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The Shepherd's Fear

The Fear's of Christmas  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Mary and Joseph had made their way to Bethlehem for the census and while they were there Mary gave birth. Jesus is swaddled and laid in a manger.
There lying in that manger was the mystery of the Gospel, the mystery of Christmas. Jesus, the very Son of God, fully equal in nature with God becomes human flesh.
The mystery of Christmas
2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
1 Timothy 3:16 ESV
16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
The God of the universe, the one who created all things, who holds all things together, who sustains all things lies, crying in a manger.
To the world it is simply another birth, another baby being born. In reality, the plan God had put in place before the foundation of the world was laid is coming to fruition. The incarnation, the Son of God taking on flesh and being born as a human is happening before Mary and Joseph’s very eyes.
in the same region” - that is Bethlehem
watching over their flocks” - nothing special or unusual in this verse. Simple Shepherds doing their simple thing out in the fields. Some have suggested these were the temple shepherds watching over the sheep that were to be used as sacrifices. It is possible but the text makes no such claim. Luke ins’t interested in the identity of the shepherds rather in what happens to them.
An Angel appears in the glory of God and the Shepherds are gripped with fear. - Here we have our connection with Mary and Joseph. All three experience a visit by an angel and all three are afraid. But the shepherds visit is different from Mary and Joseph’s in that it was accompanied by the “glory of the Lord.” The result is that the shepherds fear is far greater than Mary and Joseph’s fear.
the glory of the Lord shone around them” - We often think of a spot light shining behind the angels, but the text says the shepherds were engulfed in God’s glory. In an instant the shepherds went from the black of the night to being surrounded by the glory of God.
What is God’s Glory?
Exodus 24:17 ESV
17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.
Ezekiel 1:28 ESV
28 Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.
Matthew 17:5 ESV
5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
Revelation 21:23 ESV
23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
It is described in different ways but one thing that is the same is the response of the people who see it. When the Isrealites saw God’s glory (in Exodus) they would not even go near the mountain for fear. Ezekiel fell on his face and was unable to stand.
Matthew 17:6 ESV
6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.
Matthew 17:5–6 ESV
5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.
These were men who had spent 3 years with Jesus and had seen incredible miracles and yet were totally unprepared to see God's glory.
This is the glory of God that pierces the darkness and surrounds these unsuspecting shepherds. The result is “they are filled with great fear.
Lit. “they feared a great fear” - they are terrified. This is not simply a perplexity at what they saw, they weren’t simply anxious. Joseph was fearing the decision he had to make. Mary was fearing God’s favor. Nor were they in awe or reverence. They were gripped with terror. They have absolutely no idea what is going on. The hillside has vanished, all they can see is light and resemblance of someone that speaks to them.
I was driving back from London this week and it was night time and I was reminded of the darkness of the night. Living in town there is always light in the country the street lights and house lights disappear and it is simple dark. It was into that kind of darkness the glory of God shone.
Matthew 17:5–6 ESV
5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.
Fear gripped them instantly. Have you ever experienced that? In one minute everything is OK and in the next fear gripes you. Hitting black ice in a car, shrill cry from the basement or back yard that tells you something is very wrong - getting hit by a truck at Uncle Ken and Aunt Brenda’s
These were men who had spent 3 years with Jesus and had seen incredible miracles and yet were totally unprepared to see God's glory. They don’t even look up until Jesus touches them and reassures them everything is OK.
In a moment the shepherds are gripped by fear of this blinding, brilliant, dazzling light. And then someone speaks to them.
Fear not” - if ever there were timely words - there was good news of great joy. They were not experiencing some kind of divine judgement. They were receiving a divine announcement. This was not just for the shepherds but for ALL people!
for unto you...” Jesus came and was born as a man in order to save man. The news was for everyone and that everyone included the shepherds. The Angel was not just announcing the arrival of a Savior or the Savior but their Savior!
We have here the universal and yet personal nature of Christianity. The salvation offered in Jesus Christ is for all and that all includes you. Jesus didn’t just come into our world, becoming one of us and dying in man’s place on a cross. He came into your world and became human just like you and died in your place on the cross. It is not enough to simply acknowledge the facts of the Christ in the manger. You must understand and believe that the child in the manger was born for you. His life and His death are the only basis by which you must be saved.
For a Christian Christmas is not just the birth of a baby or even the birth of a Savior, it is the birth of our Savior! When we look at the manger we cannot help but see the cross for the one in the manger is the one who took our place on the cross. We have salvation and eternal hope because of Jesus. Praise God for the birth of my Saviour!
"city of David” - that is Bethlehem.
The shepherds would find this baby “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” The swaddling was common but the manger was not. It was an odd place for the Messiah to be born.
This Savior would be the Messiah, the long await, promised deliverer. The one through whom God would establish His Kingdom. The one who would be the eternal King of Israel. The one who would save His people from their sins. The Jewish people had waited centuries for their Messiah and now He was here.
The shepherds would find this baby “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” The swaddling was common but the manger was not. It was an odd place for the Messiah to be born.
The Angels are not done. Unlike the visit to Zechariah, Mary and Joseph where the Angel simply delivered the message and left. Here the Angels are allowed to add in their own declaration.
Luke 2:14 ESV
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
This is a declaration! They are like the herald declaring the arrival of the King.
Glory to God” - as the blazing glory of God surrounds the shepherds, the Angels boldly declare His greatness and His peace. Of all the characters in the nativity story I think it is the Angels that have the greatest understanding of the significance of what is happening. I am not sure if they understood that Jesus would have to die, but they certainly understood the wonder and mystery of God’s Son becoming man. This is He whom they had worshiped since they were created. This is the Logos, the very word of God, now made flesh.
It is every created being’s purpose to bring glory to God. God is the creator of all things and as creator He deserves our adoration. The Angles are an example to us of what God has called us to.
It is fitting that the Angles announce God’s peace as it is the birth of the Prince of Peace (). Jesus is the means by which man can experience God’s peace. It is through Jesus man will once again be at peace with God and it is through Jesus that man will experience the peace of God. - Jesus is the ultimate reason not to fear.
John 14:27 ESV
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Jesus is the ultimate reason not to fear.
Then as quickly as it they had come they were gone. The Angels disappeared and the shepherds were once again in darkness. They go with haste to Bethlehem because they believed the Angels message! - which they rightly see as a message from God!
"found” - found after searching. All they know is that the baby is in a manger. So they go knocking on doors until they find the child.
What an encouragement this must have been for Mary and Joseph. The Angel had spoken to both of them, Mary at her conception and Joseph about 3-4 months later, but since then we know of no other revelation. Mary’s pregnancy was a normal pregnancy and now she had given birth to what looked like a normal human being. The Shepherds reassured them that this was no normal human being. Yes, He was a human, but He was also God, the Messiah, the Savior. The Shepherds validated for Joseph and Mary what they already knew to be true, but how it must have encouraged them to hear it again.
What an encouragement this must have been for Mary and Joseph. The Angel had spoken to both of them, Mary at her conception and Joseph about 3-4 months later, but since then we know of no other revelation. Mary’s pregnancy was a normal pregnancy and now she had given birth to what looked like a normal human being. The Shepherds reassured them that this was no normal human being. Yes, He was a human, but He was also God, the Messiah, the Savior. The Shepherds validated for Joseph and Mary what they already knew to be true, but how it must have encouraged them to hear it again.
I love how the passage ends. The shepherds return to the field, but they are different men. They are not the same men who had gone out into the field earlier that night. The difference is in what they had seen and heard. They had seen and heard Jesus!!! The Angels had told them who Jesus was and seeing the baby had validated their message.
They worshiped, just as the Angels had worshiped. The Angels had worshiped because God had become man, now too the Shepherds share in this worship for they too have seen the God who became man.
The only references the text makes to them seeing is when they saw the baby Jesus (v. 15, 17). The only references the text makes to them hearing is the message the Angels gave them concerning who Jesus was (v. 15, 17)
The Key to worship is knowing Jesus!! - It is not in our abilities or talents, it is out job to faithfully declare Jesus!!!!
How can we see Him when He is no longer here physically with us? Can we know the joy and ecstasy the Angels and Shepherds had when we cannot behold Him physically? - Yes, Yes, Yes!!! - This is why we have the Bible.
1 John 1:1–3 ESV
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
John 1:14 ESV
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
This is why the Bible was written, so that we might know Jesus! The written word of God points us to the living word of God.
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