The Christmas event shook everyone on earth, in heaven and even in
hell. When Adam and Eve sinned they were expelled from the garden and cherubims with
flaming swords were placed to prevent them from entering again. Now in our text, it says
the angels came to the shepherds. So though the angels stopped anybody from entering into
paradise, now it was the angels who brought the glad tidings that anyone can enter into
glory through the birth of the Saviour. Do you see the awesome wonder of Christmas! God
opening this gate that was closed.
Though we give each other gifts at Christmas they fade into
insignificance in comparison to that which we received from God at Christmas.
In 1962, Rev Don and Carol Richardson, went as missionaries to New
Guinea, where many cannibals were. (Even in Africa there were many cannibals. The word
South in Zulu (iNingizimu) literally means, there where many cannibals are.) In 1962 there
were still many cannibals in New Guinea. They regarded human flesh as the number one
delicacy. Don and Carol Richardson preached the Gospel to the Sawi, a cannibal tribe. They
were head-hunters, using sculls as pillows. Don wrote a book called, Peace Child. He took
the Gospel of Matthew and read it to them and tried to explain it. But when he got to the
story of Judas Iscariot betraying the Lord Jesus, they all clapped their hands and cheered
Judas betrayal of Jesus. Judas was their hero. He asked them why? They said that
Judas was cunning to have outwitted Jesus, which is regarded as something great among them
if you can befriend an enemy and eventually when he fully trusts you, betray him. Their
whole cultural frame of reference was warped. Don wondered how to reach these people with
the Gospel. To them betrayal was true heroism! He asked the Lord for wisdom how to reach
them with the Gospel in a way that they could grasp its meaning.
The tribes there were in continual warfare. But then one day he observed that after a
certain battle the chief of the one tribe went to the other tribe with his own son and
gave him to them. Don asked them about this custom. They explained that the son was the
peace child between the two tribes, for the one chief was willing to sacrifice his own son
to the enemy to obtain peace between the two tribes. Then it dawned on Don that he now had
a cultural reference and he thanked God for the answer. He took this custom and told them
that just as they were at war and the peace child brought peace, so God the Father gave
his Son as the Peace Child for the rebellious sons of men to bring about peace between
mankind and Him. Then they understood and realised how evil the betrayal of Judas was. God
gave His own Son as the Peace Child between God and man. That is the heart of the Gospel.
This is the wonder of Christmas.
Rulers of the earth like to know how many people they rule over
and thats why Ceasar Augustus wanted to count the people. It wasnt just a
census of people but also of their property, whatever they owned, because kings like to
tax people for their possessions too. On the one hand it is understandable and good, for
there needs to be infrastructure in a country, which is built with tax money. But on the
other hand when there is corruption and the rulers put it in their own pockets, it is
By the time of the census Mary was expecting and she was close to
giving birth. But they had to go to their home town for it was decreed in Ceasar's edict,
and disobedience would not be tolerated by the Romans. Mary and Joseph had to travel far
to reach Bethlehem. It was especially difficult because of Mary being far into her
Caesar Augustus was a pagan. He knew nothing of the Word of God
and of the Scriptures. However, from his desk, there was a decree signed by him that every
single person in the empire was to be counted. Even the Jews, and those in Israel, had to
go back to the town of their birth. So Mary and Joseph had to return to their town of
birth, Bethlehem. It was far away, 20 - 25 hours of walking. There was no way out for
them. They had to obey this law and go to Bethlehem. There were no taxis back then. They
had to go on foot, up and down hills and valleys. The people of the day complained about
the terrible decree. They looked at it from a human point of view and not from Gods
point of view. But God ordained it, for the Child Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem, not
in Nazareth, as is written in Micah 5:3, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you
are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over
Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem, otherwise the scriptures would
not be fulfilled. They traveled this long distance till they arrived there. But once they
arrived there, they were told that there was no accommodation. Why did they not find
accommodation? Humanly speaking its because there were too many people. But remember
that Mary and Joseph were extremely poor. And so when Mary came in her condition, they
were turned away, for they were regarded as low-caste, as nobodys. And they were given a
lowly place, a stable, with the animals. Had they arrived with royal looking, white horses
and a whole security entourage, they would have been welcomed and room would have been
found for them. But they did not arrive in pomp and so they had to accept the lowliest of
James writes in his letter that it should not be that when a poor
person arrives and they give him a lowly place, but when a rich person arrives they give
him the best place (James 2:1-4).
Remember that Caesar Augustus, the king of the world, stayed in a
royal palace, but for the King of kings, no place was found to stay.
But this didnt trouble Mary and Joseph for they had a
heavenly vision and their lowly place was royal to them. A person of the world seeks the
things of the world and thinks they can only be satisfied with the things of the world,
but a person of heaven seeks the things of heaven and is satisfied and contented with the
things of heaven.
Mary and Joseph were not troubled by their surroundings, but were
overjoyed for they gazed upon this Child, their Saviour and God, the King of kings and
Lord of lords.
Its written that when God was in His temple, it was filled
with His glory and the angels cried, "Holy, holy holy" (Is 6:1-3). He is Lord of
lords and King of kings. Yet He humbled Himself to be born in a stable with animals, for
you and me. And Mary and Joseph were happy with Gods provision. They were perfectly
content, for they had the Lord Jesus. The same is true with us too, that if we have Jesus
in our hearts we will be perfectly content.
But we people tend to get things back to front, and try to find
contentment in the things of the world.
There is perfect contentment with the one who has Jesus, whether
he is recognised or not, whether he has position or not. Things change when you have
Jesus. All your pride vanishes. The thoughts of yourself and your own satisfaction
vanishes and you are satisfied with Him.
Weve looked at Rome and Bethlehem. Lets look at
heaven. When Jesus was born, all of heaven was shaken with wonder and astonishment. The
myriads of angels said, "lets go to earth to see this thing", and they
went down as the host of heaven to see God becoming man. I dont know if there was
even a single angel left in heaven. But these angels descended for they wanted to be there
where Jesus was. This host of angels appeared to the shepherds and they were terror
struck, seeing the host of angels singing Gods praises.
The owners of the sheep were in their homes. The shepherds were
probably looking after the sheep as labourers. These lowly shepherds were the ones who had
the privilege of seeing the hosts of heaven declaring this wonderful news. The last shall
be the first and the first last (Matt 20:16).
Though these shepherds were so afraid the angels told them not to
fear, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the
people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the
Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a
(A stranger came to a certain preacher, and told him that he
didnt appreciate his sermons. He said he was tired of hearing him always preach
about the cross, death and crucifixion of Jesus. Why not speak about Him as the good
teacher and our great example. The preacher asked him if he would obey Jesus as teacher
and example. The man agreed. He then told him that Jesus never sinned. Will he obey and
imitate that? The man answered that its impossible for we have all sinned and come
short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). He then told him that that is why he speaks about
Jesus death, crucifixion and the cross. For He must be our Saviour too, to save us
from our sins (Matt 1:21). He is not just a good teacher and great example to follow, but
He is our Saviour, Shepherd, Lord and King.
This preacher spoke wisely to the man. Dont just listen to
any advice people give you otherwise you will do foolish things as the following story
A certain man walked with his grandson and a donkey. He rode on
the donkey while his grandson walked beside them. Someone walking by remarked, "What
a selfish old man to make the boy walk while you ride on the donkey". So he got off
the donkey and placed his grandson on the donkey and they rode further. A little while
later, someone else saw them and remarked, "What a cheeky little boy to ride on the
donkey while the old man has to walk!". So the grandfather put his grandson with him
on the donkey. Then another passerby remarked: How cruel. Have you no feelings for the
poor donkey. Eventually they both got off the donkey and they carried the donkey!
The shepherds were privileged indeed to hear the host of heaven
declare these glad tidings to them! One day we too will hear this heavenly host. Blessed
are those who die in the Lord (Rev 14:13).
When the shepherds heard the good news they said one to another,
"come let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing thats been told us". They
didnt go slowly but went with haste. They were not like the Pharisees and Scribes
and Sadducees in Jerusalem who, when Herod called them, told him that the Messiah would be
born in Bethlehem. Yet not one of them took a step to actually go to the place where Jesus
was born! What does that mean? They were only like a sign board next to the road, pointing
the way but never going itself. Many people are like that. They know the truth and can
tell others the truth, but they dont apply it to their own lives!
But the shepherds went with haste as quickly as possible to see
the Christ Child born in Bethlehem. For your own salvations sake, dont only
point the way like a signboard but go to Christ yourself.