December 24, 2010: Christmas Eve

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR BROTHER, THE BABY JESUS

TEXT: Luke 2: 8-14: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 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, ‘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. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'”

Fellow Redeemed in The Baby Jesus:

Why is it that when those angels appeared to the shepherds they were terrified? You know the answer. It was because they possessed a guilty conscience. Confronted by God’s messengers their minds immediately focused upon all the bad things they had done or thought, or said. All this is a product of a guilty conscience. All this speaks volumes as to our total corruption by sin.

I see the same thing occurring when some new acquaintance finds out that I’m a pastor, or an earthly messenger of God. Immediately I can see their thoughts churning: “Did I utter some cuss word? Did I tell an off-color joke? What does this pastor think of me?”

Even though I know better, I’d probably act the exact same way if I was suddenly confronted by an angel. It just goes to show how attuned we all are to our sinful condition and how it bothers us inside no matter how hard we try to hide it. The chasm between God and mortal man, between perfection and imperfection is just too huge for our minds to cross. Thus, either the appearance of God or any of His angelic host breeds discomforting terror in our hearts.

God knows that. And so, in the shepherds’ case, God immediately worked to dispel such inner terror with those words: “Don’t be afraid.” And then He immediately tells them why: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The Greek text uses this word for “good news”—it uses “evangel.” That is, the good and happy news of angels. And then we see just what that happy news is all about: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

God well knew the terror of Him that sin had created within the human heart. He saw it first in Eden when Adam and Eve hid from Him in terror after their disobedience. He saw it throughout the Old Testament whenever He brought His glory down to earth. And so, God decided to overcome our inner terror by meeting us in the most humble, simple, and non-terrifying form of all: a human baby. “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

How many centuries had the angels waited in eager anticipation to convey that message to us? How many millennium had they looked forward to living up to and fulfilling their very name: angel, or messenger—with the one message that could and would remove all terror from human hearts? How those angels must have rejoiced in that night! Finally, finally they could carry out the very purpose for which God made them—serving God’s Son by telling us about His birth and conveying to us His heartfelt love!

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that a huge, numberless army of angels now reveal their reality to those shepherds, filling the skies, and chanting the very message of heaven itself: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Yes, that first Christmas Eve was their festival night of all nights, too.

Finally, the result of this cosmic, angelic explosion of joy took away the shepherd’s terror, didn’t it? No longer did they think about themselves and their unworthiness. No longer did they look inward for strength and peace and find themselves lacking—just like we always will, too. No, the terror was gone, replaced by an irrepressible desire to look beyond themselves and to actually meet God and gaze upon His beautiful face. And so, they quickly agree to do just that! They went to Bethlehem and worshiped their Lord and Savior with total joy in their hearts.

My friends, we think we’re wise, but in actuality we’re pretty foolish. We think God must be tough, hard, judgmental, and angry with us over our sins. We think that somehow we must make amends to Him, but alas we never seem to get it right or do enough. However, in reality all you need to do is listen to the angels and gaze in faith upon the Baby Jesus, too. For there in that manger lies the real heart of God—full of love for you—beating with love and forgiveness for you. So, no matter what fears conflict your soul as we end the year of our Lord 2010—”Don’t be afraid!” God’s love in that manger has won eternal peace for you. And there is no message more important for any messenger of God to ever proclaim. Amen