Luke 2:8-21 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 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. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 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.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
As the advent season closes, let us revisit a passage that is commonly narrated but overlooked during Christmas. This passage relates to the birth of Christ specifically in the perspective of the shepherds, who received the revelation of the birth of Christ and the good news from the angel. As a Christian, it is really important for us to understand what is the ‘good news’, for this forms the basis of our faith. When questioned what is the ‘good news’, we should be able to answer this in heartbeat.
Many of us would have come across the scene portrayed in the passage during Christmas carols. Have you ever wondered why the angel appeared to shepherds of all people? Back in those days, shepherds were one of the lowest people on the social ladder. These were people who were ignorant, uneducated, unskilled, and due to the necessity of caring for sheep could not even maintain the Sabbath. Why would God choose such a lowly group of people who broke His law to witness the birth of Christ? Surely, He could have chosen men who were more reputable and were in a better position to uphold his laws. In Luke 4:18, Jesus explains that He has come to proclaim the good news to the poor (the Hebrew word for poor also means lowly). In 1 Corinthians 1:28-29, we learn that God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. In verse 10 of the passage we are examining, it references that the good news of great joy will be for ‘all the people’. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, it doesn’t matter whether you are lowly on the social ladder and it doesn’t even matter whether you are incapable of upholding his laws.
Having explained who the good news is for, let us now look into what exactly is the 'good news'. In verse 11 of the passage, we learn that the good news is the birth of a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. This verse describes the identity of Jesus in a few ways. That is, He is our Saviour, He is Christ and He is our Lord.
In Old Testament Greek, Christ means the 'anointed one'. Jesus is anointed as the King of Kings (Revelation 19:16) and He is the ultimate spokesman of God (Hebrews 1:2). When we address Jesus as Lord, we are acknowledging that he has authority over us (1 Peter 3:6). Not only that but the Greek translation of the word ‘Lord’ also known as ‘Kurios’, when translated back to Hebrew not only returns the word ‘Adonai’, but also the 4-letter tetragrammaton ‘YHWH’. This means that when we call him Lord, we also recognize Him as God. One who is sovereign and has authority over us. Our actions should be in-line with the way we address Him, that is to submit to Him in obedience and faithfulness.
Finally, the 3rd identity described in verse 11 of the passage is ‘Saviour’. As Christians many of us profess that Christ is our Saviour. We say it as though we know what that means. However, when we ponder what we need to be saved from, the first thing that comes to our mind reveals our true understanding. The first thing that comes to our mind is often our unfulfilled/incomplete lives, our job situations, our broken marriages, our disobedient children, our heartaches, our vices and our debilitating habits. This isn’t very much different to the way the Jews viewed the Messiah, they were hoping for Jesus to be this conqueror who would save them from the Roman empire. However, the truth is Jesus didn’t come to save you from your personal situation (though He can). He came to save you from your sins (Matthew 1:21). For if He didn’t, you would be under the eternal wrath of God, damned to a final destination called ‘hell’.
Having now understand what we need to be saved from, and who Jesus is, verse 14 of the passage brings it all together explaining what is the 'good news'. In verse 14, the multitude of heavenly hosts praised God saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased”. This makes you wonder who exactly is God "pleased" with. Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Like the Shepherds in the passage who could not maintain the Sabbath, we are incapable of upholding the Mosaic laws. How then can God be pleased with us? In Luke 3:22, God himself said to Jesus “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”. The only way we can "please" God is through the imputed righteousness made possible by the blood of Christ. For through His blood, we are justified and saved from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9). This is why the heavenly hosts praised God in verse 13-14 of the passage, for the Glory of God which left the temple (Ezekiel 10:18) has finally returned in the person of His Son (John 1:14). Through the sending of His Son, God displayed His love, mercy and grace, in order that we would be reconciled, and be at peace with Him. This is the purpose of salvation, that God be glorified.
Hear the good news, Jesus died for all, and those who acknowledge Him as Christ their Lord will be saved from the wrath of God.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son to die for us. As we learn and are reminded of the good news, help us to truly recognize this as good news, responding as the Shepherds did – for they did not keep what has been revealed (verses 10-11) to themselves, but they responded with faith believing what was revealed (verse 15) and they made known what had been seen and said (verse 17). Help us to respond in a manner befitting of your grace with overwhelming joy, glorifying and praising you for the good news (verse 20). Amen.