Saturday, December 24, 2016

Reason for the Season: Why Angels? Why Shepherds?

"Fear not, I have Good News." 

Luke 2:1-2

I know the phrase “The Reason for the Season” is pretty overdone. But "The Point of Jesus’ Coming" didn’t sound as catchy. And there are not too many words that rhyme with point! It’s kinda like the word Phoenix, hard to rhyme! There’s point, joint and anoint and that’s it! So, "Reason for the Season." (No, I never considered using "The Point the Anointed One came to this Joint")
     Now I’m not talking about the Season of Santa Claus, or the season of shopping, or even the season of holidays and food and family and Football! Even though ALL of those are better than the "Season of Politics" we just came thru! The Season I am talking about is remembering the Coming of the Son of God to earth!
    Why is that a Big Thing? Why do we celebrate the Birth of this man 2000 years later? There have been other great men and women, we don’t tend to celebrate their births, do we? Abraham Lincoln: We celebrate the Gettysburg address or the Emancipation Proclamation, but not his birth. Certainly, not his death! Madame Curie: Great Scientist! Nobody celebrates her birth! OK, we do celebrate Washington’s birthday with a holiday but it’s not like he gets fireworks and songs! All he gets is President’s Day Sales!
     Bible Study is kind of like being a detective. It’s asking the right kind of questions. There are many things we could ask about the message the angels had that day. But I want to start with two simple questions: 
Why was it announced by Angels?
And why was it announced to Shepherds?
I understand God sending a messenger to Mary! She was going to have a baby and she was a young virgin! And Joseph! He was engaged to her and this was a shock! But Shepherds?
     Luke 2:8 And in the same region there 
     were shepherds out in the field, keeping 
     watch over their flock by night. 

In the same region, near where Jesus was born, near Bethlehem, were shepherds. It doesn’t say how many, how old, or how Godly they are, just ‘shepherds.’
Now, if God had a PR man he might have suggested a different group. “Let’s announce it to the Governor.” Or to Congress! They couldn’t put it on TV, but how about sending an angel to Ceasar? Nope. God told shepherds.
You may remember that shepherds were near the bottom of society in those days. They couldn’t even testify in a trial because a) they weren’t trusted and b) they weren’t considered smart enough! 
But how did God want us to picture Him? David said, The Lord-is-my-Shepherd! Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
   What if somebody was running for president and announced, “I am the Good Used Car salesman!” People would laugh. I know I pick on used car dealers, but I have known a couple good Christian men who sold used cars. Great guys! Honest guys! But that’s not the reputation they have! Same with Shepherds!
But that’s who God chose to make his first public announcement to. God is not worried about PR. God loves the world. Especially the ones no one else cares about. God was targeting a certain group with his Angelic advertising! Who did He target? Listen to these verses: First a prophecy about Jesus:     
     Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD
     is upon me, because the LORD has 
     anointed me to bring good news to 
     the poor; he has sent me to bind up 
     the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty 
     to the captives, and the opening of the 
     prison to those who are bound;
Luke 1:52 (Mary said) 
     He has brought down the mighty 
     from their thrones and exalted 
     those of humble estate; 53 he has 
     filled the hungry with good things, 
     and the rich he has sent away empty.
1Co 1:26 
     For consider your calling, brothers: 
     not many of you were wise according 
     to worldly standards, not many 
     powerful, not many of noble birth. 
     27 But God chose what is foolish 
     in the world to shame the wise; 
     God chose what is weak …to shame 
     the strong; 28 God chose what is 
     low and despised in the world… 
     29 so that no human being might 
     boast in the presence of God.
WHY Shepherds? Not because they were great and special. Because God values people over position.
Because God doesn’t value people the way the world does.
God took Moses from being a Prince and made him a shepherd before he used him to deliver Israel from bondage! In God’s estimation, shepherds have a noble duty. That’s why Jesus called Himself a good shepherd. Think about it!
They were out in their fields with the sheep. Not at home, under a roof, in a comfy bed.
“Watching over” means they put themselves between the sheep and dangerous predators.
They lived with the sheep, led them to water and green pastures, they didn’t just give them orders to follow!
Likewise, Jesus left the comfort and glory of heaven, to come down to be with us, here on earth.
Jesus was lifted up on a cross to put himself between us and dangerous predator who would take us to Hell with himself.
Jesus comes to walk with us, and live in us, not just give us rules to follow! He became sin that we might become the Holiness of God! God elevated the shepherds! Jesus became the Shepherd!
    And notice, he didn’t say, "now go to Bethlehem and find the baby!" No, these shepherds did that on their own. I think these  shepherds took the promises of a Messiah, seriously. There were many in Israel who did!

But then, why the Angels?
God uses his angels as messengers. When he drove Adam and eve from Eden he put a messenger at the gate to remind them they were no longer welcome! Angels appeared to Abraham and Jacob and Joshua. In Deut 33 we learn that when God brought the law it was with 10,000 of His angels. In fact, in the Jewish mind, it was angels who delivered the law of God. Well the law was the Old Testament, or covenant. God is about to put in place a New Covenant. Angels are still His messengers!
But notice something here in Luke 2:9 an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
The angel didn’t come alone. He didn’t come incognito. The Bible says angels can appear without us noticing them. That’s not the case here! He came with the Glory of the Lord.
Listen, until that last year before the birth of Jesus, The Glory of the Lord hadn’t been seen on earth for almost a thousand years! Joseph and Mary may have glimpsed it. The shepherds saw it in a big way! But the last time was the dedication of Solomon’s temple, when God’s glory came down! There may have been an occasion a couple hundred years later when Elijah’s sacrifice was burned up by fire that came down from Heaven. But it had been a long, long time!
The glory of God was with Adam and Eve in the garden before they sinned. Moses saw it in the burning bush. The Israelites saw it in the pillar of fire that led them out of bondage. They saw it come down on the tabernacle in the wilderness.
But the Glory of the Lord had just become a legend. Here, however, the shepherds saw it when the angel appeared!  God was doing something brand new!
Later, Jesus took 3 disciples up a hill and was transfigured before them. The Glory of the Lord burst out of the Man Christ Jesus. Hebrews explains why. Jesus was the "outshining of the Glory of God.” Paul wrote that Jesus is the Image of the invisible God. Before Jesus, God appeared as light and fire, not primarily with a human body. He is the invisible God. But God is doing something new! He is sending His Only Begotten, His One and Only, the 2nd person of the Eternal trinity in Heaven; Jesus the Christ, the God/man. And on that day was born a baby in Bethlehem, with the fullness of the glorious Glory of God bottled up inside of Him.
God came down! Oh what a Thought!
God Himself, in Human flesh was wrought.
Born of a virgin, this God most high!
In an unknown stable,
Our Holy God came nigh! 
Our God came down.
Our God came down. Our God came down!
When you are giving presents this Christmas, remember the greatest gift of all! Given for you! When you open a Christmas Card, think of the gift inside those swaddling clothes!
If you don’t know Jesus – He paid for your sins 2000 years ago – Today is the day to trust Him!

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