Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Shepherds' Merry Christmas

As I wrote on Christmas in the first of a series of Christmas posts, the question facing every one of us is "How will you respond to the Savior?" Today we look at the shepherds' response to the Christ child as recorded in Luke 2:8-20.

The announcement came to the shepherds while they were at work in the fields.
... there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, (Luke 2:8)

Their initial response to the glory of the Lord was fear. A right relationship with God starts here. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

Wait, why should I fear a loving God? Because He is God and I am not. He is the Creator. I am the created. He is righteous, holy (i.e., set apart) and just and cannot and will not overlook sin. If you remember from Romans 3:23 and 6:23 from my previous post, as sinners, we all have plenty to fear in the presence of the Almighty.

When the angels explain that they come bearing good news and tell the shepherds how to find Jesus and the shepherds see and hear a multitude of angels praising God, they realize this is supernatural. It is from God (which the Lord has made known to us -- Luke 2:15a). In response, the shepherds do the following:
  1. Go - They immediately go to Bethlehem to see Jesus. And they go quickly.
    • When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. (Luke 2:15-16)
  2. Observe - The shepherds weren't satisfied to have the angels tell them. They had to see it for themselves. 
    • And when they saw it ... (Luke 2:17a)
  3. Tell others - The shepherds had to tell others what they had heard and seen. They had a personal, intimate, incredible interaction with Emmanuel (i.e., God with us) and had to share it. Think of how you tell others about a good deal or a good meal or good service somewhere. The shepherds experienced that but on a supernatural scale.
    • ... they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. (Luke 2:17b)
  4. Glorify God - The shepherds worshiped all the way back to the fields. Their response to their real, in-person encounter with the living God was praise and worship (i.e., ascribing worth) to God who allowed them to hear the good news from the angels, to get a glimpse of heavenly worship, to be led to the newborn King in the manger, to tell others of the Christ child.
    • And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen, as it had been told to them. (Luke 2:18)
The shepherds responded by going, seeing, sharing and worshiping. While you weren't in the field that night with the night-shift shepherds when the angels came to proclaim this good news of great joy, you do have God's word with the account of what happened that first Christmas and so much more. And you no doubt have heard about Christmas from others. So, again I close by asking you "How will you respond to the Savior this Christmas?"

Next, the wise men.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas? It Depends

On Christmas Eve and Christmas this year, I studied the responses of the shepherds, the wise men, Simeon and Anna the prophetess to the birth of Jesus recorded in Luke 2 and Matthew 2. Over the next few days, we will look at their responses to Jesus and, more importantly now, your response to the Savior. We start with the announcement of Jesus' birth.

The proclamation of the birth of God Himself as a baby come to save earth from our sins is recorded for us by Luke in 2:10-11:

And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Note several things. First, it is good news. Jesus coming for us is indeed good news. God left His heavenly throne to come to us. That should blow us away.

Second, this good news should be met with great joy. Whether you meet the coming of Jesus to earth that first Christmas with great joy depends on how clearly you understand your standing with God apart from Jesus. As we see later in this proclamation, we need a Savior, you need a Savior.

Third, this news, this coming of a Savior is for all the people. As I have heard often, all are welcome at the cross. However, don't confuse Jesus' birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection being for all the people with everyone being automatically saved. Again, that is dependent on your response to Jesus.

Fourth, this baby born in Bethlehem -- fulfilling the prophecy of Micah 5:2 -- was a Savior. Who needs saving? Only people in danger. Whether you know it or not, that applies to every one of us, including you. As written in Paul's letter to the Romans:

... all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
... the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a)

That does sound bad.

Finally, this baby Savior was none other than Christ the Lord. It was God. Jesus, born that first Christmas in the most humble circumstances, is the Messiah, the Promised One, the Savior. Jesus left His throne to come to earth as a baby, live a sinless, perfect life of 33 years, suffer unjustly and die the most humiliating painful death known to man then rise from the dead victoriously.

Pretty amazing, huh? What dramatic steps by God Almighty to come to us and go through all of that for us. My question to you this Christmas is:

How will you respond to the Savior?