HAPPY ANGELS AND HAPPY PREACHERS

Lk. 2:10,11 – And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

This angel could be considered the first messenger to preach the gospel. The word gospel means to preach good news of great joy. The scene in Luke describes jubilant angels overflowing with joy. Didn’t Jesus Himself say that all of the angels break out in joy when one sinner repents? What else could angels do when they realized the One who had created them, the One they had worshipped since the day they were created, had become a human baby. Not just a human, but He had become the promised Savior of the world. It was impossible for them to restrain themselves, they exploded on the scene near Bethlehem with shouts and singing of joy. What was their purpose? They were to announce good news of great joy for all who would believe on Him. Here is how Martin Luther describes this scene.

“With these words the angel demonstrates the gospel most clearly and that nothing else is to be preached in Christendom….He does not say, “I preach to you,” but rather, “I speak gospel to you; I am an evangelist; my word is gospel.” Thus the word gospel means a good, joyful message which is the proclamation of the new covenant. What does the gospel say? Listen. He says: “I bring you good news of great joy; my gospel speaks of great joy.” Where is it? Listen again. “To you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord, today in Bethlehem in the city of David.”

See here what the gospel is, namely, a joyful sermon about Christ our Savior. Whoever preaches him rightly preaches the gospel and pure joy. How can a heart hear of greater joy than that Christ is given to him as his own? He not only says that Christ is born, but he also makes his birth our own by saying ‘your Savior’.”

I love what Luther says about this angel’s message, it was good news of great joy and that anyone who preaches rightly also preaches a gospel of pure joy. Why is it so joyful? He is our Savior. We were once slaves of sin, slaves of bad decisions and addictive behavior. We are now not only forgiven but forgiven and set free. Anyone who gets this will join the band of happy angels and happy shepherd preachers with a gospel of overflowing joy.

BETHLEHEM

Lk.2:4-7 – And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

I love the evidence of the hand of God on everything that has to do with the birth of Jesus. The timing, location, and all the human interaction and decision making was all masterfully orchestrated. In the fullness of time God brought forth His Son, born of the Virgin Mary in the City of David, Bethlehem; just as the prophets had said. Everything unfolded perfectly according to the plan of God from eternity. The Lord even got the most powerful man on earth, Caesar Augustus, to make decisions that would bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem; in the fullness of time. The Lord actually orchestrates His world without a hitch, His predetermined plan of the ages is coming to fulfillment. At the perfect time Christ will come to this earth again. Here are some comments from Luther on Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.

“Beth means house; Lehem means bread, Bethlehem, a house of bread. The city had that name because it was situated in a good, fruitful country, rich in grain; so that it was the granary for the neighboring towns, or as we would call it, a fertile country. In olden times the name of the city was Ephrata, which means fruitful. Both names imply that the city was in a fruitful and rich lands. …There every one has enough in Christ, and overflows with thanksgiving for the divine grace. But while men are thankful for human teachings, they can not satisfy, but leave a barren land and a deadly hunger. No heart can ever be satisfied unless it hears Christ rightly proclaimed in the Gospel. In this a man comes to Bethlehem and finds him….and thanks his God eternally; here he is satisfied, here God receives his praise and confession, while outside of the Gospel there is nothing but thanklessness and starvation.”

The whole point of God’s plan? Mankind was hungry for the real bread that comes down from heaven. Of course the Lord would have His Son, the bread of life, born in a place called the House of Bread.

ANGEL’S SONG

Lk.2:9-11 – And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”.

The shepherds caught a glimpse into the world of angels that day. Obviously, angels have a different perspective. You would have to say they have a more clear perspective of the Lord, their eyes not encumbered by a fallen nature and not living in a fallen creation like us. The angels have had a clear vision of the Lord since the day they were created. Seeing the Lord in their unfiltered world gives them an accurate picture of the greatness of the Lord. No wonder they are worshipping, they see Him in His glory, the only response is worship or outright rebellion. Here are some comments from Martin Luther on this glimpse into the world of angels.

“We can learn from this song what kind of creatures the angels are. Do not consider what earthly philosophers dream about them. Here they have all been painted in such a way that they could not be painted better, so that even their heart and thoughts may be known. First, when they sing glory to God with joy, they show how full of light and fire they are. They acknowledge that all things are God’s alone, attributing nothing to themselves; instead with great fervor they give the glory only to him to whom it belongs. Therefore if you want to think of a humble, pure, obedient and joyful heart praising God, think of the angels. This is the first part of their walk before God.”

In this passage we see the angels delving into an arena they could never understand. They are announcing the birth of a Savior, Christ the Lord. To the angels salvation is a mystery. Christ didn’t take on an angelic body to redeem angels from their sin. He became a man to save us. The righteous angels don’t need a Savior, therefore there is a song, the song of redemption that they can never sing. They are announcing the Savior to the shepherds, it will be our responsibility to worship Him as the Lamb of God, the Savior of the world.

MIRACLE SIGN – LAMB IN A MANGER

Lk.2:11,12 – For today in Bethlehem a rescuer was born for you. He is the Lord Yahweh, the Messiah. You will recognize him by this miracle sign: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough!

I love this verse in the Passion Translation, “You will recognize him by this miracle sign: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough!”. The birth of Christ in an animal’s feeding trough is called a miracle sign. When you think of miracle signs you think of things like raising someone from the dead, or calming a storm, or maybe walking on water. Those are obviously major miracle signs but this infant birth in a manger has to be the biggest sign of all. The Creator of planets and solar systems, galaxies and black holes, and gazelles and amoebas took on the body of a baby human and was born in a feeding trough for farm animals. Absolutely mind boggling!!! Here are some comments on this verse from the Passion Notes.

“He entered the world as a lowly baby, and though he is the mighty God, he lived his life on earth in gentleness before all. The shepherds that night were possibly near Bethlehem at Migdal Eder, “the [watch] tower of the flock.” This would fulfill both the prophecies of Mic. 5:2 and Mic. 4:8, which say, “to you it [he] will come, your dominion [kingdom] from old will arrive.” It was at the lower floor of the watchtower (Migdal Eder) that the birthing of the Passover lambs would take place…. After the birth of the lambs, the priestly shepherds would wrap the lambs in cloth and lay them in a manger lined with soft hay to prevent them from hurting themselves…. The miracle sign for these priestly shepherds would be a baby boy lying where the Passover lamb should be—in a manger, wrapped in strips of cloth. It was at the cradle of Jesus Christ that the kingdom from ancient times arrived on earth.”

So He came to this earth and was born among temple sheep. These sheep’s very existence, as sacrificial lambs, had been calling for Him for hundreds of years. He is the lamb of God. His miracle birth in a manger was prophetic, speaking of His sacrificial death.

WHEN SIMEON SAW HIS FACE

(Luke 2:28–31 THE MESSAGE) – Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God: God, you can now release your servant; release me in peace as you promised. With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation; it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:

And who could forget old Simeon who had been waiting for this day for years. How did he know who this little baby was? Was it something in his face that grabbed his attention? This was Simeon’s defining moment. This was the messiah, a supernatural birth, a sign to be spoken against. Now he could go home in peace.

When you see Him for yourself it changes the way you see everything else. Like David said, “in Your light we see light”. Simeon’s world was literally flooded with light the day he saw Jesus in the temple. He had been waiting for a long time, probably for years, to see that wonderful face. It is believed that Simeon had been a powerful leader in Israel and lost his position because of what he believed about the coming Messiah. All of that waiting and ridicule was done, He had now seen the One he had been waiting for. This was the sign spoken against that would flood the whole world with light. This light was shining on Simeon as he prophesied of things to come. Here is how Matthew Henry describes this a passage.

“Lord, now let thou thy servant depart, for mine eyes have seen the salvation I was promised a sight of before I died.”… He blessed God that he saw that salvation in his arms which many prophets and kings desired to see, and might not…..And, while it has been thus long in the coming, it hath still been in the preparing. It is a farewell to this world: “Now let thy servant depart; now mine eyes have been blessed with this sight, let them be closed, and see no more in this world.” The eye is not satisfied with seeing, till it hath seen Christ, and then it is. What a poor thing doth this world look to one that hath Christ in his arms and salvation in his eye! Now adieu to all my friends and relations, all my enjoyments and employments here, even the temple itself.”

I love what Henry said, “the eye is not satisfied with seeing until it sees Christ, and then it is”. Have you seen Him for yourself? How will you know ? When you can say goodbye to everything else like Simeon because you have seen the treasure Who is Christ for yourself. Simeon was willing to walk away from friends, relations, and the temple itself. What was his reward? He saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

SILENT NIGHT

Lk.2:7 – And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Some songs just become part of our lives and our culture, ‘Silent Night’ is one of those songs. It’s message as well as its presence carries the sense of Christmas and why the world stands still on that one day. The first verse speaks of the supernatural peace that is associated with Christ. Obviously, Jesus was in the midst of turmoil all of His life. Hostility surrounded Him but it could never get in Him. From the day He was born to the day that He was killed, anything but peace dogged His steps. There was the order from Herod at His birth to kill every child in that region from two years old down. There was the attempt on His life when He first preached in His home town of Nazareth. He was hounded and ridiculed by the religious leaders every day of His ministry until He was finally crucified. Terror surrounded Him but inside “all was calm and all was bright”. The second verse speaks of angelic visitation and shepherds trembling in fear in the presence of the Lord. It also speaks of the manifestation of the glory of the Lord as the angels announced His birth. The final verse is the best. He is acknowledged as the Son of God. What an amazing revelation, the messiah would be God’s only begotten Son. This verse also describes the radiance of the glory shining from the face of Jesus. God’s glory is always always associated with the Lord Jesus. The song ends with the whole point of why Jesus was born, His birth announced the beginning of the age of redemption for fallen man. “Who so ever” can now call upon the Lord. Here are the words to this special song; read them carefully and don’t just skip over them. There may be a blessing hidden in the words of this song for you today.

Silent night, holy night

All is calm, all is bright

‘Round yon virgin Mother and Child

Holy infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight!

Glories stream from heaven afar;

Heavenly hosts sing Al-le-lu-ia!

Christ the Savior is born!

Christ the Savior is born!

Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night

Son of God, oh, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth

MAKE ROOM IN YOUR HEART

Lk.2:6,7 – While they were there (in Bethlehem), the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

We all tend to think that we are different and would have acted differently if we were in Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth. “If I was there, surely I would have welcomed Mary and Joseph into some place rather than in the stable with the animals.” Probably not, we most surely would have responded the way everyone else did. Actually, He comes to us everyday looking for a place to dwell. We have daily opportunities to make an abode for Christ. We can make room for Him in our daily private times, seeking His presence in the Word and in prayer and worship. We can make room for Him in our daily conversation, sharing about what He has done or shown us. We can make room for Him in ministering to the hurting, attending worship services, and small groups or gatherings. e can even make room for him at work or in our daily activities. Here ares some words from Spurgeon on making room for Christ on the job.

“I address many who are working men. You are employed among a great many artisans day after day; do you not find, brethren—I know you do—that there is very little room for Christ in the workshop? There is room there for everything else; there is room for swearing; there is room for drunkenness; there is room for lewd conversation; there is room for politics, slanders, or infidelities—but there is no room for Christ! Too many of our working men think religion would be an encumbrance, a chain, a miserable prison to them! They can frequent the theater, or listen in a lecture hall, but the house of God is too dreary for them! I wish I were not compelled to say so, but truly, in our factories, workshops, and foundries, there is no room for Christ. The world is elbowing and pushing for more room, till there is scarcely a corner left where the Babe of Bethlehem can be laid.”

At Christmas we celebrate the greatest of all mysteries, the Creator became one of us and came to live among us. What is He after? He is after our hearts, that’s the place He longs to dwell.

HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING

Lk.2:13,14 – And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

The new birth makes everything new and special in our lives. I have been thinking this year about how much my new birth experience changed my view of everything related to Christmas. It changed my view of the Christmas traditions, especially the songs. I am still amazed at the beauty and the power of the historic Christmas carols that literally fill the air from Thanksgiving Day all the way until the New Year. Many of these songs are quite spiritual and carry the very spirit of revivals of long ago. One of those songs is HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING. It was originally a poem written by Charles Wesley and was soon adapted and changed by George Whitefield. It carries the power and revelation of these two spiritual giants. No wonder we are still singing this song almost 300 years later. Pay close attention as you read the words to this great Christmas hymn.

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King!”

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled.

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,

Join the triumph of the skies;

With th’ angelic host proclaim,

“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King!

Christ, by highest heaven adored:

Christ, the everlasting Lord;

Late in time behold him come,

Offspring of the favoured one.

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;

Hail, th’incarnate Deity:

Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,

Jesus, our Emmanuel!

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King!

Hail! the heaven-born

Prince of peace!

Hail! the Son of Righteousness!

Light and life to all he brings,

Risen with healing in his wings

Mild he lays his glory by,

Born that man no more may die:

Born to raise the son of earth,

Born to give them second birth.

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King !”

Like many of the historic Christmas songs this one is filled with spiritual revelation. It speaks of reconciliation from sin, the joy of salvation, the messianic birth, the deity of Christ, the new birth, His healing power, and the mystery of God being born in human flesh. The song is absolutely breathtaking. So what shall I do? I am going to join with Charles, George, and the angels and sing the glory of Christ’s birth this Christmas.

HIS SHOCKING BIRTH

Lk.2:6,7 – While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

It’s impossible for us to begin to understand the mystery of the human birth of the Son of God. How could the creator enter into His own creation? How could the creator of women be born of a woman? How could the One who feeds the whole earth be nourished from a woman’s breast? How could Someone who is all powerful be housed in the weakness of a human infant. As Paul the Apostle said, “Great is the mystery of godliness”. With all of our activities and distractions of the Christmas season it is easy to miss this incredible mystery that is all around. The Word of of God became a human and made His home in our midst. Here are some thoughts from Augustine on this Christmas miracle.

“Let’s blare “his glory among the nations, and his marvelous works among all the peoples”. He plays with a ball in a manger, but the manger contains the orb of the world. He drinks from His mother’s breasts but He’s fed by His Father’s Angels. He’s got Himself entangled with our mortality, but He drapes us with His own immorality. He enjoy’s adoration, and He’s tickled by lactation. He didn’t find a decent spot at the hostelry, but He’s made a nice nest for Himself in the hearts of all believers. He made infirmity look strong by making fortitude appear weak. Therefore, let’s look up at, more than we look down upon, His fleshly nativity! What did He do for us? After all, he raised humility to unheard of heights! All of which is another way of saying, let’s burn with His Charity so that we may enjoy His eternity!”

So let’s embrace the words of Augustine, “Let’s burn with His Charity (supernatural love) that we may enjoy His eternity”. What doe Augustine mean by this? It is the love of God that brought Christ to the earth. As we embrace Him His love begins to burn in us and through us. Others are swept up by His love and they too taste the precious love of our Savior. As we live this life of love we are preparing for the great eternal day when step into complete, infinite joy.

CHARLIE BROWN’S CHRISTMAS

Lk.2:8,9 – In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

 

What is the real meaning of Christmas? I mean really, everyone knows its not the parties and the egg nog or the shopping and the presents. Maybe you think its the “I’ll be home for Christmas” syndrome. No. That’s not it either. With all the days off, the shopping, and even doing good deeds for the needy alone can never capture what Christmas is all about. This is the question of the ages and even was the theme of the classic Holiday special “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Charlie Brown was struggling, frustrated about Christmas until his friend Linus gave him the answer. Here is a portion of an article from the Gazette talking about Charlie Brown’s Christmas special.

 

“During the making of the animated Christmas classic A Charlie Brown Christmas, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz had a meeting with Lee Mendelson, the show’s producer, and Bill Melendez, its lead animator. The discussion concerned Schulz’s insistence about including a New Testament scripture reading of the Christmas story from the Bible. The scripture reading was to be spoken by Peanuts character Linus Van Pelt in response to Charlie Brown’s lament, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Mendelson and Melendez both voiced their concern about the reading, with Melendez telling Schulz, “It’s very dangerous for us to start talking about religion now.” Schulz answered him by saying, “Bill, if we don’t, who will?” In the end, the scripture reading was retained, and the CBS special was the second-most watched show of the week when it debuted on December 9, 1965.”

 

I think it is quite interesting to see the political pressure the television folks felt in 1965. There was that unseen elephant in the room, sponsors and money that seemed to be on the line if Charles Schulz brought Christ into the equation. Shultz insisted and the scripture quote became the classic scene in the television show. I watched the show when it first aired when I was thirteen years old as well as seeing it many times since. The amazing thing about the show and why it stands out above any other Peanuts scene in history is that quote of the birth of Christ from the gospel of Luke. Without the quote it would have been another forgotten, worthless Christmas special. So that brings us to us. Are we willing to stand like Charles Shultz and Linus did or will we be plowed over by our godless, secular world?