I recently came across some news that I thought would be interesting to you. According to geneticist, there is a 50% chance of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s baby, the royal baby, will be a red head. Now this is big news. Currently bookies are taking bets on the hair color of this royal baby with 8 to 1 odds that this child will be blessed beyond measure with the glory of having red hair. Redheads have a history of prominence in the English Monarchy with three of the greatest monarchs, Elizabeth I, Henry II, and Richard the Lionheart all being blessed beyond measure with the glory of having red hair. It is true that I am partial to redheads. I married a redhead and have two redhead children. But when Ellen was pregnant with Elizabeth, there was no bookies taking bets on the hair color of the Kiehn baby. My daughter was not a royal baby. She was born to two very typical people without much fanfare.
But that is not how things work with royalty, is it? There has been much discussion about William and Kate’s baby. What will the name be? What will the baby look like? Will the baby be the future king or queen? I imagine in the days ahead, as the baby grows, the world will become infatuated with this royal child much like they were infatuated with the royal wedding. The birth of a future king is big news and it should demand the world’s attention. But not every birth of a future king has captivated the world’s attention. The birth of the King of kings happened in obscurity among animals in a stable to a virgin teenage girl in the little town of Bethlehem. The birth of the Lord Jesus is strikingly opposite to the birth of the royalty of our world. He was the born in humility as the King above all kings. Although, he did not receive worldly acclaim in the first century (no one was taking bets on his hair color), Jesus’s humble birth gives us much to rejoice over. My prayer this morning is that you will rejoice in the birth of Royalty, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. First, Rejoice in a Humble Anointed.
I. Rejoice in a Humble Anointed
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
It is interesting how uneventful this story is. The birth narrative of John the Baptist actually takes up more space in Luke than the birth of Jesus. It is interesting considering everything from Genesis 3 to Luke is about how God is going to rescue humanity after they fell into sin. Right here is the unfolding of that great plan. God came to rescue man by becoming a man being born as a baby.
Luke actually pays more attention to how the birthplace of Jesus and the lineage of his parents fit into God’s rescue plan. Caesar Augustus issued a decree that just so happened to coincide with the birth of the Messiah. The decree caused everyone to come back to the town of their heritage. Joseph was of the line of David and since David was born in Bethlehem, he had to return to that city. This decree caused the prophecy to be fulfilled for Micah 5:2 says:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans[b]of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins[c] are from of old, from ancient times…He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.”
The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem and his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. Luke again is showing the most excellent Theophilus how God’s Word can be trusted. Luke is just explaining the facts (Matthew 2 actually makes this connection explicit), that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The great Anointed One who is going to shepherd the flock in the strength of the Lord and in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God is going to be born in a humble place in a humble little town. Verse 6, “While they were there, (in Bethlehem) the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn (as in she had more), a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him a manager, because there was no room for them in the inn.” This is a great reason to rejoice. Do not miss it!! God was born in humility to be humiliated so that you could be saved. Philippians 2:5-8:
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
If Jesus came as the King that he is, we would not have been saved. We would have been crushed and destroyed. A traitor convicted of high treason against the King. Listen to the description of when Jesus will come not in humility, but all his Glory. Revelation 19:11-16
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.
We rejoice that he did not first in all his glory. We would not have survived. But Jesus came in humility becoming like us in every way so that through his death, he might save us. God came to bring salvation, but salvation always comes with judgment. He came to save sinners by being judged as a sinner. This humble birth is how we will eventually be exalted. Without this humble birth in a humble town, we would have no hope. Do you have hope this morning?
Isn’t always interesting when you get a new car? By new I mean and newer used car. You hardly ever noticed seeing any cars that look like your new car until you got your new car. It is like something happens in our brain that gives us the ability to recognize things like our new car. We now have a category for it. But after a few years, we still notice may notice cars like ours, but we rarely give it a second thought. This is the danger we face during Christmas. When we first became Christians, the idea of God being born as a baby was breathtaking. But with familiarity and routine, we hear about Jesus’ birth, and rarely give it a second thought. Think of new ways to see this Christmas story so it can take your breath away like it did at first. For example, every time you see the Chic-fil-a cow, remind yourself of this humble birth. Beloved, the Creator of the Universe was born as a baby to a teenage girl in a stable and placed in a feeding trough (for an animal like a cow) so you could be saved. Shouldn’t that take your breath away?
II. Rejoice in a Humble Audience
Now notice who got the first call of the birth. It was not the Roman Ruler or Chief Priest, but to a humble audience, average working people. Luke 2:8, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
We will look at the announcement in a moment, but let us focus on the audience. The shepherds were working. They were watching the sheep to protect them from robbers and wild animals. Many scholars believe that shepherds were despised by the people and were often characterized as representing the downtrodden and despised of society. If they were a hated group, then the first announcement would have come to a group of sinners. The Bible used shepherd imagery often. Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” In John 10, Jesus refers to himself as the good shepherd. Although there is good evidence to support that shepherds were known for dishonesty and unclean in regards to the Jewish law, I believe that the shepherds are representing a people that were humble. Luke 1:52, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” God came to the humble, to the average, and to the poor. Look at how the Angel personalizes the message to this humble audience: He says this Savior is for all the people (i.e. for the shepherds and in verse 11 he says born to you (the shepherds).” One writer notes one of Luke’s themes “is the divine visitation to the poor and humble of Israel. God’s visitation of salvation come to the humble (1:48, 52) and the hungry (1:53), not the proud and rich. Thus those present at the birth of God’s son were not this world’s rulers or its religious leaders. Rather the angelic invitation was extended to shepherds on the fringe of society, and they were present to see the birth of the Lord.”
If we want to be imitators of God, then we should follow his example. We should go to the humble, the average, and the poor with the good news of the gospel. But our culture is impressed with money and power, with beauty and charm, and sadly I believe the church has fallen under the trance of our culture. Let me ask you a question, “Who would you rather have join our church: a city councilman or a former drug dealer? A senator or a single mother? Your answer will reveal your heart. Truthfully, we should want them both, but we should want them both the same. Beloved, we live in a community full of “shepherds.” God came to a humble audience, therefore we should rejoice in a humble audience. I pray that God would increase the number of “shepherds” in our fold for the glory of our Good Shepherd born in stable.
III. Rejoice in a Holy Announcement
Verse 10, “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you his is Christ the Lord.” This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manager. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Jesus may have had a humble birth on earth, but there was rejoicing going on the heavenly realms. The times had reached their fulfillment and the Christ was born. And this joy was coming down to heaven. Joy and the gospel are often connected in Luke. If you believe in the gospel, then you should be a person of joy. Are you? For the reason Luke gives to rejoice is that the Messianic Savior is born.
After the Angel confirms the prophecy of the Messiah being born in Bethlehem, the city of David, he refers to Jesus in three ways: Savior, Christ, the Lord. The first is important for all of us because we are all in need of a Savior because we all have sin. During my road test to get my driver’s license, we started in my high school’s parking lot. There was a stop sign near the back of the parking lot and during my road test I ran right through it. My driver’s instructor looked at me and said, “Did you see that stop sign?” I replied, “Yes, but its ok. No one ever pays attention to that stop sign.” Even though I didn’t think it mattered, my instructor marked off points keeping me from getting a perfect score. Even though I wasn’t perfect, I passed my test and got my license. We may pass worldly tests without a perfect score, but none of us will pass God’s test without a perfect score. If we break one aspect of the law, we are guilty of breaking the entire law. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We have missed the mark and fallen short of God’s glory; therefore we all need a Savior. This is why we rejoice in the Angel’s announcement. A Savior is born for you!!
The Angel also gives Jesus the title of Christ which means he is the Davidic Messiah, the Anointed One. He is the one that will fulfill all the prophecies written from centuries past. Then the Angel calls Jesus Lord. This is one of Luke’s favorite titles of Jesus. Jesus is given a title equal to God showing his readers that this baby born in Bethlehem is Immanuel, God with us. When you read the gospels, pay attention to how they explain who Jesus is. The most important thing in all of life is to think and to believe rightly about Jesus. For Luke gives us a small window of how the heavens react to Jesus with a great company of the heavenly host praising God saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” We want to praise Jesus on Earth as it is in Heaven. Heaven praises God because of the salvation that comes in Jesus and Earth experiences peace.
Many of you are probably familiar with the King James Version of this verse which reads, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The King James Version is good translation, but here can become confusing for does peace come to all men? Look at how the NIV translates it, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men whom his favor rests.” Or the ESV, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Jesus did not come to bring peace to everyone, but only those on whom his favor rests or those with whom he is pleased. This is very important to us because in order to receive this peace that the Angels declare we must respond rightly. Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In order to have peace with God, we must have faith.
After we hear the Holy Announcement, we must respond with a Holy Acknowledgement.
IV. Rejoice in a Holy Acknowledgement
And this is exactly what the humble shepherds did!! Verse 15:
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
The shepherds respond in faith. After the Angels left, the shepherds said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” The shepherds knew that they had heard from the Lord and respond in faith. They did not wait after hearing a word from the Lord, but they obeyed. One writer says, “Depth of spiritual commitment is determined by the quality of one’s fidelity after the majestic voice is no longer heard.” They did not wait after hearing a word from the Lord, but they obeyed.
This should be our response when we hear from the Lord, but too often we are distracted with other things. I believe that there are many people who will miss God’s peace, because they do not respond to the Word of the Lord. And I do not think it is because they do not want too, but rather because they just do not make time for it. They live in the “I am going…” but never actually do. Beloved, let us learn from the shepherds and respond in faith quickly after hearing from the Lord. And there is something else we can learn from the shepherds, Verse 17, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them … (v.20) The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
The shepherds became the first evangelists. We know that there were others with Mary and Joseph, we do not know who they are, but we do know that they heard the word from the shepherds. The shepherds shared what they had seen and heard. Evangelism is sometimes as simple as that: sharing what you have seen and heard. The church has often complicated evangelism by trying to turn it into a program. Now, I am not saying that visitation programs or corporate evangelism outreaches are bad, but they should not be primary. The primary evangelism in a local church is when we share what we have seen and heard. God revealed his Word to humble shepherds and they in turn share it with the people they encounter. God’s plan for reaching the world is simple: share what you have seen and heard. Has Jesus Christ changed your life? Tell people about it. Are you a sinner that has been saved by grace? Tell people about it. Have you found peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ? Tell people about it.
In 1967, a story came out called the Gospel Blimp. The story is about George and Ethel and how they are concerned about the salvation of their next-door neighbors, but don't know how to reach them with the good news of Jesus Christ. During an evening get-together of George and Ethel's Christian friends, everyone is captivated by the sight of a blimp flying overhead. Then Herm gets a bright idea: why not use a blimp to proclaim the Christian message to the unchurched citizens of Middletown? The group incorporates (International Gospel Blimps Incorporated), buys a used blimp, hires a pilot, then commences to evangelize their hometown by towing Bible-verse banners, 'firebombing' folks below with gospel tracts, and broadcasting Christian music and programs over loudspeakers. Needless to say, their strategies do not work and whole sorts of problems develop with plan. They start to question whether their personal and financial sacrifices are worth the minimal results they are seeing. Eventually, their neighbors come to Christ, but not because of the Gospel Blimp. They come to Christ because eventually some shares them what they had seen and heard in the gospel.
Let’s not overcomplicate matters. Simple follow the example of the shepherds: share what you have seen and heard. But what if I do not have an answer for their question? Say, I do not know, but what I do know is that I was lost and now I am found, I was blind, but know I see. Christmas is about mission. Christmas is about God’s mission to come and rescue the world through Jesus Christ. He wants to bring people peace through the good news of great joy that a Savior has been born to take away people’s sins and to give them hope for eternity. Jesus says in high priestly prayer in John 17:18 speaking to God the Father, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” God sent Jesus as a baby to save the world and Jesus sends us with a message about this baby for the same reason.
So the shepherds responded rightly to the majestic voice and so did Mary. Verse 19 says, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Mary heard what was said of her child and treasured up all these things. She thought deeply about what the birth of this baby meant. The idea of pondered them in her heart is similar to our English saying of mulling things over. She was thinking about who Jesus was and what Jesus was going to do. She did not let the words spoken about Jesus just pass over her, she stopped and mulled over God’s Word from the shepherds. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
When I was a teacher in Washington, D.C., I would take my students to the National Holocaust Museum every year. It was always a sobering trip because of the graphic details and images seen throughout the exhibits. At the end of the museum, there is a big room called the Hall of Remembrance. Visitors are encouraged to take a few moments to sit and reflect on what they just witnessed. The truth seen throughout the museum takes time to process and mull over. All deep truth, whether good or bad, needs time to sink into our hearts. I have seen many Christmas’s come and go where I have been overtaken by the busyness of the season. Let me encourage you to find time this season to slow down and treasure up these things in your heart. Let your hearts be overwhelmed that we have good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Let us pray.
Father, we thank you for sending Jesus Christ born into humility for a humble people that we may have good news of great joy. Father, we pray that we treasure these things in our hearts and that we are able to share what we have seen and heard about the Lord Jesus. He is our Savior. He is Christ the Lord. In His Name we pray.