Jesus’ Birth to the Shepherds


Sermon Text: Luke 2:8-20
Sermon Series: “Jesus’ Birth” (#2)

Main Points:
I. Good news of great joy announced
II. Good news of great joy shared
III. Good news of great joy realised

News of the Saviour’s birth was announced to both Mary and Joseph as read in Lk. 1 and Mt. 1. Then, the time came and the baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of David, and this news was announced to some shepherds in the nearby field.

I wonder, why shepherds? I mean, why was the news of Jesus’ birth declared to a small number of shepherds, not to some important people of the day like priests or kings? Why was it made known to the shepherds at night in the field, not under the bright daylight in the city? Some more questions arise in my mind: ‘Why did the angel appear and declare the news not to all residents and visitors of Bethlehem but to a few shepherds? Wouldn’t it be more glorious and grander to let all people know of the Saviour’s birth?’

As you know, there’s always a reason for everything that is done and written in the Bible, and this announcement of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds is not an exception. According to God’s wise and righteous plan, these shepherds in the field heard the news. In fact, their hearing of the news is an essential, crucial part of God’s announcement to the whole world that the birth of Jesus is the good news of great joy to all people.

So, I pray that the Holy Spirit may take us to the night of our Saviour’s birth and, specifically, to the field where these shepherds watched their flock, then, help us to hear the news together with these herdsmen and, hearing it, follow their steps to see the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger, then, rejoice greatly together with these men of great blessing as well as Mary and Joseph and all heavenly hosts!

So, let’s begin, sitting beside these shepherds in the field under the starry night sky. Some people think that it was probably a night in between spring and autumn rather than in cold winter based on an assumption of improbability of keeping sheep out in the field over cold winter nights. But some others say that, because it sounds like they kept their flock not too far from the city, there’s still a possibility of taking sheep out in winter. Whether it was a warm or cold night, that isn’t the point. Rather, our main concern is that these are shepherds out in the field at night, being engaged in their vocation, that is, keeping their flock safe overnight.

What were their duties? Keeping their flock safe from attacks of wild beasts like wolves or lions or bears, and assuring of their well-being. In carrying out of their duties, they often touch blood or occasionally dead animals. They sometimes fight against wild beasts and occasionally kill them. Because of this, the Jews of the first century AD regarded shepherds ceremonially unclean based on the OT Mosaic law. This means that shepherds were of low socio-economic class.

To these people, God’s angel appeared and delivered good news of great joy. Not to anyone of higher class, not to anyone ceremonially clean and blameless, but to these unclean, lowly and tired shepherds, God’s messenger appeared and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and the message was delivered!

In this, God’s truly amazing grace is revealed! I mean, this message God’s angel announced is for people like these shepherds who are ‘heavy laden’ or burdened in the world. This news of a baby born and wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in manger as promised by God is for all people who seek rest for their souls, who desire to take their heavy yoke off from their shoulders. Not for those who satisfy their earthly life, nor for those who remain content with earthly pleasures, but for all who look for a rest, all who seek freedom – such as the shepherds of Lk. 2.

Sending an angel to these lowly shepherds, God makes it clear that the Saviour has come to deliver all people of the world who are heavy laden, and give them rest that will satisfy their soul now and for eternity.

Considering this, Jesus Christ gave thanks to the Father in Lk. 10:21, and please listen carefully to what the Lord says in full joy, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things [that is, the gospel, ‘good news of great joy’] from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was Your gracious will”!

By this gracious will of the Father, the Son, our Saviour Jesus, invites all who are heavy laden, who seek a lasting rest, promising them, promising you and me, to give His eternal rest. On this gracious will of the Father, the Lord Jesus declares and says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” The OT psalmist has seen this gracious will of the Father centuries earlier through the Holy Spirit, and talks about the joy it brings to a believing soul, and says in Ps. 40:3, “[The LORD] put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” Then, he points out in the same verse in Ps. 40, saying, “Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.

This is why the angel together with a multitude of heavenly hosts in Lk. 2 sang a praise song to God. What did they sing and say? “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” It’s a doxology to God for His gracious will and congratulations of men for receiving the amazing and unfathomable grace of the Father and the love of the Son Jesus Christ born to us in flesh!

In this sense, the angel appeared to the shepherds as well as you and me and all whose heart seeks rest from this burden of sin, freedom from the threat of death. And the message announced to them and us is this, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” and He will save His people – like you and me – from our sins!

Hearing this good news of great joy, the shepherds immediately responded and left their place to see the newborn baby who is the Saviour. We don’t hear from Luke that the shepherds hesitated or tried to vote among themselves to say ‘Aye’ or ‘Nay” to the idea of leaving their workplace to go to the manger the angel had pointed. Instead, they said to one another, “Let us go … and see that has happened.” To them, going and seeing the Saviour born was the most important and valuable thing.

This reminds us of Jesus’ parable of a merchant who found a pearl of great value. Finding it, he went and sold all that he had and bought the most precious pearl. In another parable of Jesus, a man found treasure hidden in a field and he did the same as the merchant – he went and sold all that he had and bought that field and made that treasure his. A great and lasting joy is deeply associated with these stories. There’s no need nor time for hesitation – if anyone does, he’d be a fool.

This is exactly what the shepherds of Lk. 2 had in their minds – an overflowing joy! I’m sure that all of them must’ve stood up immediately and quickly crossed the field, as one of them shouted joyfully, “Let us go … and see!

I grew up in a Christian home – a Presbyterian family. I went through Sunday School – which was a treasured moment of my life – and youth group after that. Yet, this news of great joy was made known to me when I was 24 years old, and I was deeply delighted with this treasure. My soul rejoiced constantly. Literally, not a moment in those days did I forget God in my heart, but always thanked and praised Jesus, meditating His word. I believe most, if not all, of you know what I mean and how joyful it is to hear good news of Jesus Christ and have the Saviour in one’s heart and soul.

Having the same joy, the shepherds went swiftly and found the baby Jesus laid in a manger. Having given the baby their simplest yet the most joyful worship, these men of great cheer shared with Mary and Joseph and whoever were with them there the news the angel had delivered.

Just picture in your mind that scene in the manger. It was probably dark, yet, the manger would’ve filled with wonder and exultation of the news! Their eyes would’ve been wide opened for the jubilant fear of the Lord. Guess how much their sharing of the news would’ve been to both Joseph and Mary! No angel appeared to them at the birth of their baby; but this news the shepherds brought was a great comfort and strength to their souls! At the same time, Joseph and Mary would’ve shared their story with the shepherds and that must’ve imprinted their gladness onto their heart!

This is a lesson as much as encouragement for us who believe in the Saviour Jesus. We’ve received this treasure, good news of great joy, and our next move is to share it with all around us. By sharing this news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, we bring this glad tidings of heaven to others as much as we ourselves are comforted.

See what happens with the shepherds in Lk. 2. They returned to their workplace, and as they did, they glorified and praised God. I believe that they sang the angels’ hymn they had heard in the field earlier that night – that is, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom [God] is pleased!” Although they could not sing like the way angels did, they did not care but raised their voices to God of great grace. I also believe that the residents and visitors of Bethlehem heard their song of praise, and wondered what caused them to sing such a beautiful song in such a deep joy.

The message for us is this that we must return to our workplaces in this world, bringing our gospel joy. We’re to sing praises to our Lord and God. By singing praises and giving glory to our Heavenly Father, people around us would wonder like those of Bethlehem on that night of the Saviour’s birth. For this purpose, we’re called. We’re the light of the world, a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. We’re called to be exposed to the eyes of the world and our message is the news of Jesus Christ which is our song of praise to God or, in other words, good news of great joy realised in our daily living at our homes, at our workplaces, at every corner of this city.

Brothers and sisters in Jesus, like the shepherds of Lk. 2, let us come quickly and constantly to Jesus our Saviour and worship Him. And let us see His glory, His grace, His love, and share our joy and hope with all around us. This is our praise to Jesus and glorifying God! ***

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