Skip to content

Tag: shepherds

The Message for the Shepherds (And You!)

Over the past few weeks, we’ve noted how each of the different Gospels draw our attention to different characters within the Christmas story. For example, Matthew draws our attention to the wisemen and King Herod – whereas Luke draws our attention to the shepherds and the angels. Both Gospels are telling the same true story of Jesus’ birth, but they each draw your attention to different aspects of the story.

The same is true even concerning Jesus’ parents. We see that Matthew writes his story from the viewpoint of Joseph and Luke writes his story from the viewpoint of Mary. It’s the same story – but we see it play out from totally different perspectives.

And so for the last three weeks, we’ve approached the Christmas story from three different angles – we’ve read from three different Gospels which have focused on three different characters – Mary, Joseph, and of course, Jesus Himself.

We started by looking at Jesus as he is introduced in the Gospel of John. And John doesn’t spend much time talking about Jesus’ birth, per se, but he focuses on how Jesus existed before he was even born! He talks about how Jesus has existed eternally as the second person of the Godhead and how He is our Creator. What’s more, out of his great love for us, Jesus choose to become one of us, born as a human being, so that He might live a human life and one day die a human death in our place so that we could be saved from our sin. We don’t always focus on that aspect of the story at Christmas time, but that’s really what Christmas is about!

From there, we turned to the Gospel of Matthew who focused on the character of Joseph. We saw that, while Joseph was indeed a descendant of King David, he did not live a life of royalty. He was just a regular guy – working in the trades, doing his best to provide for his family. But what’s impressive about Joseph is His godly character! Even when he believed that his fiancé Mary had been unfaithful to him and had committed adultery – because she was now pregnant and Joseph knew that child wasn’t his – but even then, Joseph determined to do what was right and to act in a loving way towards Mary even when it seemed that she had been unloving to Him.

Furthermore, we were impressed by Joseph’s immediate and constant obedience to God. Every time God gave him some instructions – even ones that were pretty difficult follow –  Joseph did it immediately and without arguing or complaining or anything. All we see from Joseph was immediate obedience to God. What a great example for us!

And then last week, we looked at the Gospel of Luke to see things from Mary’s perspective! And Mary is another impressive character! Even though she would have been very young at the time – probably 13-16 years old – she displayed some incredible spiritual maturity when God revealed to her that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah. I’m sure Mary realized the negative social consequences of having a child out of wedlock and that having this baby now would completely change the course of her life – but like Joseph, all we see from Mary is immediate submission to the will of God.

Luke 1:38 sums it up well:

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38a

Mary’s willing submission to God was clear evidence that she knew the character of God – and if God was going to ask her to do this very difficult thing, then she could trust Him. Even though she didn’t fully understand what God was up to, she could trust that God was doing something good – because that’s just who God is.

Again, what a great example for each of us. As I said last week, it is no wonder that God chose this couple to raise His son Jesus.

And so that’s a brief summary of what we’ve been going through for these last few weeks. Now today, I want to continue looking at the different characters of the Christmas story – specially, I’d like us to look today at the shepherds.

Now the shepherds may not be ‘essential characters’ in the Christmas story – after all, Matthew, Mark, and John all leave them out of their Gospels entirely – but yet, Luke does include them – and their part of the story has been recorded for us in the pages of Scriptures, so there is obviously something important about them. There is something that God wants to communicate to us through the story of the shepherds, and so today we’re going to see if we can dig some of that out!

Leave a Comment

The Unexpected Source of Joy

We’ve been preaching through the season of Advent – remembering the first (and looking forward to the second) coming of Jesus. These Advent candles remind us of the many gifts we have (and the gifts we look forward to) because of Jesus’ coming.  We started two weeks ago with God’s gift of hope – last week was a reminder of the gift of peace – and this week, of course, we want to look at God’s gift of joy.

This gift of joy is made possible only because of Jesus’ arrival into the world as a little baby. We read at our Christmas Celebration on Friday in Luke chapter 2 of how, on the night of Jesus’ birth, angels appeared to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem and announced to them this good news that would bring great joy to all people. Let me read for you in Luke 2 – starting 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.” Luke 2:8-12

This little baby boy, born in the Bethlehem some 2000 years ago would be the source of joy to the world – even for us here in Penhold in 2017.

And I know this probably isn’t necessarily ‘new’ news for you this morning. Chances are, you many of you have heard this good news before. Especially if you’ve been here for the past two weeks.

One of the concerns that I had when we decided to do these Advent messages was that hope, peace, and joy are so intertwined with each other that I feared I’d be preaching the same message every week – just using a different word.

  • I could talk about how Jesus gives us hope because our sins are forgiven and he has promised to return and make all things right.
  • I could talk about how Jesus gives us peace because our sins are forgiven and He has promised to return and make all things right.
  • And I could talk about how Jesus gives us joy because our sins are forgiven and He has promised to return and make all things right.

And of course, that would all be very true! Christmas really is a ‘buy one, get two free’ kind of a deal. Hope, peace, and joy are all part of the same package. They are all made possible by Jesus coming to earth, being born as a baby in a manger – living and then dying on the cross and being raised back to life again.

But even though they are all so closely related, I do want to talk a little bit today specifically about joy. As I was studying up on the topic of joy this week – I found that even defining ‘joy’ could be a little tricky. There was no one clear definition of joy.

  • Some would say that joy is another word for happiness. Others would say that joy is certainly not the same thing as happiness.
  • Some would say that joy is a feeling or an emotion. Others would say, no. No it’s not.
  • Some would say we can choose to be joyful – that is it an act of our will – but others see joyfulness a natural by-product of something else.

There are lots of different ways to define joy – I think there can be good arguments made for all of those different ways.

So how do we understand joy? What exactly did the angels mean when they said that this good news would bring great joy to all people? How does this good news help you and I experience joy today?

Regardless of how we define it, joy sure sounds like a good thing – so how do we get it? I guess that’s really our bottom line – how do we experience joy in our lives today?

Leave a Comment