this point because most scholars agree that Luke learned the details that we're learning from Mary herself. You remember back in Luke chapter 1, Luke said that he carefully investigated all things and that he gained eye witness reports. Most scholars believed that he learned of these events from Mary. And here he tells us that Mary treasured these things up in her heart and considered what they might mean.

So the shepherds told everybody. You see once a person has truly experienced God's sovereign grace he can't help but tell others. This morning if you're in Christ, if you have come to benefit from the grace of Christ then you want to tell others. You not only feel a sense of duty to do that as we all should, because it's commanded of us, but you have a desire to tell others about the grace that you have experienced. Let me urge you, you can begin to apply this passage by calling somebody this afternoon and inviting them to the concert tonight, exposing them to the truth about Christ. This week, seize the opportunities before you to share Christ. I can't help but think about these shepherds but remember Peter in Acts 4, where he faces the threat of imprisonment or even torture and Peter says we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard, at whatever risk it may be to us.

A third way the shepherds responded to grace, not only by believing the gospel, not only by proclaiming the gospel, but thirdly by praising God for the gospel. Verse 20, "The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them." Now the key words in that verse are the last ones; just as had been told them. As one commentator writes, "The story, this story of the Nativity, is not told so that hearers can identify with the new mother and father. It's not told so that they can enjoy the story of hope, of a touching birth in humble surroundings. This birth has value because of whose birth it is. And the shepherds found that the angel's words were true, that events had transpired just as they had been told. They break out in praise to God because He has sent Jesus, Savior, Lord, and Christ. Just as they had been told. Wherever God displays His sovereign grace, in that heart there will also be praise." The two go together, just as they did with the shepherds.

So you can see from this passage that it was after all, quite appropriate that the shepherds would be the first to experience the grace of the great Shepherd. But there's one important thing that I haven't told you about these shepherds. You see these were not ordinary shepherds and these were not just ordinary sheep. Alfred Edersheim and his excellent book from the last part of the 1800's, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, he writes this, "A passage in the Mishnah leads to the certain conclusion that the flocks which pastured there" that is outside of Bethlehem year round, "were destined for temple sacrifices." Why were these shepherds outside in the winter keeping watch over sheep? It's because these were special sheep. These were sheep that some of whom in just a few days would be taken from the flock, taken a few miles less than five miles away to Jerusalem. And specifically taken to the temple there and had been slaughtered as a sacrifice on the altar and there at the temple these humble shepherds would have told anyone who would listen about their story of the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord. It's very likely that there was an old woman named Anna who heard, there was an old man named Simeon who heard that he could expect in just a few days, the parents to bring that Child and he would get to meet Israel's Messiah. What a remarkable story of God's grace. Think about it for a moment that winter night, these shepherds who kept the sheep headed to sacrifice through an act of sovereign grace heard the gospel, they believed it and they were allowed to witness the birth of the perfect Lamb, the Lamb of God. And their response to the birth of Christ should be our response this next week and throughout the entire year. We should respond by believing the gospel, by proclaiming the gospel, and by praising God for the gospel.

If you're here this morning and you're not in Christ, if you realize you are still at war with God. If the Holy Spirit has made that obvious to you through His word this morning, that no matter what your claims may be, you still are God's enemy, then I plead with you to hear the good news that there is a Savior for you, a rescuer for you – Christ the Lord. If you will repent and believe in Him you can enjoy exactly what these unworthy shepherds enjoyed. But perhaps this morning you're confident you're in Christ, how should you respond throughout this season ahead of us? You should respond by proclaiming the good news just as these shepherds did. You have in your mind and in your heart the knowledge of the grace of God shown in the face of Jesus Christ how can you keep that to yourself? You should also respond, we should all respond as the shepherds did by praising God. Find purposeful time throughout the weeks ahead to give praise and glory to God for the gift of His Son. Let's pray together.

Our Father, we confess to You that we have heard the story so many times that it's easy for us to become jaded to it and even to miss its true significance. Father thank You that on the night of our Savior's birth, even as He lay there in the manger, His grace was demonstrated to some shepherds – ostracized from society, the worst of men and yet through Your sovereign grace recipients of the gospel. Lord we thank You for the reminder. I pray Father this morning if there's someone here who has not come to enjoy Your grace that they would cry out to You in repentance and faith, that they would turn from all that they know to be sin, be willing to leave it all to gain Christ, to call Him Messiah and Lord. Father I pray for all of us who know Him and love Him, help us like the shepherds to be quick to proclaim the gospel, to share the good news with others and help us to praise You throughout this week and throughout our lives for the grace You have shown us in sending the gift of Your Son in who's name we pray, Amen.