Caroling | Angel's Song | Luke 2:1-20
Passage: Luke 2:1–20
Christopher Rich – December 24, 2016
CAROLING | God Sing Light into a Dark World
Week 3: Angels’ Song |Luke 2:1-20
Introduction | Advent
Good Morning! Merry Christmas! It’s Christmas Eve and we are celebrating Advent. The word advent means coming or arrival. At the time of Jesus birth, the Jewish people were waiting with anticipation for the Messiah. And they had been waiting a long time. Through years of exile and captivity, they had held tightly to the promise of the one who would come to establish God’s kingdom forever. The coming of the Messiah was an event that was defined by excitement. For many of us, Christmas has lost that sense of joy. The overwhelming anticipation for the Savior-King of the Universe has been replaced with the stress of making last minute purchases, the preparations for awkward family interactions, my wife and kids were sick last week and we’ve both seen emails or opened packages for our actual gifts (like no surprises for grown ups). So we give passing acknowledgement to event that took place 2000 years ago. But this was not just some event; this was the inauguration of the kingdom of God. Jesus was coming to earth to establish Himself as the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. So we don’t just wait for the surprise, we get to experience the gift. The Joy isn’t merely found in the anticipation, but in the gift itself. Jesus is the gift!
We live in His established kingdom. Christ rules on His throne. So as we think of the Christmas we remember how Jesus came to earth, and we anticipate with joy that He is coming again. We reflect on the incarnation (which means taking on flesh), remembering that God chose to come down to earth. The creator came down to be with a creation that had rejected Him. And He came not with the sword of justice (that is how He will return), but wearing the clothes of humility and grace. He came to reunite His adopted sons and daughters to Himself. He came to bring us salvation. Advent is about the anticipation of Jesus coming (HOPE). It is about remembering what part we play in this story, as the sinners that made His death necessary. It is about preparing our hearts for His coming (PEACE). It is about marveling at the way that He came, and what He came to do (LOVE). More than anything else, it is about celebrating how great our God is (JOY). Joy is expressed best in songs! We are created to SING It is how we express our greatest triumphs and satisfaction and hopes. The Crown - Kingdom glory is displayed in singing.
The world because of Sin is dark and cold, but God sent is His Son Jesus to be “the light of the world”. Jesus left the comfort of Heaven to enter into this cold harsh world on a mission if life, joy, and “light”. The account of this grand history hinging event of the “incarnation” of God as recorded in the Gospel of Luke includes 4 “songs” as God’s people sing in response to God’s character and actions, and God’s angels sing the royal birth announcement to a group of dirty shepherds on the night shift. God’s incarnation has a sound track. Throughout history this incarnation has caused normal people to leave the comfort of their individual homes to go into their community to “sing” the Good News of Jesus with joyful music during the cold and dark depths of winter. As disciples of Jesus we are called to be ambassadors to our communities “singing” light into the dark world we currently dwell in. Christmas Season is accompanied by the music played, some traditional, some sacred, some sentimental, some silly. People’s attention during this time is focused on presents, family, food, events, stress and excessive spending. We as the church have an unique opportunity during this season point people to the great event of God giving the gift of His Son Jesus, who comes declaring peace, offering adoption into God’s family, spends His life for us leading to the cross where He pays our unforgivable debt of sin, and promises the greatest of celebration at His return.
PART I | The Story | v1-7
Luke 2: 1-7 | In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 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, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 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.
This happened in History - While stories are valuable to convey ideas, true stories are powerful to explain reality as it is. Truth of setting is important to grasp how this has impacted us. This is not Mordor, Westeros, Gotham, or even a galaxy far far away. This isn’t myth or legend, this is news. God’s people are subject to a massive foreign pluralistic empire. Pluralistic in practice, as long as everyone acknowledges the “good news” of Caesar Augustus as the “son of god and prince of peace” Merely a man hopping to be God, he as worldly rulers are want to do, he seeks to expand his rule and influence expanding his wealth and power. Hope is waning as generations pass. So a Caesar decrees a census to determine how he can better take taxes from his people while God is preparing the greatest gift He can give His people, Himself.
God’s hand is in human history for His purposes. This young working class family moved because of the actions of this big government census. Out of compulsion Mary and Joseph, take this long and arduous journey traveling to Bethlehem, royal city of long past King David, whose reign and Solomon’s were looked back to when things were good. The small town is filled with travelers has no room for them. They are a low priority in the social scene even in an insignificant village. Mary is left give birth in stable. Jesus is fully Man, helpless baby in the manager. He is wrapped up as normal, but the location is not. The promised King, the savior of God’s people has arrived in the humblest of places, but not without some fanfare.
PART II | The Song | v8-14
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 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.10 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. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
While the Baby Jesus is sleeping in the manger, in some fields outside of Bethlehem an “angel of the Lord” is preaching the Gospel to poor, unclean, socially marginalized shepherds. These impoverished shepherds running night shift outside “keeping watch” over sheep, are about to receive the Royal Birth Announcement. An Angel of the Lord appears in glory, enough to easily strike great fear in the hearts of this simple men. Samsung commercial for their virtual reality people are having a cell phone in their face and amazed at how shiny it is. Now you’re in a dark field and you have overwhelming light come in what a disruption! It is an assault. Seeing the angel, they are rightly terrified. God’s glory lead to fear/awe/respect as you consider who you are in relation to who he is. Our God is a poetic God and I believe the timing and setting and audience of the announcement is significant. Darkness is shattered by the power of light.
Encountering even a sliver of God’s glory and power is enough to “fill them with great fear”. When God is excited we should be afraid, because our world is about to change. The Angel knows their fear and leads with “Fear not.” You do not have to be paralyzed by great fear. God’s answer to our great fear is an announcement of good news of the arrival of greater Joy! Joy for all people! Fear is turned into joy when you are reminded of the character of God and His mission of peace. To drive the point home, God turns the glory amp up to 11 an sends a Heavenly Host, which is literally a military term “Angel Armies” to announce peace. In the darkness, an angelic choir sings out the brilliant light of God’s glory. By announcing His gift to the shepherds with heavenly army enthusiastically singing of God’s Glory, God is saying to them, “I'm bigger than your society and bigger than the government ruling over you.” As big, mighty, and powerful as God is, this encounter also tells us:
God’s Identity - He has revealed himself not with grandeur but in humility. Jesus is the Savior, He is the King, but he has also come as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes resting in a lowly manger. Glorious God is incarnated in Jesus who is fully God and fully man. The Angels come and in displaying the glory of God, singing of His glory, telling of His mission, reminding them of joy, calming their fears, announcing the birth of the savior in the city of a king, the pivoting of History from the reign of darkness to the kingdom of light in all of this they drill down to the divine identity of Jesus. Savior, Redeemer Messiah who is the LORD “Yahweh” God of the Bible. The savior is also God Almighty. This is the big idea that the entire “Christmas Story” hinges on. Virgin birth, God the creator enters into His creation. “how could he do that?” If there is a creator, then he is incredibly powerful and can accomplish what he set out to do. God doesn’t interact with us in an idea or world view but through a person and that person fully God/Fully man is Jesus.
God is Accessible – For the Shepherds, and us, Jesus is born “unto you”. God has come down from Heaven as the sovereign without splendor to the lowest of people so all could have access to God in the Highest. If God wanted to get his message out in a way that would impress the world quickly He could have had this Angel Army hover over Rome like the ships in Arrival/Independence Day) He could have had Jesus born in to a wealthy influential family seeking to have the most effective impact. Even in our world there are people you know you just can’t come close to or approach divisions and separation reign. But that would have only reinforced the colossal cosmic gap between Almighty God and sinful fallen people. God comes to us. God closes the overwhelming gap between us and him. God created everything and He entered His creation. Accessible means relatable. Humility comes to view as we think about who would we be in the story. We’ll we wouldn’t be the Caesar or governor. We’d be the small town working family. When he said to all people, that means racial and socioeconomic divisions will not keep God from His people. Caesar has decreed and accounting and future taking of taxes God in Jesus is declaring His accessibility as mercy is granted and grace is given.
God offers Peace- Sin has caused an eternal conflict between God and humanity. Peace comes through victory over evil and darkness. Peace comes from restored relationship with God. Peace requires His victory over satan, sin and death. You find joy in God’s glory when you know that peace comes from him. God’s answer for the conflict of sin is to offer Himself in Jesus (Prince of Peace) so His rebellious people can experience total peace of restored relationship with God. God wants to ensure victory He should send that army of angels into Herod’s garrison, march through too Rome and over throw Caesar. But He doesn’t He sends a child. A helpless baby a pretty bold move, one that appears the type of move you make when your certain of the outcome. Victory and Peace are assured. Peace, satisfaction, and wholeness in Christ because we cannot find it anywhere else. While there is sin in the world our God “sings” of His Glory.
PART III | The Response | v15-20
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
The shepherd’s response to Gospel is an awesome model or for us. After seeing God’s glory as big, terrifying, and gloriously powerful, they seek to find and worship Jesus. The song draws them to Jesus. They go to worship - Singing what is true stirs to affection and action. They don’t stop at intellectual assent to the truth of Jesus identity and the Good News of God’s arriving Kingdom. “Hmm, I believe Jesus is God. We’ll carry on.” Let’s see this event, for a bunch of guys to get excited about a newborn baby is pretty big. God has revealed something true about Himself and we should response by wanting to be in His presence. They paused from their work and went with “haste” not to give, not to receive, but to behold. When they do, and it is as the angel said it would be; they rejoice in Jesus by spreading the good news. They tell others!- The shepherds do not have much, but they share the Gospel with all they encounter.
They Get back to work- They return to their normal lives. After the excitement meeting the baby Jesus, they go back to work, there is still work to do, telling everyone they know the Gospel. While the shepherds’ job or immediate circumstances didn’t change at all, knowing clearly who God is and what He is doing in Jesus, I have to imagine it gave them more joy in purpose in their work knowing there was more to life than what they saw each day in the fields. Good days, bad days, good government, bad government, team winning, team losing, we can always rejoice in God who offers peace to a world and individuals in conflict.
The Christmas story is convicting to me, because of the shepherd’s obedience, their joy, worship, and their response, puts mine to shame. Most of us, myself included, who profess faith in God/Jesus praise him for what he’s done for us/to us. We give to Him, serve Him, and worship Him for what we expect or hope he’ll do for us in this life and/or the next. For some of us those are material things health, wealth, protection and for the more “spiritual” of us it’s for His forgiveness of our sin, His sustenance and presence in our times of trials, or the promise of a New Heaven and Earth where there is no more tears. From the perspective of Mary (who treasured/pondered these things in her heart) or the shepherds, Jesus hadn’t freed them from addiction, he hadn’t helped them achieve their goals of wealth, career, self-fulfillment, he hadn’t cured them of disease, given them a spouse/kids, he hadn’t even died on the cross for their sins or promised them eternal life. Before, during, after Jesus birth all those who met Jesus were rejoicing in him even though he hadn’t “given” them anything. They were joyful, and they worshipped Him, because of who he IS, because He is the King, He is the savior, He is God. Simply put, for them, Jesus is enough; enough for Mary to endure physical and social pain. Enough for the shepherd’s to leave their flocks and simply be with Him, joyfully worship as they went and when they worked telling other of God’s gift of Jesus. Our rejoicing should be all the more as we also know God’s gift of forgiveness of sin though the Cross, and promise of new life though Jesus’ resurrection. Tomorrow pause, read on in Luke 2, unwrap Good Friday and Easter. We rejoice in singing like the angels and praising like the shepherds glorifying God! We respond in coming to the communion table to remember the Good News of great joy, that Jesus purchased our peace on the cross dying in our place and rising again so we could have new life. Merry Christmas and Trust Jesus.