Theme: Angels and Shepherds
In these lessons on the birth of Christ we focus on its paradoxes, and how these show that Jesus’ coming is for all who will receive him.
Scripture: Luke 2
We talk about there being no room in the inn. But the first great question of the story is not: “What is your theology of the person of Christ?” or “What is your theology of God?” or “What is your theology of the atonement?” It is rather: “Do you have room for Jesus?” “Is there room in your heart for the Savior?” His claims can be crowded out by your conception of yourself. You can say, “Well, I am like I am, and I want to do what I want to do. If Jesus has some other idea, He will just have to do without me, because I am here to do my own thing.” Jesus can be crowded out by your preoccupation with things. Americans are especially guilty of this, and at no time are we guiltier than at Christmas. There are so many things we want. Our hearts are filled with things, and Jesus gets pushed aside.
Is there room in your heart for Jesus? If Jesus is God’s great gift to humanity, you could never have anything greater in your life than Jesus. The source of all blessing begins with receiving Him. But notice! If you do have room in your heart for Jesus, then the world is not going to have room for you. When I read this passage, it does not say there was no room for Him in the inn, meaning Jesus. It says there was no room for them. In other words, there was no room for Joseph or Mary either. If you draw close to Christ, you will become like Him and will experience the same kind of rejection that Jesus experienced. You will not fit in with the crowd. You will not be one of the boys or one of the girls. There will be something a little bit different about you. You may try. You may be like Peter, standing by the fire of the high priest trying to swear and pretend that he was one of the guys. But you will have been with Jesus, and, like Peter, you will not quite be able to pull it off. They knew there was a difference with Peter. They said, “Surely, he is one of them.”
If you have opened your heart to Christ, you will know something of His rejection. But although the world will not have room for you, Jesus will. He said, “I am going . . . to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).
A passage like this confronts us with the decision we all will have to face sooner or later. Either we are going to go God’s way and suffer whatever worldly consequences there may be, knowing that the blessing of God rests upon that decision and that we will spend eternity with Him, regardless of the persecution. Or we are going to go the world’s way and turn our backs on spiritual blessings. It would be a wonderful thing if, especially at Christmastime, some who have been indecisive would say, “Enough of this double-mindedness! Enough of this divided way of life! I am going to go with Christ regardless of the consequences.” That would be the greatest decision you could ever make. It would be the beginning of the greatest adventure that you could have. It is the first thing this chapter asks us to consider.
There is another paradox in these verses: the announcement of the birth of Christ to shepherds. Why shepherds? I do not have an answer to that, except that they were insignificant people. Shepherds were very poorly regarded. They were so poorly regarded that under Jewish law they could not even give testimony in court. Everybody assumed that people like that would lie. There was nothing glorious about shepherds. Yet it was to shepherds that the announcement of Christ’s birth was made. And by whom? By angels! By the heralds of heaven!
We might think that if angels came to earth to speak to anybody, it ought to have been Caesar or Quirinius. Or perhaps to the Jewish authorities—priests, holy men, or prophets. But that is not what God did. God gave this glorious announcement to men who were in the fields with their sheep. Oh, it is true that an angel appeared to Joseph to tell him what to name the child. An angel had also appeared to Mary earlier. But I do not read anywhere that either Mary or Joseph heard the angels sing. They did not hear the great announcement: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (v. 11). They did not hear: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (v. 14). But the shepherds did!
I conclude that if God made the good news of the gospel known to the shepherds, who were at the absolute bottom of the heap socially, then God is making that announcement known to everybody. So this gospel is for you, whoever you may be or whatever you may have done. It is for those who are lost in sin, in order that by the grace of God they might be lifted up from sin and made like Jesus Christ.
What paradox is mentioned in this lesson? Why is it a paradox at all?
What does the angelic announcement to the shepherds tell us about the “good news”?
Application: How have you experienced rejection from the world because of your commitment to Christ? Ask the Lord to use such persecution to further motivate you to perseverance and faithfulness.
Key Point: A passage like this confronts us with the decision we all will have to face sooner or later. Either we are going to go God’s way and suffer whatever worldly consequences there may be, knowing that the blessing of God rests upon that decision and that we will spend eternity with Him, regardless of the persecution. Or we are going to go the world’s way and turn our backs on spiritual blessings.