A birth is a great adventure. it doesn’t matter if it’s the Messiah’s birth, our birth, or the birth of one of our children. Birth is a great mystery, and God is the giver of that life. At Christmas time, we celebrate the mystery of the greatest birth of all-the birth of Jesus.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, deity invaded humanity, eternity invaded time, and royalty invaded poverty. From the time He was born, Jesus identified with the common people-people who lived lives of holiness, humanity and dependence. God chose the least of all cities-Bethlehem-to host the birth of His Son, and He chose the least of society-shepherds-as the first witnesses. Shepherds were considered ceremoniously unclean because they invariably had to engage in financial transactions with the Gentiles; therefore, they were not allowed to worship in the temple. Nor were they allowed to testify in court, because they were considered unreliable witnesses. When God chose to announce the birth of Jesus to shepherds with his contingent of angels, He made his point clear: Everyone is loved by God, everyone has access to God, and everyone is desired by God.
The Glory of the Lord appeared for the first time in centuries in, of all places, an open field populated by shepherds. Mary, Zacharias and the shepherds were all in the will of God, going about their daily duties, when the supernatural broke in. Although greatly afraid in the moment, these witnesses ultimately experienced deep joy.
The phrase “do not be afraid” was a standard admonition on the heels of an epiphany, which is a brief but direct encounter with God. It was also a message for that time in history, for the anxious and restless nation of Israel had been without a word from the Lord for 400 years. The people toiled under the heavy yoke of the Roman Empire, understanding that if they did not submit, they would be destroyed. Jesus was born at a time when a message of great joy was particularly needed.
God took on flesh in the midst of a forced government relocation. He was born in a town so crowded that a feeding trough was all that was open. No one attended His birth. Lowly shepherds were the first visitors. We can’t remake Christ’s birth in our own image. Sure, compared to some people at that time the Holy Family had sufficient housing and a well-made bed, but if we emphasize the fact that they were better off compared to a lot of people then and now, we lose the importance of Christ’s birth. He was born among the lowly, not among the high, mighty and powerful.
The Jewish people of the day longed for a Saviour, but they expected Him to free them from Roman rule. The angels’ message meant something far more important: Jesus had come to reconcile humanity to Himself. People want to be saved from many things such as bad marriages, debts and others’ sins, but He came to save individuals from their own sin.
Today, we need a Saviour who can restore us and get us back on track. That Saviour came on that first Christmas Eve, and He is willing and able to come to us today. The shepherds recognized Him and worshipped Him. Those who recognize and worship Him today have nothing to fear in either this world or the next.
The angels’ message contained three components: a song of praise, a song of peace, and a song of purpose. The message of the gospel is that humanity is no longer an enemy of the Almighty; God’s Son has torn down those barriers. This message of peace was entrusted to shepherds-a hated class of people who were outcasts from society. They weren’t allowed to testify in a court of law. God gave the message of Christ’s birth to amateur peacemakers. This message is still being heard today.
At the world’s first evangelical service, the shepherds were the congregation, the herald angels were the preachers, the announcement was the gospel in all its beauty, and the invitation was responded to by everyone who heard it. The shepherds carried out the angels’ instructions and then became preachers themselves when they returned, glorifying and praising God.
News this good must not be neglected and not held to ourselves alone. Everyone needs to hear because everyone needs that Saviour and in every case, when received by faith, Jesus delivers his wonderful salvation-forgiveness of sins. eternal life and a right, living relationship with God.
In more than a few past wars, the warring nations would call a cease-fire for Christmas Day. They would agree that on Christmas Day they wouldn’t shoot at each other, drop bombs, or try to destroy one another. Then, of course, the day after Christmas they would start killing each other again. Jesus’ birth brought peace-not the abolition of war, but a different kind of peace. It is the peace for everyone who receives God’s good pleasure. This peace will come when we give glory to God in the highest.
As strange as that custom has been, in a wonderful way it is a mute testimony to the purpose for which Christ came-to bring peace. That was the message the angels proclaimed. Because of Christmas, there will come a time when everyone will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. Jesus came to die to show the depth and breadth of God’s love for us.
Sin means missing the mark of God’s perfection. Because we have missed that mark, we have been separated from God. Jesus came to defeat death so that we, who are hopeless without Him, could experience love, forgiveness and freedom. Jesus came to reconcile us to God. That reconciliation brings God’s peace.
Jesus reconciles us to God. He counteracts the evil forces that divide society. We need to make peace with God, our neighbours and ourselves. God’s peace is a gift to those who are the objects of His pleasure. How blessed would we be if we took our troubles to Christ-who was born, lived, suffered, died and rose again so our lives might be changed. Even now, Jesus is speaking words of reconciliation between a lost humanity and God. The Christ child in the manger is an indication of the great lengths God will go to reconcile us to Him.
There is nothing we can do to receive God’s peace. He lived the perfect life we can’t live. He gave his life to free us from the curse of sin. When we humble ourselves, confess our sins and trust Jesus as our Saviour, God is pleased with us.
Jesus came to fix our broken world and mend our broken lives. Jesus also brought joy. Joy came because He gave the Holy Spirit to those who follow Him. That joy came because of the peace Jesus brought and the lives He mends.
How do we please God? It is only through Jesus Christ, only through the way of reconciliation He has made available to us. If we want to be reconciled to God and reconciled to others, then it must be through Christ.
Do you need some reasons for celebrating Jesus’ birth? Here are some ways that can help us move from survival to celebration:
- We can celebrate because Jesus was born to save us.
- Because of Jesus, we can celebrate that we don’t have to pay for the sickness of our sins.
- Because of Jesus, we can celebrate that we have God’s presence in our lives and we have access to His power.
- Because of Jesus, we can celebrate that we have a place waiting for us in heaven.
- Because of Jesus, we can celebrate that while we’re living here we can keep growing to be more like Him.
- Because of Jesus, we have peace-the peace that passes all understanding.
On earth, peace will come, because when the heart has only one aim to follow, it is delivered from dividing and distracting cares. It will come because the glory of God is so lofty an aim that it lifts the soul into the atmosphere of the heavenly and eternal world where peace reigns unbroken. It will come because we are not greatly troubled by the reverses and alternations of fortune that are incident to all work in this world, since the main object of spending eternity in heaven is always secure and beyond fear of failure.
It seems that in our secular world there is less and less room for Jesus. In fact, a growing number of people won’t even allow Jesus to stay with the animals. They want Him out of everything we can possible think of, including Christmas celebrations.
Is there room in your heart for the Lord Jesus? How often has Jesus tried to touch our lives through a circumstance or a tragedy, or even an incredible blessing? Do we say, “I’m sorry, there’s no room,” or, “Just sit over there in the corner and I’ll let you know when I’m ready for you.” Have we prepared room for Him in our hearts? Have we received Him and let Him be King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
God came to save us from a dark past, an empty present and a hopeless future. He brought hope in the dark places of His time, and He brings hope to the dark places of our lives today. Will we let His light shine in the darkest places of our lives? When we receive God’s special gift, our past is forgiven, we have a new purpose in life, and we have a home that is prepared for us in heaven.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p.1386-1387)
- Larsen, B. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983; pp. 47-54)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Pastor Ken Klaus, “Stolen Valor.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jill Carattini, “Imagining Christmas.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Pastor Ken Klaus, “Peace Among Those With Whom He is Pleased.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pastor Ken Klaus, “A Living Nativity.” Retrieved form email@example.com
- Dr. David Jeremiah, “Celebrate His Love.” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pastor Ken Klaus, “Not the Way I Would Have Done It.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Pastor Dick Woodward, “Great Joy for All People.” Retrieved from Crossswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Sharon Jaynes, “What About Those Christmas Carols?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Gwen Smith, “From Cradle to the Cross.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Pastor Greg Laurie, “What Message Did the Angels Bring?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Doug Fields, “Christmas: Survive or Celebrate?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Dr. David Jeremiah, “A Humble Birth.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Ed Young, “Worship Like Angels.” Retrieved from email@example.com.
- The Rev. Canon Lee Curtis, “Christmas Eve (B): Flat Jesus.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Ed Young, “Watching Sheep Sleep.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Dr. Jeff Schreve, “Has the Grinch Stolen Your Christmas?” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ralph Douglas West, “Hope for the Hopeless.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Dr. Ed Young, “Don’t Leave This Gift Unwrapped.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Ed Young, “Make Room in Your Heart for Jesus.” Retrieved from email@example.com.
- The Right Reverend Charlie Masters, “Advent 2018 Letter from Bishop Charlie.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org