Christmas Stories: Christmas Sermon Series
The Shepherd’s Story
In his 2014 Wall Street Journal bestseller, Talk Like Ted, Carmine Gallo discusses why Ted Talks are so popular, and why some in particular go viral and others do not. And if I were to give you the cliff notes version, it essentially says, when you present information to an audience tell stories, and how presenters should “master the art of storytelling.” Jesus was a master story teller, and he told stories often (the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, The Sower, etc.)
Today the Shepherds will tell us their story from Luke 2, and how God did something amazing in their presence, and used them for something wonderful. We are also going to discover, that like the shepherds and their story, God desires to show you something amazing today and use you and your story to change the world.
I. God’s Favor Given to Shepherds (vv. 8-14)
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 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. 10 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. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
The word “And” signifies for us that there was something that came before this passage. In the preceding verses we see that a census was issued by the Roman emperor, so Mary and Joseph have to travel to their ancestral home, Bethlehem. And upon arriving can find no place to stay except a barn, Jesus was born and laid in a manger.
While Christ’s birth is drawing to a close, angels are dispatched to tell a group of people about this very special child’s birth. This is the most important event that had ever or will ever take place on this planet. The very first people to hear of Christ’s birth were shepherds.
Shepherds did not live in luxurious homes, they did not carry many possessions, and as we find them here often have the few things they can carry and devote themselves to the care of their sheep. On this night, they are awake, and are living outside, and watching their sheep at night against predators, they were “keeping watch over their flock by night.”
What was it about these shepherds that made them worthy of such honor? The answer is found in verse 14, there will be “peace among those with whom he is pleased” God did some awesome things that night just because he wanted to favor some shepherds who were sleeping in a field, watching their sheep. God had it in His heart to favor these men.
There is nothing that indicates they were super-shepherds, or that they had in any way earned or deserved this outpouring of God’s favor – but let’s look at how God favored them.
A. God Sends A Heavenly Messenger
First God sends them a heavenly messenger, and when they see this messenger Luke tells us that they were very afraid. It says an “an angel of the Lord appeared to them.” In just about every instance where an angel appears before a person, they are struck with fear.
B. God Gives A Heavenly Appearing
“and the glory of the Lord shone around them” We see the glory of the Lord in Exodus 16:7,10 where in a cloud the people could look upon His glory and God provided manna and quail for the Israelites to eat after they had complained.
In Exodus 24:17 God fills the top of Mt. Sinai with smoke and blasts of thunder. It appeared “as a devouring fire.” In Exodus 40:34 the Israelites had completed the Tabernacle and God’s presence entered it and appeared as a cloud, and as pillars of smoke and fire.
If you combine an angel and God’s glory shining around them, what you get is some very scared shepherds – why are they afraid? Because when sinful mankind comes into the presence of a holy God or even His messengers, our sinfulness stands in stark contrast to God’s holiness.
All of our misgivings, flaws, evil deeds – everything is exposed, all of who we truly are is seen by God’s eye, and man’s natural response is to try and hide as best they can, we fall to our face before a consuming fire and close our eyes to try and shut out God’s glory. But there is no place to go.
The shepherds are scared because they know that they are sinful the fear of a holy God causes them to shutter. At this moment, when they are scared to death, the messenger speaks.
C. God Gives A Heavenly Message (vv. 10b-12)
10 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. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
He begins by saying don’t be afraid – I bring you some good news. The good news of the gospel, a way is given to them for them to be forgiven of their sin and a way for them to be able to stand before God, not in fear, but in worship and love. The messenger was giving these shepherds the most important news that has ever been told. Not only was this good news for them, the good news is “for all the people.”
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior” – In the book of 2 Samuel when the prophet Samuel went to anoint a new king for his people God told him to go to Jesse’s house, and it was his youngest son David whose head would be anointed.
David had to be brought in from watching the sheep. Later when appealing to king Saul to allow him to fight Goliath, David gives examples where he had defended his sheep from bear and lion. Not only does Jesus being born in Bethlehem fulfill prophecy, but it also describes to his people what this Christ will be like. John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
The Savior would be just like them, except without sin. They were sleeping out in field, Jesus was lying in manger. They were shepherds of sheep, Jesus was the Good Shepherd. They had a humble lifestyle, Jesus emptied himself of glory and became a man, a suffering savior, and was described as having “no place to lay his head.”
Bethlehem was a tiny town, the Savior’s lineage would come through a little shepherd boy named David, and the eventual good news would be given first to a group of unknown shepherds. God delights in pouring His favor on the young, the little, the weak, and the unknown.
“a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” What is a Savior? What are they being saved from? Jesus who would grow in wisdom and stature, would teach as one who had authority, he would perform miracles to prove what He said was true. He would die on a Roman cross and He would rise again three days later – he did all these things as a Savior.
The law shows us that all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s requirement to go to heaven. We have all lied, stolen, dishonored our parents, thought lustful thoughts, been angry with someone – any one of these eternally separates us from God – He is holy and we are sinful. And we stand before God guilty of committing sin, and we have no way of getting rid of it.
Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus by dying on the cross saved us by taking the punishment that we deserved.
God tells the shepherds in His grace and mercy how to find this child – who is the Savior of the world. “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” This same grace and mercy is held out to us as well, He tells us clearly that this good news is for us as well today – we, like the shepherds, are given clear instructions as to how we can be saved from our sins.
D. A Heavenly Host (vv. 13-14)
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
“In heaven God’s glory, on earth God’s peace.” God favors these shepherds by sending a heavenly messenger, shining His glory upon them, giving them the most important message ever given, and then to top it off, a vast number of angels sing a praise and worship song and they have a worship service – right there in the pasture. Good news leads them to praise God.
Mary and Joseph had an angel appear to them on separate occasions, God spoke to Joseph in a dream. But for this unknown group of shepherds, God gives them favor, upon favor, upon favor, upon favor. Blessing, upon blessing. What do you do when God offers such grace, forgiveness, mercy and love?
They knew that they were a sinful bunch, but they had received the good news of God. This morning you too can meet the Savior of the world, he no longer can be found in a manger, because having defeated death, hell, and the Enemy – he sits at the right hand of the Father and is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
II. Now What? (vv. 15-20)
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
A. Go and See (v. 15b-16)
Many times we try to define faith and we make too complicated. Faith is simply taking God at His Word. The shepherds had just been given a message – There is a Savior, you can meet Him, Here’s how you will recognize Him. The step of faith for the shepherds was to go to Bethlehem. “And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”
The step of faith that God requires us to take is not to run to a nearby barn, but Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” God offers us forgiveness and salvation as a gift – the step we take is to receive or reject this good news as a gift. (Christmas gift around the tree)
B. Go and Tell (v. 17-18)
There was something within this group of shepherds that told them that they simply could not go back to the pasture to watch the sheep. They knew they had to tell others the good news – they had a story to tell. The town was amazed – but what the Bible doesn’t say is how the town responded. Did they go and see the Christ child? Did anyone who went offer them a place to stay?
C. Treasure and Ponder (v. 19)
Mary had just given birth in a very difficult place to deliver a child. A barn is filthy. Was there clean water? Did they have blankets? Mary would have been exhausted from labor, pushing and the pain of delivery. She would have looked a mess.
Sometimes God takes us through things were all we can is just sit there and take it all in. She had just delivered the Savior of the world. He was healthy and there weren’t any complications. Animals were nearby, shepherds were arriving, soon townspeople would be getting there. Later magi from the east would be arriving.
But you know what? People weren’t coming to see her or Joseph – they were coming to see Jesus. You cannot dress up the gospel – it is what it is. Life is messy, the way God dealt with our sin was messy, ministry often times is messy, life many times is messy. But if we point people to Christ – it really doesn’t matter what we look like.
What if Mary had turned people away – “no you can’t come in right now, Mary is resting.” “no one come into the barn right now, Mary is putting on her makeup.” When people came to the door she only had to point to the manger. Jesus was the main attraction.
Many times we as Christians think it’s all about us, and how we look to the world – as though we must be perfect and put together before the lost, and lonely, and seeking can come in – all we have to do is point to Christ.
This morning I want to invite you to think about your story – he invites all people to enter into a relationship with him. The Bible says that “He wants none to perish.” If you would like to meet the Savior of the world, today, you can say a prayer and invite Him into your life – you can say something like this,
“Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I believe that You died for my sins. I want to turn from my sins, I now invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as Lord and Savior.” In Jesus’ Name.”
 Protecting them from the lion and the bear, 1 Samuel 17:34-35.
 Herschel Hobbs, An Exposition of The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books, 1972) 53.