Summary: Shepherds were chosen by God to be the first to know that our Savior was born. An angel of the Lord announced the birth of Jesus to them. After seeing the Messiah, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
The First to Know At Christmas—The Story of the Shepherds
Characters of Christmas Series – Message Two - 2009
Gages Lake Bible Church
Sunday, December 13th, 2009
Pastor Daniel Darling
Today we continue our series of messages celebrating the Christmas season. In many ways, the Christmas season is forced upon us. One minute after Thanksgiving and sometimes sooner, we are ushered into a month long celebration, anticipation of the Christmas season.
As Christians, we often lament the commercialization of the season. Every year we hear gripes about how soon the retailers are posting their Christmas sales. We get upset at the stress induced in arranging parties and presents and people. And there is always the hustle and bustle of the many events that take place at church.
But in some ways, the month-long focus on Christmas is a great thing for our world. It tells me that what Paul said about the state of mankind, “Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds.” (Romans 5:1).
It’s amazing that a creation that has so eagerly run from its creator suddenly stops and celebrates the most compelling story and the heart of the Christian faith.
That’s why I think regarding Christmas, we Christians have a choice. We can whine about how this season has been hijacked by people who don’t care about its real meaning.
Or we can seize the opportunity before us and turn our hearts once again in celebration and worship of the real story of Christmas, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, where God became Man in the flesh.
With this idea, we share yet another message in our series entitled, The Characters of Christmas.
Today we share a message entitled, “The First to Know at Christmas—The Story of the Shepherds.”
I encourage you to turn your attention to the Gospel of Luke Chapter Two.
The Most Compelling Story
Right about now is when many media outlets issue their year-end retrospectives. They like to look back on the most important stories of the past year. And this year had no shortage of them.
Well, the most important story in the history of the Jewish nation, the announcement they had forever longed for, ever since the promise was delivered to Abraham, continued through the time of the judges and the kings, communicated by the prophets.
God had issued an unconditional promise to the people of Israel. Out of their nation, out of the tribe of Judah, out of the family of their beloved King David, would come a Messiah.
Every Jewish mother’s dream was to give birth to the Messiah.
So you would think that when this story broke, when the Messiah finally touched down on the Earth, it would be accompanied by great fanfare.
You’d schedule a press conference. You’d alert the media. You’d make sure it was covered on all the evening cable shows.
But this wasn’t the way Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the third member of the Trinity; this was not the way He made His entrance into the world.
A most humble entrance
During this time, a lot was happening on the world stage. The great-nephew of Julius Caesar, Octavian, was just crowned the new Caesar. He was given a title, Augustus, by the Roman Senate. He was the first to bear that title and it signified holy, revered.
August fashioned himself as a god. And for the known world, they thought he was a god. At this time it was a time of peace in the world, a world that had recently been plagued by war. But this was a peace that was enforced by the cruel and unflinching hand of Caesar Augustus.
To most of the world, Caesar was god, life would forever be Roman, and for the Jewish people, the dream of a Messiah King was all but dead, except to the minority who actually read and studied and believed the ancient prophets.
But the Bible says in Psalms 75:6 that promotion comes from neither the North or the South, but from God.
Caesar may have had the title, but he was only a pawn in the hand of an Almighty God. In fact, it was Caesar’s greed, in trying to extract every last bit of tribute from the wretched and downtrodden Jewish people in Palestine—he inadvertently played into the plan of God.
Caesar’s declaration, spoken of in Luke’s account, forced a common village carpenter and his pregnant, teenage bride, to make the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a journey that undoubtedly taxed the strength of this young woman.
What Caesar didn’t know. What Herod didn’t know. What the religious leaders didn’t know. What the common people didn’t know. What they didn’t know was that the baby in the womb of this peasant woman was the very Messiah the Jewish people had longed for.