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Summary: Why did the shepherds get excited when told that a baby had been born? Why did Simeon and Anna get excited when they saw the baby Jesus? A baby!! So what? So everything - this was the hopes and fears of all the years meeting in Bethlehem that night.

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Introduction

When a baby is born the new parents get all sorts of different reactions from family and friends:

• “Oh, how lovely!”

• “Look, he’s got his dad’s eyes!”

• “Doesn’t she look just like her mum?”

• or, simply, “oh!”

But when Mary gave birth to her first son in a stable in Bethlehem just over 2000 years ago, the reactions were rather different. They were in fact quite amazing and they weren’t from what you would call close family either!

Three of these reactions are recorded for us in Luke 2.

Vs 1- 7 record the birth of Jesus in that lowly stable, concluding with the famous words “there was no room for them in the inn”.

But then this happened – {have someone read vs 8-20}

The Shepherds – as far as we know these men had never seen or heard of Joseph or Mary before in their lives, and all they were doing was their usual night shift guarding the sheep. Yet they were chosen by God to receive “good news of great joy” – the arrival of Christ the Lord, the Messiah. And the proof that this great event had occurred: a political uprising in the capital? a mighty military victory over the armies of Rome? a great religious meeting at which thousands responded to a message from God?

No, the proof, or sign, they were given was that they would find in a manger a baby wrapped in cloths. Yeah, right.

But wait – here they are, these tough, rugged men heading off into Bethlehem to have a look. This sign means something to them; they aren’t incredulous about a new born baby being a sign from God. They believe it! Why?

Not only that, but once they have seen this baby they go around telling others, “glorifying and praising God”. Why? Why was a baby a sign from God that something really significant had started in the world?

Second reaction - {have someone read vs 21-35}

“A man in Jerusalem called Simeon”. We don’t know how, but he had received a revelation from God that he would not die until he had seen the One who would be the Messiah that the people of Israel had long waited for. There he is, hanging around the temple, when in come Joseph and Mary to have their new son named – we might say “christened” these days, but that’s because here in Luke 2 we have the first ever christening.

Anyway, the point of the story is that Simeon doesn’t just say, “oh what a beautiful baby, what are you going to call him?”, he goes wild with excitement. “Now I can die in peace,” he says, “because at last I’ve seen the Messiah. God has fulfilled His promise!”

Huh? Wait a minute – how can seeing a helpless baby cause him to react like that? Surely he would have been expecting to see a grown man doing some mighty deed of salvation before he would be sure he’d seen the Messiah. But, no. He sees the baby Jesus and says that the day which God had promised the people of Israel, indeed the people of the world, had arrived.

Luke says that Joseph and Mary marvelled at what was said about their boy. No wonder – that’s not your typical reaction to seeing a new baby.

Third reaction - {have someone read vs 36-38}

Finally, the elderly widow Anna, a devout woman, sees Jesus and starts to tell everyone who was “looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” about this baby. Again, not your typical reaction and not immediately obvious that a baby should mean so much to people who were waiting for God to act.

Why is it that the birth of this baby was such a fabulous sign? How on earth could they know what the birth of this particular baby meant for Israel and the whole world?

{We are going to take a break, sing a carol, and then come back and try to unravel this mystery.}

The Common Thread

One thing that these three different episodes – the shepherds, Simeon and Anna – had in common was that they involved people who were said to be “waiting” or “looking” for the saviour, or the redemption of Israel, or the fulfilment of God’s promise.

In other words, these were people who would have known their Bibles – what we call the Old Testament. And therefore they would have known about the many promises that God had given over the centuries of a Messiah and an age of salvation.

And these promises include some passages in the book of the prophet Isaiah that we are going to look at briefly now, which answer the question: “Why is it that the birth of this baby was such a fabulous sign?”

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