Opening Prayer Thoughts.
That he is our God. Thank God that he is the one true and living God who has revealed himself in his creation, in his Word, and in the person of his Son. (Isaiah 44:6, 1 Timothy 2:5, Psalm 19 and John 15:9)
Of seeking pleasure in idols of the heart. Ask God to help you to identify and put these destructive things to death in your life. (Colossians 3:5, I Corinthians 10:14, I John 5:21)
Let's read Luke 2:8-20
Pray for the Holy Spirit's help to receive God's Word.
v8. Who were the first to find out that Jesus was born?
The birth of a prince is usually an occasion for fanfare and public rejoicing. But the announcement of the birth of the Prince of Peace was made quietly at midnight, without any fanfare. It was the local shepherds keeping watch over their flocks. These men tend to be portrayed as gentle, pastoral characters; they were anything but; in general, shepherds had a bad reputation. Their job made it difficult for them to keep the requirements of the ceremonial law, so they tended to be men who hadn't much interest in religion. One commentator writes that they had the "unfortunate habit of confusing 'mine' with 'thine' as they moved about the country. They were considered unreliable and were not allowed to give testimony in the law courts."
v9. An unnamed angel of the Lord appears.
What happens, and what is the impact on these hardened men?
v10-11 What did the angel of the Lord say?
The first two words, “Fear not”, are said to calm them down. People in a distressed state tend not to be able to process what is being said. That's why it is good to talk with the Lord when you are anxious; it means that he can speak peace to your soul.
The message is defined as what? “Good news of great joy”! The reason for this good news of great joy is because it declares the birth of the 'Messiah.' For four thousand years, the promise of a Saviour, first made in Genesis 3:15, had been waiting to be fulfilled, and now the day had come. Pardon and peace with God was about to become a reality. Salvation was no longer to be seen through types and figures, but openly, and face to face. The knowledge of God was no longer to be confined to the Jews but declared to the whole world.
Stop, take a moment to think about how the Good news proclaimed on that day has affected your life.
The angel gives the shepherds a “sign” as to where this baby is. What is the sign? So, the unspoken directive is that the shepherds should go and find the baby, for they are going to be the first to attest to his birth. What an extraordinary privilege for a group of hardened, untrustworthy 'thieves'. You see the willingness of God to engage with those who are religiously uncouth and morally bankrupt. Pray that, as a congregation, we will become a community that is increasingly welcome to receiving such.
v12-14. Who are the first to praise God for the coming of Jesus?
As soon as the angel finishes speaking to the shepherds, what happens? What a sight this heavenly host, this army of angels must have been, and what a sound they must have made as they filled the night air with their words of praise to God. What do they say? Note the order; it is glory to God and then peace on the earth. Glory to God for the sending of his only Son, who is going to manifest God's glory, all be it veiled in person. (John 14:9). The ensuing peace will be offered to all mankind, but not all mankind will experience it, only “those with whom he is pleased!” Literally, among men of his good pleasure, men and women of whatever age, who by God's grace, will be made to be at peace with God through the death of this Son born in Bethlehem. A peace which Paul tells us "surpasses all understanding" and "will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 4:7). It is no wonder that later the grown Jesus would say, "I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents". (Luke 15:10). Maybe this season will engender within us a greater desire to share our thanks to God for the work he is doing in each other's lives.
v15-19 What did the shepherds do?
The hearts of these men are stirred. The usual lethargy of the night was no impediment to what they had just seen and heard. There is no doubt, no questioning, no hesitation; with “haste” they go in search of Mary and Joseph, and they search Bethlehem until they find them. There is urgency and marked determination resulting in their simple faith receiving a rich reward. For they have the incredible privilege of being the first to see the new-born Messiah with believing eyes, and they return to the fields, "glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them."
Oh, that the Lord would give us such urgency and determination in our lives in respect of searching out the person of Jesus, that we might receive a like reward and be led to express similar joy. I am convinced, that as we spend more serious time with God each day, both as individuals and as a family, that these things will come.
And what of Mary in v19? What a beautiful statement. The ability to treasure in one's heart the good things God does for us and gives to us is one the most blessed gifts we have from God. To be able to dwell upon and ponder his love for us in Christ Jesus. To mull over the blessings of his grace in our lives. This is the richness of life; not the possessions we may own, or the idols we cherish, for they will pass, but our relationship with God in Christ is eternal.
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 78B. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
Psalm 121C:1-3, "Unto the hills I lift my longing eyes; whence comes my aid? The Lord's my help, the heavens and earth by him were made. Your foot from stumbling He will always keep; the One who guards your life will never sleep."
Something to think about. Shorter Catechism.
Q. 10. How did God create man?
A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.
Scripture proofs pdf - https://opc.org/documents/SCLayout.pdf
Thank God for the coming of the Lord Jesus to earth. For the rejoicing of the angels and the shepherds. For Mary's treasuring of these things in her heart. For how God has changed your life through the coming of his Son. How you now have a peace that passes all understanding.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley