Luke 2:16-20 “Ponder” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. The wait is over! Christ the King is born! Glory in the Highest! The Savior of the world, in flesh, laying in a stable in Bethlehem, a humble birth, visitors from afar, a promise from God for generations to come. The journey experienced was different for each person in the Christmas story, but each person was led to the same place: a small baby. Those who saw Him, spread the word about what happened and all who heard were amazed. Mary treasured and pondered her journey, while the shepherds glorified God for all they witnessed. How will you respond to this news? We pray that as you’ve been on this advent journey with us, that God has spoken to your heart with a fresh revelation. It’s been an honor to share the words from Luke with you as well as our thoughts. Merry Christmas and may you spread, ponder, and rejoice in all that you’ve seen and heard about the Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’”
— Luke 2:13-15 (NIV)
Have you ever asked who is “a great company of the heavenly host”? Until today, I hadn’t really thought about it. While I am no theologian, I would suppose they are, in a very general sense, beings that have never experienced and manifested sin as you and I have. They do not “need” a Savior, in the sense that we do. There is no need for them to respond to an alter call, say the sinner’s prayer ™, or do whatever it is one is “supposed to do” to become “saved.” Still, they praise — they celebrate! They are excited to simply worship God because he is that great, in and of himself, apart from anything He has done for you and me. Isn’t that awesome?! A King that garners the praise of angelic beings loved us enough to become the propitiation for our sins. A King that wanted for nothing chose to be in relationship with you and with me, and to make us (and all things) new in Him! If this company of the heavenly host found Him praiseworthy, how much more should we!
And what about the shepherds? Who were they? My understanding is that these guys were the sort of folk that would have lived largely in isolation, outside of the towns, sleeping under the stars with their animals (as such, I am guessing there was also a trademark smell). They were a suspicious group and I am told that their testimony wasn’t even admissible in court. A pastor I heard once said that “shepherd would not have been a job you shot for, shepherd was the job you ended up with.” And yet, these are the people to whom the angel appears, proclaiming the good news. Strange, isn’t it?
These verses remind me that God’s glory is not confined to the story of my personal salvation, and that His grace extends to places that may seem very unlikely to me. As we near the birth celebration of our Lord, then, let us stand in awe of a glory that we can only partially comprehend, and give thanks that Grace reaches the forgotten and unlikely. “Glory to God in the highest heaven!”
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2: 8-12
There was no talking Him out of it; nothing would shake His resolve. The Word became flesh and made His home among us. Hope kissed an unsuspecting world, and we had no idea how to deal.
Have you ever had wonderful news to tell? Or ever had a surprise for someone who didn’t see it coming?
A few summers ago, I met up with some family at our lakeside cabin in Northern MN. Before I arrived, my cousin had lost a diamond engagement ring somewhere in the watery abyss while skiing. Crushed and dejected after hours of looking, the search was called off.
Early next morning, emboldened by what I believed to be a prompting from God, I found myself at the end of the dock shivering… “Lord, please lead me to that ring.”
I found it in 2 minutes.
Can you imagine what I felt? Walking up the stairs leading up to the cabin, clutching the treasure like my life depended on it? I could barely hold it in! I wanted to sing and dance!
My cousin was stunned. And for a moment time itself stopped, startled by the miraculous.
That story is a pale example of God’s greatest gift to us. How much more of a treasure was that baby, wrapped in swaddling and lying in a manger? The savior King had finally come. A new era has begun.
“At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria. All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 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. He took with him Mary, his fiancee, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 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.”
- Luke 2:1-7
And you, my child, “Prophet of the Highest,”
will go ahead of the Master to prepare his ways,
Present the offer of salvation to his people,
the forgiveness of their sins.
Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace.
Luke 1:76-80 The Message
This is the beautiful story of the Gospel. A Savior that steps into the messiness of His people. Who offers salvation and forgiveness, and does not demand it. Who draws us out of dark places, and walks with us on this journey that we’re each on.
There was a time when I thought that being a Christian was based on a moral scale, each action either earning praise or drawing judgement. The work to keep this scale balanced was exhausting. But this isn’t the Gospel at all.
We’re messy, broken people in need of a Savior. One that sees our cracks, our imperfections, our darkest places - and draws us out. Desires relationship with us. He calls to us in the darkest of places, finds us hiding in the shadows, and doesn’t leave us there.
He gently takes our hand and tells us that He loves us, that nothing we can do or say is going to change that love. And that He wants to heal us. Draw us into the light. He wants to see dawn come into our dark and hurting hearts.
This is why the Advent season is so exciting, as we prepare with anticipation, the birth of our Savior. The Giver of true Peace. The One who has come for each and everyone of us - no matter what place we are sitting in at this very moment. That is the beauty of the Gospel to me. He’s walking with each of us - one foot at a time. Because sometimes, that’s all we can do.
“His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”
- Luke 1:67-75
Throughout this time of advent, we have been reflecting on so many of the EVENTS leading to Jesus’ birth. In Zechariah’s prophesy, turns our attention to the SIGNIFICANCE of his birth. It’s the shift from what happened to why it happened. God has come to his people and redeemed them. This is a beautiful picture of God fulfilling his promise. And not only did he keep his word, but he came to our aid and rescued us.
Christmas is significant because it reminds us that God is for us. He comes to us, redeems us and rescues us. We can trust him because he fulfills his promises so we don’t have to live in fear.