Angels Announce to Shepherds #2

Title: Angels Announce to Shepherds #2

Text: Luke 2:13-15

Date: December 23rd, 2007

Every Christmas season — or holiday season as it’s now being called more and more – people all over the world celebrate Christmas, but do they really celebrate Christmas? Celebrating the holiday season isn’t the same as celebrating Christmas – the real Christmas, the real reason for the season. Lots of people celebrate around this time of the year, but what is it that they are really celebrating, what is it that we are really celebrating in December each year? From the looks of things lots of people celebrate winter, the snow, the beauty of the evergreens and the icicles and the pure white snow. From the looks of things lots of people celebrate vacation time and partying and merry-making and feasting and gift-giving and family time and visiting one another. Still other people celebrate the Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman stories along with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Other people celebrate the pretty decorations and beautiful Christmas music played during the season. And there are many, many things that could be celebrated at this time of year, but the big question is: are we celebrating Christmas as it really should be celebrated? Or are we getting side-tracked by all the holiday practices and traditions so that we forget what it is that Christmas is really all about? Well, thankfully we have a great example and role model for celebrating the real Christmas. It’s found in the Bible and it’s the example of the angels in their announcement to the shepherds on that very first Christmas. The angels didn’t have all the traditions and customs that are now a part of Christmas that we have to contend with every year. The only thing they had was the real reason for the season, the birth of the Christ child that first Christmas. And how did they celebrate Christmas? Luke 2:13-15 gives us the account: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and say, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” What was the reason for the first Christmas? The birth of the Savior Jesus. And how did they celebrate that first Christmas? Through praising God and celebrating God’s great plan of salvation. That was the celebration, and that should be our celebration too. Is it wrong to participate in the many other forms of celebration around Christmas time? No, but it’s wrong to forget about the real reason and purpose for the Christmas celebration. This morning I’d like to examine how the angels celebrated the first Christmas in order that we might learn and never forget how to celebrate Christmas in our day and age. As Christians, we above all people, must keep Christmas in the right way. We must lead the way for others to follow by following the example of the angels.

First, the angels show us that it’s important to celebrate Christmas. Luke 2:13, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God.” Notice that the angels didn’t just show up and make an announcement; they didn’t just state news the way a news reporter might live on the scene of an event. We’ve all seen the news on television where a reporter goes out to the scene of some newsworthy event and reports what took place, when it took place, how it took place, etc. They give us the facts, the information about what happened. They usually don’t get too emotional about it, in fact, they are trained to avoid getting emotional about news because it might interfere with their objectivity in covering the news. So the reporter is usually even tempered, factual, objective, to the point, etc. But the angels that God sent to the shepherds to announce the good news of the birth of Jesus that first Christmas were not just news reporters, they weren’t just sent to give the factual information concerning the Savior’s birth in Bethlehem. No. They announced the birth of Jesus and then they celebrated it; they were the first people – excuse me, souls, beings – to celebrate Christmas! If you are ever asked the trivia question, “Who were the first to celebrate Christmas?” now you can answer that question, “The angels.” They were the first to celebrate Christmas. They didn’t just state the facts of the birth of the Savior, they celebrated the birth of the Savior. That should be our example. We don’t just recognize that the Savior was born on Christmas Day, we don’t just go around and explain to people the true meaning of Christmas – even though that’s very important to do especially today when most people have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not enough to get the true reason for the season right – that the Savior was born – but we are supposed to celebrate it as well. That’s what the angels show us here in this verse. They didn’t just talk about Christmas, they celebrated it. They didn’t just talk about it, they sang about it. They didn’t just intellectually acknowledge it, they were moved emotionally about it. They got excited about it. It’s not enough to know that Jesus the Savior was born to take away our sins and save our souls from judgment and save our souls to heaven. That’s important, but it’s not enough. We must do what the angels did – get excited about it and celebrate it! Some people because of all the commercialization of Christmas, because of all the materialism and greed, because of all the pagan symbols and stories like Santa and Frosty, etc., because of all these things, some people simply refuse to celebrate Christmas and refuse to get excited about any of it. But that’s not right either. We need to celebrate the real Christmas. That’s what the angels show us.

Second, the angels show us how to celebrate Christmas by praising God. Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest.” Christmas celebration starts with celebrating God, praising God. Why? Because it is God from whom all blessings flow. Remember the famous church anthem, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise him all creatures here below. Praise him all above thee heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.” Christmas celebration should begin with a celebration of God. But when I look around our culture at Christmas time I see everything else celebrated instead of God. We see family celebrated. Now family is a good thing, very important thing, even essential, but we shouldn’t celebrate family before we celebrate God. God comes first before even family. We see people celebrating the season, the holiday season, the time of year. Now there are lots of neat things going on during Christmas, lots of beautiful scenes and new and different things to do. It truly is a magical time of the year. But we must remember that God comes first before the season. We must celebrate God before anything else, because without God there is no Christ-child, no plan of salvation, and without these things there is no Christmas and no Christmas season. So we must celebrate and praise God first and foremost. We should be celebrating God during all seasons, but especially for who he is and what he has done during Christmas in becoming man in Jesus Christ the baby born in Bethlehem. That angels got it right and show us how to get it right. They announced the first Christmas message and then they celebrated and praised the Lord God. Now there are many ways to praise and worship the Lord God. The angels probably broke out into song and sang, “Glory to God in the highest.” Did they actually sing? We don’t know for sure, we assume that they sang, but the Bible doesn’t actually say that they sang, but we assume they did. The great Christmas hymns assume that they sang also. For example, we recognize there familiar words, “Hark the herald angels sing Glory to the new-born King,” and “Silent night, Holy night shepherds quake at the sight, glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,” and “It came upon a midnight clear that glorious song of old . . . the world in solemn stillness lay, to hear the angels sing.” So the hymn-writers all assume the angels sang, and so we can imagine they did. So we too should sing God praises through song this Christmas. One of the things I look forward to each Christmas is to praise the Lord through the singing of Christmas hymns and songs. There’s good biblical precedent for it in the angels that very first Christmas.

Third, the angels show us how to celebrate Christmas recounting the blessings God has given. Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men whom his favor rests.” Or as the King James Version puts it, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” The angels show us first how to worship God for who He is, but now they show us how to worship God at Christmas for what He’s done. What has God done at Christmas? He’s started a chain reaction of salvation through the birth of Jesus the Savior that will trigger salvation for many, many people throughout the ages and will eventually account for millions upon millions being saved to heaven forever. It all starts with the birth of Jesus. If there were no birth of Jesus, there’d be no life of Jesus, and if there were no life of Jesus there’d be no death of Jesus. And if there’d be no death of Jesus, there’d be no paying for our sins. And if there’d be no payment for sins, we’d still be in our sins bound for judgment and eventually damnation in hell. But because of the birth of Jesus, there is the life of Jesus and the death of Jesus on the cross dying for our sins, which then opens a way for our salvation when we believe by faith in Christ as Savior. We need to praise the Lord God for his wonderful plan of salvation. Then we need to praise the Lord God for starting that wonderful plan in the birth of the Savior at Christmas. Then we need to praise the Lord God for fulfilling the salvation plan through the cross of Calvary. And we can even praise the Lord God for our salvation now even though we are not in heaven yet, it’s as good as a done deal because the promises of God our true. We praise God for the plan of salvation which started on that first Christmas. That’s what the angels mean to say when they sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” They first praise God himself, then they praise God for the benefits he gives to all of us who believe. Let’s stop and think of the benefits of salvation. Through the Savior Jesus we are forgiven of all our sins, so we are no longer guilty before God and deserve judgment on Judgment Day. Praise God we’ve been pardoned! You’ve heard of the Governor pardoning someone on death row? Well, we’ve been pardoned from eternal, spiritual death row. What a blessing. But that’s not all. We now have peace with God – that’s what the angels sang about, peace on earth, not meaning no more wars but meaning our hearts are at peace with God through salvation. We’re forgiven our sins, we’re pardon from hell, we have peace with God. There are so many, many blessings that there are too many to even count. That’s what we praise and thank God for at Christmas time, just as the angels show us.

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