Our scripture reading for this last Advent comes from Luke’s Gospel: Luke 2:8f
The shepherds were approximately 2 miles away from Bethlehem when the angels appeared to them. Though surprised by the unexpected visitation, the shepherds responded to the angel’s message by taking three steps of faith:
First, they HEARD the ANNOUNCEMENT: they really heard it not just listened to it.
Second, they HASTENED on the ASSIGNMENT: they went to diligently search. It is a misconception that Jesus was born in some out building belonging to an inn similar to our hotels. This was not the case. They were hastening to enter a ‘search’ for ‘a baby’ in ‘swaddling cloths’ in a ‘manger’. Most everyone in town would have owned animals that were fed in a trough. No easy task to find the baby. And if our Christmas carol is true (doubtful) which contains the lyrics ‘…no crying he makes…’ then there wouldn’t have been a sound to help give direction to their search.
Third, they HERALDED their ASSESSMENT: convinced that what they had seen, heard and found was absolute truth, they shared it with others who would listen. The result was that ‘all who heard them WONDERED at what the shepherds told them. In other words, they were amazed—a sort of astonished, gasp of wonder.
The Christmas season has ended for this year, however, left us not cease in following the shepherds example. May we be a people who heralds the absolute truth of Jesus all year long.
The scripture reading for this fourth week of Advent 2014 comes from Matthew’s Gospel: Matt. 2:1-2:
‘Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews, for we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him” ‘.
One question that comes to mind when we think about the Wise men’s journey to see Jesus is, ‘HOW FAR DID THEY TRAVEL? Calculations on the distance tell us that the journey could have been as much as 1600 miles. In comparison with the Shepherds who traveled 2 miles or Mary and Joseph who traveled 90 miles, the Wise men made quite a journey. Their travels, which took as much as 2 years, could have been a project of such mammoth proportions that it would have never been undertaken.
But, remember: ‘The Wise men didn’t calculate the extent of their journey ‘GEOGRAPHICALLY’. They measured it with their ‘HEARTS’. So when their hearts considered the journey and the arduous nature of its traverse, they concluded that it was a short journey to make to offer adoration to Jesus.
Today, let’s calculate the extent of our spiritual journey in a similar way. Though difficult at times, the pathway to Jesus is short, if measured with a heart of humble adoration. Let’s lift our praise to Him with joyful worship.
Our scripture reading for this week comes from Luke’s Gospel: Luke 2:8-12, 17-18:
‘And in that same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. 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. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby…”. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them’.
An unlikely evangelistic target group these shepherds were. Absent from the temple and unclean by their association with the body waste of the sheep, these men were the first to hear Heaven’s announcement of Jesus’ birth. And their reaction to it provides us with a good example to follow in our experience with God’s Word.
First, they RECEIVED the message. Though fearful of the encounter, there is no sign that the shepherds doubted the angels’ proclamation.
Then they RESPONDED to the message. Though the Magi had a star to guide them, the shepherds had only scant details of what they were looking for: a baby, in swaddling cloths, in a trough. But they went to search for the baby until they found Him.
And then they REPEATED the message, when they went away glorifying God and praising Him as the angels had done before them.
During this Advent season, may we be as willing to receive, respond to and repeat God’s message of love, offered to us through the birth of His Son, Jesus.
Our Christmas devotional for this week comes from Luke’s Gospel: Luke 2:6-7:
‘And while they were there, the time come for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn’.
This morning as we think about the place of Jesus’ birth, we are reminded of several facts about it.
First, it was a SECRET place: few people would have known its whereabouts.
Second, it was a SEPARATED place: most mothers do not wish to give birth in public.
Third, it was a SACRED place: common though it might have been, it was sacred because Jesus was there.
Fourth, it was a SECURE place: Jesus was attended by the ‘hosts of heaven’. He was quite secure.
As we consider these facets of His birth place, we can draw a parallel between Jesus’ stable and our souls. Our souls are secret in as much as they cannot be easily seen by anyone but Jesus. Our souls are a separated place for us to be alone with Jesus, free from the entrapments of the bustling culture around us. Our souls are a sacred place where we meet daily with Jesus. And our souls are a secure place in as much as we have given them to the Lord to own, fill and use as He desires.
One question in a well loved hymn asks, ‘IS THERE ANY ROOM FOR JESUS?’
Let’s answer that question this morning with a sincere ‘YES’ as we offer Jesus our souls as a ‘secret, separated, sacred and secure place’.
Our Christmas devotional for this week is taken from Luke 2:8-14. Take time to read this with your family and consider these thoughts…
As the Heavenly Multitude gathered for their angelic announcement to the shepherds, they voiced a jubilant declaration: GLORY TO GOD! And as we listen to their proclamation, we learn two important lessons:
1. Bringing glory to God is our most important OCCUPATION.
Of all the activities that the angels could have been occupied by, their pursuit was bringing glory to God. This was the passion of their lives, the zeal of their spirits and the sustaining motive of all they did.
It is appropriate for us, then, to imitate their example and make God’s glory our most cherished occupation as well, for only God is eternal and worthy of glory. Let’s give Him GLORY.
2. Bringing glory to God is our most important OPPORTUNITY.
From their creation until this moment, the angels had witnessed God’s Sovereign preparations for and presentation of the Savior of the world! For ages they had ‘looked on with interest’ (I Peter 1:12) as the day of Advent approached. Now, their jubilation overflowed as they loudly proclaimed ‘GLORY TO GOD’! (Job 38:1-7)
At no other time during the year long religious calendar, with the exception of Resurrection Sunday, do we focus more on our richest blessings than at Advent. As President Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven’. AMEN! And because we have been so blessed, let’s take opportunity at this Advent time to proclaim, in imitation of the angels in Luke 2, GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST!