Advent; Nativity & Shepherds ~ 20211219 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
12/19_4th Sunday of Advent; Nativity & Shepherds; (Luke 2:1-20); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211219_advent-nativity-shepherds.mp3
This happened. Luke gives geographic and historical details to anchor his account in a real place at a real time. Luke set out to compile a narrative, an orderly account of historical events based on eyewitness accounts, to give certainty that what we believe about Jesus is real, true, historically verifiable (Lk.1:1-4).
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to the temple to announce to Zechariah that he and his barren wife Elizabeth would have a child in their old age, and John would be used by the Spirit to prepare people to meet their God; he was to prepare the way for the coming of YHWH.
About 6 months later, Gabriel appeared to Mary in Nazareth, and communicated to her that by God’s grace, she, a virgin, would bear a son, who would be Son of the Most High God; the Holy one – completely unique, in a class by himself; the promised Messiah who would rule from the throne of David forever. She was to call his name Jesus – YHWH is salvation.
Journey to Bethlehem
Now, approaching the time of birth, the expecting mother with her husband-to-be made the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem; either by the most direct route, about 70 miles, due south, right through the heart of Samaria, a route often avoided by devout Jews; or the longer route, about 90 miles, avoiding Samaria by traveling east, following the Jordan valley to Jericho, and then traveling up to Jerusalem. The ascent from Jericho to Jerusalem was steep and dangerous, the setting of Jesus’ parable about the good Samaritan, where the Jewish man fell among thieves.
We know that Joseph went up from Nazareth to Bethlehem with Mary his betrothed, who was with child. We could ask ‘Why?’ Luke gives an answer that the Roman Caesar had made a decree, likely for the purpose of taxation. We are not told if the decree demanded that a very pregnant Mary appear with him, or if she came because she didn’t want to be apart from Joseph at the birth, or possibly Joseph sought to protect her from the malicious rumors and gossip circulating around Nazareth about the questionable origin of this pregnancy.
Whatever the apparent cause, God providentially moved a Roman emperor to issue a decree that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem to fulfill the words of the prophet Micah
The one whose coming forth is from ancient days; the one who is to be ruler in Israel, was to be born in Bethlehem.
Luke emphasizes that:
Jesus’ legal father was of the house and lineage of David. So he went up to Judea, to the city of David. All 45 times this phrase occurs in the Old Testament, it refers to Zion, the stronghold of Jerusalem. But twice in this passage Luke uses ‘the city of David’ to refer not to Zion in Jerusalem, where David established his throne, but to Bethlehem, where David was from.
Jesus the Firstborn
Such a simple description of this monumental event. The time came, and she gave birth. She gave birth to her firstborn son.
Colossians uses ‘firstborn to refer to Jesus in two senses:
Hebrews declares Jesus to be greater than angels;
Jesus is firstborn over all creation; firstborn from the dead, God’s firstborn son.
As the creed says:
The Manger and the Inn
There was no place for them in the inn. We should probably not picture a commercial hotel or motel with rooms for rent; the inn where the good Samaritan brought the injured Jewish victim and paid the innkeeper to care for him in Luke 10 is a completely different word. The word used here is also found in Luke 22:11 referring to the furnished guest chamber Jesus used to eat Passover with his disciples. It would be more accurate to think of an airBnB in a family’s home, a room where family or other guests could stay.
The historic site for the birth of Christ is a cave, similar to caves still in use in Israel today, where shepherds can shelter their sheep. Mangers used in Israel were carved stone troughs used to feed or water animals. Because the guest chamber was already occupied, the couple sought shelter and privacy in a shepherd’s cave, and when Jesus was born, he was wrapped in strips of cloth and laid in an animal’s feed trough.
The Glory and Fear of the Lord
This is the third angelic announcement in Luke; this time the angel is unnamed, he appears to a group rather than an individual, and the glory of the Lord is also present. This glory is described in Exodus as a cloud;
No wonder the shepherds were filled with great fear. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Job28:28; Ps.111:10).
I bring good news; this is the word for evangelize; to proclaim the gospel. The angel proclaims the gospel of great joy to the shepherds; joy which will be for all the people. Good news produces joy.
This had to be a shocking and confusing statement. An angel shows up to a bunch of shepherds in the middle of the night with a birth announcement; everybody will be filled with joy because a baby is born to you! Do you think the shepherds were looking around at one another wondering who of them the angel is talking to? Born to who? To you! The ‘you’ is plural; to you all! How is Jesus born to a bunch of shepherds? Jesus is not born to them as if they were the parents. He is born to them in the sense that he is born for their advantage. This says something about them to whom the good news is proclaimed; it says they need help. The one born is a Savior; because they need saving. He is a rescuer, because they are in deep trouble and need to be rescued.
the glory of the Lord; more acutely than flashing blue lights in the rear view mirror revealed to them in their gut the trouble they were in. They were filled with great fear because the presence of God revealed to their hearts their own guilt, their own sinfulness, and the Lord is a consuming fire. None of them had to ask ‘Savior? To save from what?’ They all felt it in their bones that they all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death (Rom.3:23; 6:23).
But the angel told them to fear not. Look, I’m preaching the gospel to you, good news that creates great joy. And it will extend beyond you; it is good news for all the people. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. None is righteous, no not one. All need a Rescuer. And listen to the identity of this rescuer. He is Christ, the promised anointed Messiah king; born in the city of David to sit on David’s throne. He is the Lord; YHWH himself come to save us from the wrath of YHWH toward our sins.
What an announcement! The promised Messiah, the Lord YHWH come down, is born to you, for your benefit, to rescue you. Messiah has come, the LORD has come down, and brings salvation and great joy to sinners. This angel shows up to a representative group of ordinary sinners like you and me and proclaims that it is for you that this long awaited one is born. He is born to you!
The Sign of the Manger
This must have been unexpected. Zechariah asked for a sign in unbelief; Mary in honest curiosity asked how this will happen, and she was given Elizabeth as evidence that nothing is impossible with God. These poor shepherds were too stunned to ask for a sign, but a shocking sign was given unasked. The King of the universe, the Lord, Messiah, a Savior is born to you. To us shepherds? Here’s how you will know. You will find the baby wrapped up and stuck in a food trough for your sheep. That’s not where royal kings are put! But he is the good shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep (Jn.10:11). Food goes in a food trough, not a baby. But this is the one who will say:
Here’s a sign for you, that he came for you; you will find him in a food trough.
Glory and Peace
As if one angel wasn’t paralyzing enough, the whole angel army shows up in battle formation proclaiming the glory of God, and declaring terms of peace on earth. God graciously grants peace to those on whom his favor rests. God extends grace and peace that brings great joy to ordinary undeserving sinners like these shepherds.
Examining the Gospel
The shepherds had been told good news of great joy. What did they do with it? They didn’t just sit on the information. When they picked themselves up off the pasture, they went to see ‘this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ They heard the gospel preached by the angel, but they recognized the angel was a messenger bringing them the word of the Lord. They had been graciously given a sign, so they went with haste to examine the evidence. This wasn’t something that could wait. It won’t wait ‘till morning. It can’t wait ‘till a more convenient time. This was the most important thing ever. It interrupted and took precedence over everything else. The gospel does that. It interrupts us and demands our immediate attention. Behold, now is the day of salvation! (2Cor.6:2)
This is the third mention of the animal’s food box. Mary gave birth and laid the baby in a manger; the angel gave a sign of a baby lying in a manger, and the shepherds came and saw the baby lying in a food trough, just as they had been told.
Responding to the Gospel
Here’s what we can learn from the shepherds. We are sinners just like everyone else. If you don’t believe it, ask God by his Holy Spirit to convict you of your sinfulness and his righteousness and the coming judgment. Jesus came to you, for you, because you need to be rescued. If you don’t believe me, that’s fine. Don’t take my word for it. Go examine the evidence for yourself. The shepherds heard the good news; they had the gospel preached to them. News too good to be true. So they checked it out. And they found it to be precisely as they had been told. They heard the good news, they tested the good news, they believed the good news, and then they proclaimed the good news. Good news of great joy that will be for all the people. The good news is to you, but it isn’t intended to dead end with you. News this juicy, this joyous, must be passed on and on and on.
And ultimately it results in glory to God. The God of glory brings peace to the earth through the condescension of Jesus, and the earth responds by glorifying and praising God for the great thing he has done. Father, may your name be glorified on earth as it is in heaven. Thank you for giving us this day the Bread of life, who is Jesus.
2021.12.19 Sermon Notes
4th Sunday of Advent – Nativity & Shepherds
Luke is writing history, not myth or legend
Journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, city of David
Micah 5:2; 1 Samuel 17:12
Jesus the firstborn
Colossians 1:15-18; Hebrews 1:5-6
“I believe ...in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man;…” [Nicene Creed]
The glory and fear of the Lord
Exodus 24:15-17; Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10
The Gospel: born to you - Rescuer, Messiah, YHWH
Luke 2:10-11; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 2 Corinthians 6:2
The sign of the manger
John 10:11; 6:35
Good news heard, examined, believed, passed on
Acts 4:20; 1 John 1:1-4
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org