Bible Reading: Luke 2:8-17
One of the words that describe the mindset of this generation, is sadly “Uncertainty”. More people seem uncertain about the future than ever before because of global warming, terrorism, nations working against nations not only in open war but now in cyber space. For millions this sense of uncertainty is extremely personal concerning their next meal or where they will sleep. People are uncertain about their health, sometimes about their marriages, and their future and for the UK what is going to happen over Brexit? Moral principles once taken for granted are being seriously questioned today. Someone has said, “You can live days without food, hours without water, minutes without air, but no time at all without hope.” Deep down people feel troubled, or deeply troubled, and this inner sense that something is not right and little seems certain, has produced a sense of hopelessness which leads to depression. The World Health Organization predicts that soon depression will rival heart disease as the world’s worst health disorder. In desperation many people will turn to the medical profession, alcohol or drugs to try and relieve this depression. When we lose hope it leads to the dark clouds of despair hanging over our heads.
Hope Makes a Difference as it leads us from what is to what can be. Hope lifts our spirits from cloud and darkness of today to the brightness of tomorrow.
When it came to announcing the baby Jesus we read in Luke 2:8 “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.” If an earthly society had really found the answer to societies’ problems then by now we would know about but no society has produced the answer. While the religious Jewish society of that time was not the same as today God still says that they, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,” (Matthew 4:16). The angel came at “night” and this is a picture of the world that then was and now is, that is, it is in spiritual darkness, which needs spiritual illumination.
Luke 2:9 says “And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.” The Bible does say that the “glory of the Lord” shone round about them which obviously, included light. And in the midst of this glory the angel announced, Luke 2:10a “Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid’”. Perhaps the angels in their manifested excellence were used to people being afraid of them but they wanted to put these shepherds at their ease, which is typical of God. If you come to God in His way then He can give you peace and can deliver you from the great fears that are around today and those which concern death and the life after death. As the effect of one angel, was to cause deep fear in the shepherds so what almighty dread would have been produced by many angels, if the first one had not told the shepherds not to fear?
In Luke 2:10b-11 the angel continued, ‘… for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. v11 “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” How has God made the loss of fear possible? “For behold”, means please take careful notice of the following. We will not just drift into the great benefits or blessings of this message. We must give it careful attention and if necessary set other items aside to give it our full attention.
“I bring you” shows that this was a personal message from heaven for these particular shepherds. These were not people of high society but ordinary working people. So this shows that God’s message is for all, irrespective of their status in society. It was “good tidings” or good news “of great joy” or cheerfulness which, literally means, “calm delight”. Not only does God deliver from fear but if His message is believed, He also brings great joy. This was not just for the shepherds but is “to all people” i.e. to those of all different nationalities, backgrounds and circumstances. An invitation could not be more inclusive than that.
Does the angel then tell them of an excellent personal program that if you complete this, it will bring you great joy? No,the angel points them away to someone outside of themselves, in v11 “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” “For unto you” The angel is now bringing the “all people” message to this small group of people and so God’s message is for you personally today. “Is born this day” and they were learning about this birth which had just happened. It was a message that was almost quicker than the news, Facebook and email. “In the city of David”. Micah 5:2 says “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” We know from 1Samuel 16:4-5 that “the city of David” is Bethlehem.
Then the angel describes the babe as “a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” First, He is a Saviour, which is expressed in the meaning of His Name “Jesus”. Why would God call the baby Jesus “a saviour”? Israel had seen different past saviours with various leaders, judges and kings. However none of them had been for the salvation of “all people” and shows that the baby Jesus had a great future. Neither had any of the past saviours been perfect but the Lord Jesus proved His total perfection to all around. But why would God, Who understands all things, send a Saviour? It is because Romans 3:22a-23 is true, “For there is no difference; v23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory (character or standards) of God.” The Bible does not say that all “have greatly sinned” but that all “have sinned” and if we are honest with ourselves we all know that to be true.
Then He is Christ, the Anointed of God or the Messiah of Israel. The Messiah was prophesied some hundreds of years before and the Lord Jesus Christ came and fulfilled the prophecies made about Him. Finally, He is Lord, which means that the babe is sovereign or supreme above all. This means that there is never going to be another person or being that will be able to overpower the Lord Jesus and take the victory from Him. So by trusting in Him as your Saviour you can know the security that He saves and keeps for time and for the life after death, called eternity.
Not only that but 1Corinthians 1:9 says that “God is faithful” so He also keeps His great and eternal promises. So with the Lord Jesus Christ hope is not some vague longing for a better future. Hope is a strong and confident expectation based on the unchangeable promises of God.
The shepherds were told of two signs that would show that this was indeed the promised baby. Luke 2:12 “”And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” v16 says “And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.” They found it just as the angel had promised. The shepherds had seen babies wrapped in swaddling clothes before. However it was doubtful that they had ever seen a baby in such an unlikely place as “lying in a manger” i.e. in an animal feeding trough. This indignity was reserved for the Lord of life and glory when He came into our world. It is amazing that to think that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe entered human history as a little baby.
The promises of God reveal hope for today, tomorrow, and forever. They speak with certainty in an uncertain world. They speak hope to our troubled minds and peace to our anxious spirits. Why because the biggest problem with our world is the problem of sin, which adversely affects us and manifests itself in different ways and different degrees. However because Christ went to cross where He died for our sins, so that we might know God’s forgiveness in this life and not know His judgment in eternity. The Bible reveals that God longs for us to live joyful, abundant lives as John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Believers in Christ are God’s special children, see 1John 3:1 “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” and He promises to never leave them nor forsake them as with Hebrews 13:5-6 “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ v6 So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”
Although we face challenges and life might not go as we planned or desired, the promises of God are sure. The prophet Isaiah gives us this assurance: “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3). The prophet continues with these words of encouragement: “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10). Our joy is not based on the illusionary idea that nothing bad will ever happen to us, or the mythical dream that each day is brighter than the day before. In reality bad things do often happen to good people. We live in a broken world with sickness, suffering, poverty, and disease afflicting both the righteous and the unrighteous.
But here is the difference: those who put their faith in God are filled with hope because God keeps His Word. We anchor our hope in a God who will never let us down as seen in Titus 1:2 “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” Through faith in Christ the gift of eternal life is ours, see John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” He is our hope as 1Timothy 1:1 records, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Saviour and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope.” By faith, we grasp the fact that Christ has died for all our sins and risen for us to be with Him in God’s glorious eternal future. So believers in Christ will be sustained in this life and can look beyond the problems of this life to the eternal fellowship and everlasting joy that God graciously and genuinely offers us.