At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
Now I’m sure you know the next part of the story – the part about the “shepherds watching over their flocks by night” – But before we continue with the rest of the passage – I want you to try to put yourself in the shepherds place as we read this. Imagine that you are with them that night – out on one of the grassy hills that surround Bethlehem. You’re just up there on that big hill with your flocks of sheep and a few other shepherds. The sheep are in their pen for the night already. You can hear their “baaas” in the background. It’s a cool, clear night so you’re probably sitting around a fire to keep warm – just relaxing and chatting with the other shepherds. Its a beautiful night. You can see a million stars and the lights of the village of Bethlehem maybe down there in the valley. It’s just beautiful. Kinda makes you wanna quit your job and go be shepherd, doesn’t it? Well, keep that picture in mind as we continue reading at verse 8.
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
These shepherds had just experienced the most exciting thing that had ever happened to them! If they were here today, this is the story that they would have shared in their little groups this morning. This is the story that they would have told their kids and their grandkids and their great grandkids.
Think about it! There they were – this handful of shepherds, having a nice relaxing, normal evening just doing their jobs. When suddenly, out of the darkness an angel just appears – and he is just blazing with the radiance of the glory of God. I cannot even imagine what that would be like. No wonder it says that the shepherds were terrified! That’s probably an understatement!
And then to hear (from that blazing angel) that the Messiah had just been born. Every person in Israel had been waiting for the Messiah to come for years. Hundreds of years even. So to hear that the Messiah had just been born – and in their little village of Bethlehem – that was incredible news! That was huge!
And then it says that the angel was suddenly joined by a “vast host” of other angels. Now, I don’t know exactly how many a “vast host” is – but in another passage, the Bible uses the same word to describe the number of stars in the sky. So if one angel with blinding radiance doesn’t impress you – how about having perhaps millions of angels suddenly appearing and all praising God together!
To put this in perspective, when you go to Breakforth this January and you’re worshiping God with 8000 other people, that’s a pretty powerful experience. That’s super cool! But imagine millions of angels filling the skies – worshipping & praising God together as one massive choir! That is mind blowing stuff!
So after all this, once the angels have all disappeared and it once again a silent night in Bethlehem (although I wonder if perhaps the sheep were a little stirred up by now) – but these shepherds do the only logical thing. Verse 15 says
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:15
So they go find Mary & Joseph & the baby – who was lying in a manger, just as the angels had said. And what happens next is really the part that I want to focus on today. Verse 17
“After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.” Luke 2:17
Of course they did. Of course they told everyone what had happened. That’s what you do when incredibly exciting things happen in your life. You tell people. You start texting. You update your facebook status. You tweet it on twitter. At least that’s what you’d do today! They didn’t have that technology then, so they just told everyone they met about the incredible things that had just happened to them.
They weren’t going to hold it in. They couldn’t. You can’t keep exciting news to yourself. You have to tell people.
We told you folks just a few weeks ago that Heather & I are expecting a new baby in May. But we had known about it for a few months already before we told anyone – even our parents. And I tell you, it was hard to keep it a secret. I wanted to tell people! I wanted to share the exciting news!
John: when you came back home from your missions trip to Mexico this spring – did you want to tell anybody about your trip? Were you excited to share the news?
When exciting things happen to us – we just gotta tell people! You have to share the news. So on that note, I have something I need to share with you this morning.
You know that some 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ was that little baby that was born. You know that He grew up – lived a sinless life – and allowed Himself to be put to death on a cross – rising from the grave three days later – so that anyone who believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
You see, all of us should perish. In our hearts, we’ve all rebelled against God. We’ve all sinned. Certainly I have. And God’s penalty for that is death. But when Jesus died on the cross, His death paid my penalty. All I have to do is accept it. Romans 10:9-10 tells me that. It says:
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” Romans 10:9-10
Well, here’s my exciting news! I’ve done that. I have confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord and I believe in my heart that He died for my sins and God raised Him from the dead! And because of that, God has given me a guarantee of everlasting, abundant life.
That is by far the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me! Jesus Christ rescued me from sin and death – and has instead given me hope, joy, peace, purpose and an abundant life like I could never imagine.
And what’s equally exciting is that He offers that same hope, joy, peace, purpose and abundant life to every one of us!
We live in such a broken world. The shooting tragedy in Connecticut this Friday is clear evidence of that. But we don’t even need to look as far as Connecticut to find hurting people. We have friends and neighbors and relatives who desperately need the hope of Jesus Christ. In fact, you can probably think of a couple people right off the top of your head who need the hope of Jesus Christ.
So I want to remind you this morning – if you are a Christian, you have an incredible story to tell. For you, it’s not just “the Christmas story” anymore. It’s now your story – How Jesus came to earth to give you life and hope and joy and peace! And like those Bethlehem shepherds 2000 years ago, you’ve got to tell people what happened to you! It’s not just the Christmas story, it’s YOUR STORY! And we have such an incredible story to tell!
Occasionally, I ask people to share their testimony in church or at different events. And I alway hear the same reply. “Why do you want me to share – My testimony isn’t very interesting…” Are you kidding? Are your sins forgiven? “Well, Yeah.” Do you have the hope of eternal life? “yeah” Do you have the Creator of the Universe living within you every moment of every day? “Yeah.” That seems pretty incredible to me!
Most of you are familiar with the Christmas carol “Go tell it on the mountain.” The original author is unknown, but it sure seem like he was telling us to do the same thing that those shepherds did years ago.
Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born.
Just like the shepherds told their story to everyone they could – perhaps on the mountains or over the hills or everywhere they went, we too, have an incredible story that we have got to share with the world.
And because we live in such a unique time in history – we don’t even have to climb a mountain to do that..
We can Go, tweet it out on twitter, on our facebook page and everywhere! Technology allows us to “Go into all the world and make disciples” easier than ever before. We can write out our testimony on a blog and some person in Russia can use google translate to read your story in his own language within seconds. Our technology is incredible! Let’s put it to good use!
But even if technology is not your thing, you can simply Go, tell it over coffee – over your fence or anywhere. When you meet someone on the street – maybe your neighbor or the farmer down the road and they ask you, “How are today?” Don’t just answer “Fine.” Cuz you’re not fine. At least you shouldn’t be. You should be fantastic. You should be bursting with the joy of the Lord knowing that your sins are forgiven – God loves you like crazy – and you have a guarantee of eternal life. That’s a whole lot better than just fine! So why not tell them?! If you answer the question “How are you?” with “I’m bursting with the joy of the Lord!” – That’ll certainly make for more interesting conversation – and just maybe they’ll want what you’ve got too.
How you share it doesn’t really matter – what’s important, is that you do. Remember, this isn’t just ‘the Christmas story’, this is YOUR story. Tell your friends and your neighbors and your relatives what Jesus Christ did for YOU. How He changed your life. How He gave you joy, and peace, and purpose, and abundant life.
Chances are they’ve heard about the baby in the manger. They’ve probably even heard about Jesus dying on the cross. But have they heard what Jesus did in your life? Have they heard your story?
God has done such fantastic things for us and in us. Let’s tell somebody! Lots of us parents will read the Christmas story as we sit around the Christmas tree opening gifts this year – let’s not stop with just telling the Christmas story. Let’s tell our kids, let’s tell our family, let tell our friend and neighbors, and maybe even some stranger in Russia – let’s tell them our story – What Christ has done for us.