Theme: Differences, Yet Similarities
In this week’s lessons, we look at those in the Christmas story who found Christ and worshipped him in truth.
Scripture: Luke 2:8-20
The first step is that they received an announcement of Christ’s birth. It’s clearest in the case of the shepherds. The shepherds were in the fields, and the angel of the Lord appeared to them. God’s glory shone about them in the night sky, and they were terrified. An angel appeared and gave this message: “Do not be afraid! I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Then there was a great company of angels that appeared along with the angel that had spoken. They praised God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
That was a very striking and a most magnificent message, but I wonder if the announcement that was made to the wise men in terms that they would understand was any less magnificent from their point of view. They didn’t see the glory of God or receive a message from angels. But they saw a star, and they were in the business of scouting the heavens and interpreting the stars. God spoke to them on a level that they could understand and they like the shepherds responded to what God had given.
This is really amazing when you think of it in terms of the history of the period. It had been a long time in Israel’s history since any word had been received from God. Malachi was the last of the prophets, which was 400 years before the birth of Christ. During all those years, people waited for the birth of the Messiah, but there was no word; the heavens were silent. And then suddenly the heavens open, and the angels appear with a message announcing the birth of Christ and praising God for his arrival. A star also appears in a distant country and leads the wise men. What wonderful things are taking place around Jesus’ birth!
This might cause us to wish that we ourselves could receive divine announcements like that. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the heavens would open and the angels could be seen, and the heavenly choirs could be heard rejoicing in what God has done? But the Bible doesn’t look at it that way. We have the Scriptures, and the Scriptures are a more certain word than even these things. The Word of God is, as Peter writes, “a light shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19). Our world is just as dark as the world of the ancient magi, but our star, our light, the light of the Word of God, is brighter even than theirs.
The context in which Peter describes the Bible this way is interesting. He is considering his experience as an apostle who lived during the lifetime of Christ, and who actually saw Jesus’ transfigured glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. He’s comparing that experience with that of all Christian people who since that time have the Word of God. It’s true that Peter, as well as James and John, were eyewitnesses of His majesty, who did stand on that mountain and saw Jesus in heavenly splendor. They heard the voice from heaven saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17). But Peter writes that we have something that is even more certain than what they experienced on that mountain. We have the written Word of God. Have you heard that announcement? Have you read the Scriptures? Have you come face to face with the person and work of Jesus Christ? That’s your sign. That’s the announcement that God gives to you and all people in this day.
What is the first common step for both the shepherds and wise men? Recount the details for each of them.
Peter was one of the disciples who witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain. What does Peter say is an even better form of revelation, and why?
Application: Do you read the Bible as often and carefully as you ought?