Summary: a meditation on the Audience, Message, and Response to the angels' proclamation of the birth of Jesus. The meaning of glory-and Jesus ethical teachings compressed into "peace on earth goodwill toward men".
Luke 2:28 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 the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
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.
Tonight I’d like to consider just three aspects of this passage:
1. To whom were the angels speaking?
2. What did they say?
3. What was the response?
Shepherds: they were “nobodies”. This is clear. If it were not for these few verses in the Bible, this troop of sheep herders would have lived out their entire lives without any notice from anyone in the world. No one in our century would have heard of the shepherds of Bethlehem were it not for the message God sent them by the angels.
Yet, beyond this, Jesus called himself a Shepherd, and not just any shepherd, but the Good shepherd. The people who reflect God’s glory do so by means of their simplicity and ordinariness. God receives the glory He deserves, quite often, only when He works through the lowly. The high, mighty, influential, popular, famous and rich do things for God and too often get glory for themselves. But God brought His son into the world through two poor village Jews, and He announced His birth to the lowly. This was the nature of Jesus’ entire ministry. As Augustine said
Maker of the sun,
He is made under the sun.
In the Father he remains,
From his mother he goes forth.
Creator of heaven and earth,
He was born on earth under heaven.
He is wisely speechless.
Filling the world,
He lies in a manger.
Ruler of the stars,
He nurses at his mother’s bosom.
He is both great in the nature of God,
and small in the form of a servant.
The message to these simple shepherds demonstrates the fact that God and God alone will get the glory for the work He does. And that brings us to part two: the message