“Now there were in that same country, shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’”
Angels came to shepherds — that’s how our last song started, and that is just what the Bible tells us in Luke 2, verses 8-10 tell us that after Jesus was born. So it was to these shepherds that the message of Christ’s birth, first came, showing us:
I. The Call of Christmas is a call to the lowly.
That the angels appeared to shepherds isn’t just some bit of insignificant historical trivia. It’s important, because of who the shepherds were in those days. Like a lot of things in the Bible, we have kind of “romanticized” the shepherds, because we have heard about them all of our lives, and we associate them with Jesus’ birth. A lot of us think of them as those “sweet little painted characters” with classic looks, poised with a sheep sitting “just right” on their shoulders! We think it’s just not quite a real “manger scene” if we don’t have those perfect little shepherds in them.
But let me say it nicely: the truth is, most of us would NOT want any of the shepherds from Bible times at our next Christmas party! They did not have a good reputation. They were considered to be “low life.”
In fact, the “Talmud”, which contained the traditional Jewish interpretations of the Law, says that shepherds were not to be allowed to testify in the courts as witnesses. Their credibility was so bad, no one would believe them. In another place the Talmud goes so far as to state that “no help must be given to the heathen, or to shepherds.”
So shepherds were not the “deserving poor” in Jesus’ day; they were unwanted, untrusted, unacceptable.
And so how significant is it, then, that when Jesus was born, He sent His angels to appear … to SHEPHERDS!
— NOT to King Herod.
— NOT to the Jewish religious leaders who “knew all about” where the Messiah would be born, but didn’t really care.
— Even the magi from the East didn’t get this personal announcement from the angels.
But God sent His angels with the announcement to the shepherds — the the low-life, the outcasts. That SAYS something about about who Jesus came for. He didn’t come for the person who thinks they’ve got it all together. Jesus said “it’s not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.” He said He didn’t come for people who thought they were righteous, but for those who knew they were SINNERS.
So if today if you know you’re like those shepherds, and you’re not all you should be; REJOICE! This announcement is for YOU! Jesus came for YOU! People would point to those shepherds and say, “If they can be saved, anyone can!” And I think that is exactly what God is saying. If I saved these guys, that means I can save YOU too — whoever you are — if you will accept it! It gives hope for every one of us, that we can be saved.
II. The Call of Christmas is about a Sacrifice
There’s a second thing I think that is very interesting about this story, and that is that Jewish literature also tells us that in Jesus’ day, the sheep intended for the daily sacrifices in the temple were fed in the Bethlehem pastures. The angel said to the men who were guarding the sacrifices: “Unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior” — the REAL sacrifice for your sins.
So the angels’ message to the shepherds was like, “Hey guys, you’re not going to need these sheep any more.” The ultimate Lamb; the ultimate sacrifice for sins has come for you. This Jesus had come, not just to be born that day, but to grow up, to die on the cross and pay for our sins. I Peter 2 says “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.” The Savior was born who was born that day would pay for our sins, once for all.
We need to hear that message today. We don’t need to try to “give sacrifices” to make God happy, and to get Him to forgive us, so we can earn a place in heaven. We’re not giving these mission offerings so we can “pay our way” into heaven; we’re giving because it’s such good news that the payment for our sins has already been fully made by Jesus! That’s what the call of Christmas is about.
III. The Call of Christmas is Personal.
WHO did He do this for? Verse 11 says the angel told the shepherds, “For today in the City of David there has been born FOR YOU a Savior …”. “For YOU”! Those words apply to YOU & me just as much as they did to those shepherds that day. We need to make it personal; it is FOR YOU!
Billy Graham’s wife Ruth shared the testimony in her little book, My Turn, that when she was growing up, she had of course heard about Jesus dying for the sins of the world — her parents were missionaries to China — but she said somehow it didn’t seem like it was really for HER, personally. She said she talked to her sister about it — and she said her sister was a very practical, “matter of fact” person — and she said “Well, I don’t know what to do to help you — unless you take a verse from the Bible and put your name in it. See if that helps.” So Ruth did. She went to Isaiah 53, which was one of her favorite passages about what Jesus did, and she put her own name in it: “He was bruised for Ruth’s transgressions; He was crushed for Ruth’s iniquities; the chastening for Ruth’s well-being fell upon Him — and by His stripes (Ruth) was healed.” And by putting her own name in there, she DID get finally the peace and assurance that Jesus died for HER, and she knew she was saved.
That’s not a bad thing for ALL us to do. If you need to know what your sins are forgiven today, or you need assurance of your salvation, put YOUR name in that blank there in Luke 2: “There has been born FOR YOU a Savior.” Put YOUR own name in that:
— “There has been born for SHAWN a Savior!”
— “There has been born for DREW a Savior!”
— “There has been born for YOU — put YOUR name in it — a Savior.” It is for YOU!!
The Call of Christmas is that all this has been done for YOU! But if you never have, you need to make it personal, right now …