And there were Shepherd 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 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’ll find a baby wrapped in cloth 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. When the Angels had left them and ascended into heaven, the Shepherd said to one another “Let’s Go to Bethlehem and see this thing which has happened which the Lord has told us about”
When you really think of all that the Christmas narrative is about, that God himself was going to communicate to man an answer to the deepest longings of man’s heart and mind, it is absolutely amazing that the initial revelation was not made in the bastions of power or Royalty where God could’ve drawn from aa well of wealth and nobility, rather he went to the common man; to shepherds watching the sheep at night.
It is interesting to think about the various kinds people to whom God initially chose to announced the message.
First he came to common shepherds who went about their work-a-day world, struggling to find answers to their existence; to those who had come to the conclusion that mere work alone is not liberating and ended up in loneliness. Loneliness because of the oppression they sensed with-out and lonely because of the alienation they sensed within.
Second, God spoke to men on the other side of the spectrum. These were not common men, the Bible describes them as the wise men from the East. These were the ones studying Astrology, the planetary movements – struggling to understand the ideologies of the day – trying to interpret man’s reason for being and his destiny. To the thinkers of the day whose major preoccupation was their love for wisdom and the absolute search for it. Yet somehow, in their philosophizing they had run into emptiness also. Ironically centuries later, philosophy finds itself in the same dead-end. Philosophers even in recent times have confessed their own sense of alienation – failing to come to that definite answer they seek. These thoughts shoot through the words of the playwright TS Elliot, he says “where is the wisdom we had lost all of the knowledge, where is the life we’d lost in all the living?”
Here now the message of God being revealed first to the common man in the fields taking care of his sheep, then to the thinker trying to find out the destiny and origin of mankind and finally to a religious man in his ceremonial activity every day – a man called Simon (the nunc dimitis) – who had also recognized the bankruptcy in searching for the answers for life.
No matter how strong and capable you and I think we are. No matter what strength we have within ourselves. No matter what desire of will or motivation of spirit we have, there comes a point beyond which we simply cannot go any further. And Mankind need to realize that it is alienation from God. Whether it be in our work-a-day world, or whether it be in our intellectual pursuits or whether it be in our striving for religious perfection.
Now what was the message?
Remember what the prophet said centuries ago… “Unto us a child is Born, unto us a Son is Given…” the Son wasn’t born, the Son eternally existed. It was the child that is born. And then it goes further to say this… “When Jesus having lived a pure, spotless life was, faced up with the death on the cross, he said “how can I turn away from it? For this is the very reason why I came into the world”… What did he mean by that? The cross is that pivotal reason for which Jesus Christ was born – in order to bridge this gap, the gap of separation between God and Man.
The first thing The Cross points to us, is the absoluteness of God’s Love. God reaching out to man. Giving up the Son as a propitiation for our sins. The longing within the human heart for love. It is the greatest hunger.
Not only is there the absoluteness of Love, there is the satisfaction of justice. God could not leave sin completely ignored. Somebody had to pay. The Bible says “…Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us…”
Finally, The Cross brings us the impartation of righteousness. Christ died on the cross so now when I make that approach to Him, I come not clothed in my own righteousness but clothed in the righteousness which is being provided to me by Jesus Christ.
So you see the absoluteness of God’s Love, the satisfaction of Justice and the impartation of God’s righteousness coming to the common man –finding that emptiness in their daily hustle; coming to the intellectual –finding the bankruptcy in his philosophical world; coming to the religious man in his pursuit for spiritual excellence. There simply had to be that Savior.
This is the message of Christmas… “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord” Born in Bethlehem as an answer to man’s greatest hungers and needs. Ironically the name Bethlehem means “House of Bread”… Indeed, He is the Bread of Life.
May God Bless you this Christmas season!