Angels Announce to the Shepherds #1

Title: Angels Announce to Shepherds #1

Text: Luke 2:8-12

Date: December 16th, 2007

Imagine you are a shepherd in ancient Israel out in the fields at night. Imagine that you had just got all the sheep calmed down and restful for the night ahead. Imagine you are sitting around the campfire, finishing up your evening meal, trying to keep warm. Imagine talking with the other shepherds about the day just completed and the day ahead tomorrow before you get some sleep. It’s quiet and peaceful, relaxing and calm out. It’s dark and you can see the stars, it’s quiet so you can hear the snap, crackle and pop of the fire, and maybe the sheep once in a while make noise. Maybe you begin to reflect on why you became a shepherd. Maybe you decide that it is because it’s a simple life, away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. The clean air, the open sky, and you like the out of doors. You are just about to pack it in for the night, hit the sack, get some shut eye, when all of a sudden this great big, huge light shines down on you from the sky, brighter than the sun, and it scares the living daylights out of you. Then this great big voice speaks out of the sky. Bright light and loud voice interrupts the perfectly calm, night scene. Now let me ask you, are you afraid? You betcha. Are you terrified? You betcha. Do you almost have a heat attack? You bet. Do your knees start knocking and jaw start dropping? Absolutely. That’s what anybody would experience when a bright light and a loud voice suddenly breaks into a perfectly relaxed and tranquil situation. Everybody would be scared, anybody would have been terrified. That’s what happened on that first Christmas night so long ago for the poor shepherds. Remember, these are men who like the countryside, they don’t like the bright lights of the city, they don’t like the loud noises of the city – that’s why they are shepherds, because they like the quiet, calm country, the pastoral life. I remember the old television show Green Acres, where the husband and wife are exact opposites. She loved the city life, the fast paced, rushing here and there, the nightlights, the noise, the busy life. Her husband loved the country life, the slow pace, the quiet and calm surroundings, the laid back atmosphere of the farming life. Two opposites. I can still remember the theme song of that show (hum the melody and repeat as many words as can remember). Well, in terms of that old television show, the shepherds were like the farmer who preferred the country to the city. But into their quiet pastoral lives the Lord God Almighty sent his angels to announce in a big-city kind of way that Jesus the Messiah was born in Bethlehem that night. That’s what I’d like to talk about this morning, the angels announcement to the shepherds on that first Christmas 20 centuries ago. Maybe it will give us a better appreciation for Christmas this year. Let me call to your attention three things about the announcement of the angels to the shepherds.

First, They experienced God’s glory and presence. Luke 2:8-9, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watching over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.” So we get the picture. The angels invaded the earthly realm from the heavenly realm with a great, bright light. Now we have to remember that the word angel in the original Greek is “angelos,” which means messenger, a messenger from heaven, from God. The city of Los Angeles literally means “the angels.” What does the Bible tell us about angels, after all, the best way to interpret scripture is with scripture. Hebrews 1:14 says angels are ministering spirits sent to serve or help those who will inherit salvation. Sent by whom? Sent by God Almighty. Now in this instance, the Bible passage says that the “glory of the Lord shone around them.” That means that the glory of the Lord God Almighty was reflecting off of these heavenly beings and onto the earth below, all around these shepherds. The angels were literally reflecting the glory of God; they were angelic reflecting mirrors from heaven to earth. I like to think of it in terms of the sun, the moon and the earth. Imagine God Almighty as the sun, and think of the moon as the angels, and think of the earth as the shepherds. When you go out into the night and look up in the sky at the moon, especially a full moon which will be out next Sunday by the way, you are really seeing sunlight. Did you know that? When you see the moon at night, the light that is reflecting off the moon is actually sunlight. The moon isn’t generating any of the light by itself, it’s only reflecting the light of the sun. Now the stars that twinkle in the sky, they are actually generating their own light because they are just like our sun, burning away on their own only far, far away. And if you are able to see some of the planets in our solar system like Mars, Venus, etc. they too are reflecting the light of the sun off of them and back to earth. But the biggest light in the night sky is the moon, and it’s light is 100% sunlight. It’s reflecting light to earth. Now think of these angels that appeared in the night sky, it says that the glory of the Lord shone all around. That was reflected glory shining all around. The angels weren’t reflecting their own glory, they were reflecting the glory of the Lord God Almighty. Now I’ve never seen the glory of the Lord, the bright light and majesty of God. There are people in the Bible who have reported they’ve seen God’s glory as the bright light in the sky. Remember Paul, when he was named Saul before his conversion to Christ, he was blinded by the light of the glory of the Lord as he was riding on his horse on the road of Damascus. I’ve look up towards the sun and I know that’s bright, but the glory of the Lord is even brighter than that. It must have hurt the eyes of those poor shepherds because as you know, if you go from the dark suddenly to a bright light your eyes aren’t adjusted yet and it hurts them if the light comes too quickly. Those shepherds must have been trying to cover their eyes out of pain. But there’s more.

Second, they experienced God’s convicting glory and presence. Luke 2:9-10, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid.’” The shepherds first reaction was to be afraid. Outside of the sudden shock of a great light and a loud sound, there was another reason these shepherds were frightened: they thought maybe the judgment of God was upon them. You have to remember that these humble shepherds were Jews, and you have to remember that all Jews know the Old Testament of the Bible. They knew it was made of three parts: the law, the prophets, and the writings. The first five books of the Bible are made up of the law of Moses. The writings consisted of books like the Psalms, Proverbs, etc. And finally, there were the prophets. Now every Jew knew about the prophets, men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, as well as prophets like Joel, Amos, Habakkuk, etc. And all the prophets foretold of the Lord coming in judgment, judgment for the sins of the people. For example, the prophet Malachi states, “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver,” Malachi 3:2-4. So these poor shepherds were probably thinking that Judgment Day had come from the Lord and they were shaking in their boots because of it. What would you do if suddenly the Day of the Lord came, and the glory of the Lord shinned upon you? There’s a contemporary song called, “I can only imagine” that talks about this. How would I react in God’s presence? It asks, “Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel, will I dance before you Jesus, or in awe of you be still, will I stand in your presence, or to me knees will I fall, will I sing halleluiah, or be able to speak at all?” These shepherds thought the day of judgment was at hand. They were totally intimidated, terrified of the holy presence and glory of God. Today, much of Christianity and most of the church has totally missed the convicting presence of God. How many people do you know report to you that they’ve experienced the presence of God in their life convicting them of sin, righteousness, and judgment? Did you know that the main mark of the historical, classical revivals was the convicting presence of God in the midst of the people? When you experience the holy presence of God in comparison with your sinfulness you are deeply convicted of your sins. You are convinced without a doubt that you deserve condemnation and judgment. God won’t have to judge you if you experience His presence, you’ll judge yourself guilty, you’ll confess and repent of your sins of your own. That’s what these shepherds were thinking, “Oh no, it’s Judgment Day.” Are you concerned about your sins? Do you experience the conviction of God for your sins? Don’t wait for God’s judgment, confess your sins and repent of them now, before you face the presence of God directly. Are there things in your life you’d be ashamed of if God’s glory and presence appeared to you? If so, deal with them now, don’t wait. If you feel any conviction over sin, act now. But there is more.

Third, they experienced God’s comforting glory and presence. Luke 2:10-12, “But the angel of the Lord said to them, ‘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 Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’” The glory of God shone around the shepherds, reflecting God’s presence off the angels, and that convicted them of their sins and put the fear of God in them concerning Judgment Day, as they had often heard through the prophets of the Old Testament. They were fully convinced that this was the day they were going to meet their Maker and give an account of everything they had ever done, good and bad, in life. They were afraid. But unexpectedly, the angel tells them that, no, this wasn’t Judgment Day, but rather this was the day of salvation! “Don’t be afraid” said the angel, but rather “Be glad.” The angels brought good news, not bad news. The shepherds were getting ready for bad news. They were thinking that when God shows up, when he appears, he would be coming to judge the world, including them. They weren’t looking forward to that; in fact, they dreaded it. Would you like God Almighty to examine your sinful life and point out every sin you’ve ever committed? Would you like to stand before God with all your sins and go through every single sin point by point, having them reviewed and examined in detail? Then, would you like to stand there and hear the verdict, “Guilty, take him away into eternal punishment?” Of course not, that’s our worst nightmare. That’s what these shepherds might have been thinking. But the angels quickly told them that there would be no judgment this night, instead there would only be joy and gladness because God wasn’t bringing judgment, he was bringing salvation from judgment! praise God, aren’t you glad the angels brought a message of salvation and not judgment? Aren’t you glad the baby Jesus born came into the world to save us not judge us? That’s the Christian gospel or good news message: that God is offering salvation today in order to save us from sins and judgment. That’s comforting to me and I hope it’s comforting to you, that even though we are sinners through and through, even though we deserve judgment, conviction, and condemnation, even though we deserve eternal damnation in the fires of hell for our blatant disobedience and sin towards God, Jesus saves us by faith if we repent and believe the good news. Every single one of us will stand in the very presence of God one day, will we experience the convicting presence of God or the comforting presence of God? If you’ve humbled yourself enough to confess and repent of sins, if you’ve placed your absolute whole hearted trust in Jesus, you’ll be comforted by God Almighty in his presence. But if you are still in rebellion against God and you die in that rebellion, you will not be comforted at all, but instead you will be convicted of all of your sins, condemned, and punished eternally. It’s serious.

Today, people don’t take these things seriously. They laugh at them as if they are fairy tales or make believe stories, but one day they’ll find out that far from being fiction, these things are fact. Today, people don’t like to be frightened by warnings of hell or Judgment Day. Today, preachers don’t like to talk about these things because they might offend people, they might bother people, people might be frightened or disturbed. But we should hear about things that God tells us about in his Word the Bible. If God tells us about judgment and hell and sin and repentance, then we should talk and think about such things because they are very important. I hope you take these things seriously in your thinking because they can determine your eternal destiny, that is, how you believe and respond to these things. God certainly wants to comfort us and bring us good news of salvation, but only after we totally understand that there is bad news and great danger awaiting us if we reject or ignore His will and ways. We first have to understand that sin is an awful thing, that judgment awaits us for our sins. Until we get these things settled in our hearts and feel the grief, sadness and conviction of sin and fear of judgment for them, we aren’t in any position to receive salvation. Today, people say, “Tell me about the good news, but don’t talk about the bad news. Just give me the salvation message without the sin message.” But that’s impossible. How can we be saved from sin and judgment unless we know what they are? How can we call out to the Lord Jesus to save us if we don’t even know what we are being saved from? As strange as it may sound, there are lots and lots of people who claim they are saved but they haven’t a clue as to what they are saved from. How can that be? It makes no sense. We learn from the shepherds the correct and healthy response to the presence and glory of God. They were rightly convicted by God’s presence and glory because they were as we all are, sinners, deserving of judgment. They were correctly fearful of the judgment to come, as we should all have been. But they, praise God, they also were correct in changing from conviction to comfort, from fear to gladness, when salvation was announced. Just like then, today, salvation is being offered again. This Christmas, ask yourself, “Have I felt the conviction of sin in my heart? Have I experienced the fear of judgment that I so totally deserve for my sins?” If so, that’s good, that’s healthy. Then, ask yourself, “Have I confessed all my sins, and repented of my sins (that’s means stop and turn away from them, give them up). Have I cried out to Jesus to forgive and save me?” If so, you are ready to have a very merry Christmas! Let’s pray.

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