Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Luke 2

1Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

4Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

6While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7And 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.

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

10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12"This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13And suddenly there appeared 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 men with whom He is pleased."

15When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." 16So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

19But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

20The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. 21And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. 22And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "EVERY firstborn MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD"), 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, "A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS." 25And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29"Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,

According to Your word;

30For my eyes have seen Your salvation,

31Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,


And the glory of Your people Israel."

33And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed-- 35and a sword will pierce even your own soul--to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

36And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 39When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.

40The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Proper Commemoration of the Incarnation

INTRODUCTION (Read Luke 2:1-20)

In today’s modern world, the materialistic hype and spin of our culture surrounds us and constantly tries to squeeze us into its mold, especially during what has been traditionally known as the “Christmas” season. Many people, especially professing Christians, use this season of the year as an excuse to become willingly ensnared by the idol of materialism (Matt. 6:24). However, this is the time of year when many Christians genuinely celebrate the incarnation and first advent of the Messiah who is known as Immanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23). Many faithful believers the world over take this time of year to meditate on the wonder and greatness of our God, Who before the universe was created, decreed to send His Son into this sin-cursed world, to save sinners by bringing them under the care of the Great Shepherd, who would die for sinners (John 10:10, 15; Rom. 5:8).

Historically, what we now call “Christmas” was originally known as the “Christ-mass”, a celebration that was developed within the early Roman Catholic Church and was designed to counter the rival pagan festivals that were held at the end of each year. Many have heard about the ancient pagan festivals of Saturnalia which occurred at the end of December of each year and some have even said that the birth of the pagan god Mithra was on December 25th.[1] Either way, the term “Christmas” as we understand it today, does have many pagan elements, but not necessarily because it developed as a rival celebration in opposition to the pagan gods that were prevalent within the Roman Empire but because today’s typical understanding of “Christmas” absolutely reeks of modern selfishness, materialism, worldliness and secular humanism. There are many today who, in the name of Biblical Christianity would avoid celebrating the birth of Christ at this time of year because they believe that it would mean that we are somehow conceding to or indirectly participating in the ancient pagan rituals often associated with those rival celebrations set up by the early Roman Catholic Church. They reason that because we know that such and such a group worshipped trees several thousands of years ago and placed glitter and gold on it then that means that we are doing the same thing when we put up a tree and put glittering lights on it during the Advent. Now, when I compare the tree issue with similar issues in the New Testament, it becomes clear to me that my concerned Christian friends have gone a little overboard. The issues Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 10:19-31 and in Romans 14:15 deal with issues much more likely to be “tainted.” The issue of meat sacrificed to idols was a very hot topic of the day, and there was not question about the “background” of such meat. Likewise, the observance/honoring of Sabbaths or religious festivals (cf. Col 2:16-17), was a current and hot topic. But Paul said these were “indifferent things” and things which were a matter of individual preference: if you wanted to honor one day above another, go ahead. If you wanted to eat the meat from the temples, go ahead as long as you knew the meat was nothing special (cf. Rom 14:14). So, when there is grace and freedom about such very contemporary and very well-known and very “religious-looking” matters in the New Testament (such as freedom for me to eat meat offered to idols), it is difficult for me to make the much-less-dramatic issue of “Christmas trees” into something to be avoided on Biblical grounds. Let’s look at two very common examples. I don’t know many Christians who avoid referring to the fourth day of the week as “Wednesday” because the origin of that name of that day is found in the pagan god Wodin, nor do I know of any Christians who accuse other Christians of hypocrisy, compromise, and syncretism when they do so! On the other hand, there are symbols in our (any) culture that are “tainted” and perceived as something repulsive or inherently evil, unlike Christmas trees or Wednesday. For instance, in American culture, I personally would not use the Swastika or a Pentagram to signify something that otherwise for me would have a holy meaning simply because the associations of those symbols are still too fresh in the minds of the populus and too well-known for their association with evil. So, in my opinion, the difference between your teenager wearing a pentagram around their neck versus your family decorating a tree during a celebration of Christ’s first advent is measured in light-years.

Thus, my purpose today will not be to rail against all the ancient and medieval pagan elements that may have crept into the modern form of what is known as “Christmas”[2] simply because neither you nor I have any personal and absolute connection to neither ancient nor medieval pagan practices. More importantly, I want to discuss the problem of the trading of the commemoration of the advent of Christ with the materialistic blasphemy and selfishness that has taken place and offer a biblical solution for this problem.

Christ’s first advent is supposed to be a message to the world that Christians can celebrate and experience joy not through false gods and materialism, but through the fact that God the Son was incarnated as a man (John 1:14). However, the advent celebration of the birth of the Savior has veered far into materialistic idolatry for several reasons, one of which is a lack of seriousness about God, Christ, and the Bible. Listen to what Evangelical Greek Scholar, Daniel Wallace states regarding the marginalization of Christ and the watering down of the gospel in the contemporary evangelical church,

Even with the proliferation of Bibles today, Christians are reading their Bibles less and less. I believe the evangelical church has only 50 years of life left. 50 years left of evangelicalism because of marginalization of the Word of God. We need another Reformation! The enemy of the gospel now is not religious hierarchy but moral anarchy, not tradition but entertainment. The enemy of the gospel is Protestantism run amock; it is an anti-intellectual, anti-knowledge, feel-good faith that has no content and no convictions. Part of the communal repentance that is needed is a repentance about the text [“the text” = the text of Scripture – DSS]. And even more importantly, there must be a repentance with regard to Christ our Lord. Just as the Bible has been marginalized, Jesus Christ has been ‘buddy-ized.’ His transcendence and majesty are only winked at, as we turn him into the genie in the bottle, beseeching God for more conveniences, more luxury, less hassle, and a life without worries or lack of comfort. He no longer wears the face that the apostles recognized. Or, as Erasmus remarked, “When you read the Greek New Testament, you can see the face of Jesus more clearly than if you were one of his disciples”! A bit of hyperbole, but the point is worth underscoring: The God we worship today no longer resembles the God of the Bible. Unless we return to him through a reading and digesting of the scriptures—through a commitment to the text, the evangelical church will become irrelevant, useless, dead.[3]

These are strong words that should issue words of warning to lazy Christians. When you fully grasp what Dr. Wallace is saying about today’s contemporary evangelical church, you do indeed get the idea that God is “warm and fuzzy,” and almost acts like a “genie in a bottle” that is here to minister to our “felt-needs.” When you speak with modern evangelicals, you sometimes get the idea that they often view Jesus as a limp-wristed, pale-faced teacher of love and peace who came to help everyone get along and look over their differences. You get the idea that Jesus is like a slot machine where you can put a prayer in the slot and out pops your wish. In today’s shallow world of Christianity, where marketing the gospel seems to be more important than actually preaching it,[4] where does a true, Biblical commemoration of Christ’s birth fit in? In light of this materialistic type of attitude, is it any wonder that the modern-day church has failed to impact the culture with the message of the Biblical Jesus?

As a man who loves the Lord Jesus Christ and this local flock, I am so much against what the world does during that time of year because it does absolutely nothing to give God the glory for the Incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ. In light of the fact that the world doesn’t give glory and praise to God for the birth of His Son, I want to take the time this morning to commemorate the incarnation and first advent of the One who died to make sinners clean. This opportunity should not happen just once a year, but should be done every day, and particularly any time the Lord's people gather together. When we celebrate the first advent of Christ, we must remember that one of the most significant events in human history is this: God became flesh! Today we will discuss this significant historical event and the importance of giving glory to God in our commemoration of it and we will do so under four main points:

  1. The Shepherd’s Had Proper Reverence and Fear of God (vv. 8-9)
  2. The Angels Gave Proper and Due Glory to God (vv. 13-14).
  3. Those Who Heard Wondered and Pondered the Glory of God (vv. 18-19)
  4. The Shepherd’s Rejoiced because of the Truth of God (v. 20).


In this narrative, probably set sometime around 4 B.C., we have the birth of Christ Jesus provided for us by Doctor Luke in detail. We see in verses 1-2 that there was a formal decree sent out by Octavius Caesar that all the inhabited land should be registered.[5] This census (a decree…to register all the empire) is one of the more disputed historical remarks in Luke and has created much cause for non-believers to question the integrity the Lukan account. The alleged problem is that Quirinius did not become governor until @ 7 A.D. according to Josephus, while Christ was born before Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.[6] However, renowned archaeologist Sir William Ramsay concluded from various coin inscriptions that Quirinius ruled Syria on two separate occasions.[7] Also, another possible explanation offered by Greek language scholars is that verse 2 could actually be more accurately translated, “This census took place before Quirinius was governing Syria.”[8] Under this scenario, Luke’s use of the word translated “first” (prw,th) would be more accurately translated “before” and thus would actually refer to the first census in 7 B.C., rather than the well-known one in 7 A.D. Either way, a God-lover should always be skeptical of charges of error in Luke’s account, for the archaeologist Sir William Ramsay stated: “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy . . . this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”[9] So, in spite of what skeptics of the Bible may say, credible explanations exist.[10]

Successfully carrying out a census like this would have been a massive undertaking for the Roman Empire and the travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem would have certainly taxed Mary and Joseph physically as she was near to giving birth. The text tells us in verse 6 “the days were completed for her to give birth” meaning, that the time was fulfilled for Christ to come into the world scene just as God had predetermined (Gal. 4:4). Indeed the world scene was ripe for the Messiah. The Pax Romana had been successfully established by Emperor Octavius, which allowed for the reasonably safe travel that Mary and Joseph experienced. The over 500 year old prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 about the coming ministry of Messiah the Prince was due to be fulfilled. Isaiah’s 750 year old Messianic prophecies about the coming Prince of Peace (9:6) who would be born of a virgin (7:14) was due to be fulfilled, and Micah’s 700 year old prophecy about the ruler whose human birth would occur in Bethlehem but whose going forth has been from the days of eternity were ready to be fulfilled (Mic. 5:2). And so these prophecies were fulfilled as we read in Luke 2:6, “the days were completed for her to give birth.”

Now, it was customary for newborn Jewish infants to be securely and warmly wrapped in strips of cloth as we see of Jesus in verse 7. However, the feeding trough, or manger (as is commonly called) that Jesus was laid in was not a common sight. Given the census that was being taken by the Romans, Bethlehem was probably very crowded as those who had their ancestral roots in Bethlehem had to go to that city to be registered in the census (cf. for hints of this in vv. 4-5). So, upon investigation it was found by Joseph that all the local rented rooms were taken and so this poor, 14-15 year old Jewish girl gave birth to the God-man in a lodging place that was normally occupied by animals. So, we see, that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was born in the town where His human ancestor King David was born, just as was prophesied by Micah (5:2). Surely the divine Messiah had the right to be born with all the trappings of royalty and fanfare, but instead God the Father chose to have the Divine Messiah be born in humble circumstances, excluded from the normal shelter others enjoyed (cf. Lk. 9:58). And that my friends is the first demonstration of Jesus’ humanity, servanthood, and humility for He later said in His earthly ministry, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Now we turn our attention to the lowly shepherds in the field who demonstrated a proper reverence and fear for God and His glory.

  1. The Shepherds Had Proper Reverence and Fear of God (vv. 8-9)

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

The words “terribly frightened” in verse 9 can literally be translated “they were made very fearful.” In the visible light of the glory of the Lord these Shepherds had the proper response to the divine message. They were fearful at the presence of the angel because they were sinners and were accustomed to the teaching from the OT that angels were often messengers of God’s coming judgment. We also see this same fearful response exude from God-lovers in the OT period when they were confronted with the glory and power of God.[11] We especially see this same attitude of fear in Zechariah in Luke 1:12 where it says that he was confronted by an angel telling him about the coming birth of his son, John the Baptist. So, the fear that these shepherds exhibited was natural, godly, and reverent, whereas such an attitude is laughed at today. Now, there are probably several important reasons why the angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds versus other types of people.

1. Among the various occupations that were held by Jews at the time of Christ, being a shepherd was one of the most lowly. Shepherds were generally considered untrustworthy and their work made them ceremonially unclean according to the Law of Moses. Therefore, we see that God didn’t choose to first reveal the good news of the newly born Divine Messiah to Kings, Priests, and Prelates, but instead he chose to reveal the first proclamation of the gospel to the social outcasts of the day. Paul confirms that this is often the way God does things in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29,

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God.

Shepherds were looked down upon by the general Jewish community as a whole, and they were considered so untrustworthy that they weren’t even allowed to give testimony in a court of law.[12] So, we talk about the goodness, grandeur, and glory of God yet we fail to realize that God chose to first tell His good news to people who were basically our modern equivalent of those who are referred to as “trailer trash”.[13]

2. In both the Old and New Testaments, shepherds symbolize those who care for God’s people, including the Lord Himself (cf. Ps. 23:1; Isa. 40:11; Jer. 23:1-4; Heb. 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:2). Notice that verse 8 says that they were staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. At night, when they could, shepherds would try to bring their flocks into crude shelters, pens, or take other protective measures so that the sheep could be cared for and also so that they wouldn’t be harmed by bad weather, predatory animals, and thieves. Obviously, on this night, these shepherds had to stay out in the field to carefully watch their flocks.[14] Now, in light of that truth, it is interesting that Jesus Christ, the incarnate word, would be made like unto one of these lowly shepherds by having nowhere to lay his head (Matt. 8:20; Luke 9:58), yet He takes special care of us, His sheep, and has taken and is now taking special precautionary measures to protect us from spiritual wolves and spiritual thieves (Heb. 7:25). He does so by continually making intercession for us before the Father as Satan makes accusation against us as the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10). Jesus also raises up godly human shepherds - faithful pastors who have been given a heart for Him and His word and seek to humble themselves in service to Christ’s sheep and feed them on His knowledge and His understanding (Jer. 3:15; Acts 20:28).

Again, verse 9 shows that the shepherds were absolutely terrified by the visible manifestation of the glory of God, something that neither Zechariah in Luke 1:12 nor Mary had seen when they were confronted by an angel. But just as the angel reassured Zechariah in Luke 1:13 and Mary in 1:30, so also he reassured the shepherds in verses 10-11, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

And so, an angel, brilliant and strong stands “suddenly” before them (v. 9) and the manifestation of God’s presence and power flashed about them and so they were properly “terrified.” These weren’t the cute little chubby angels with pretty little pink cheeks that you see gracing your local Christian bookstores. No, this was a representative of God’s heavenly army, one who stood in the strength and power of Yahweh, and so they were absolutely terrified! They were terrified as sinners; which explains why the angel has to say literally as it reads in the original language, “Stop being fearful!” (15]) So, the angel then proclaims wonderfully in verse 10, “I bring you good news” meaning – “I am bringing you the announcement of the gospel for the first time!” Oh brethren, how wonderful that God the Father, through the mediation of a heavenly angel first announces the gospel to what would be the equivalent of lowly, 1st century “trailer trash”!

And so the announcement of the birth of the promised Divine Savior is given in verse 11 (for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.). Notice that the text doesn’t say “THE Savior” but “A Savior.” This is grammatically significant because by saying it without using the definite article, the angel wanted to emphasize the saving work of Jesus. It was if he was saying, “for today in the city of David there has been born for who is above all other things, A SAVIOR!” And so, the angel gives this great proclamation of the gospel for the first time and when he does so, he does so to a group of societal outcasts. He doesn’t leave the outcasts clueless as to how to find this child, but he gives them a characteristic sign to look for, “a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (v. 12) They weren’t to look for any baby wrapped in strips of linen cloths, for that was common in 1st century Israel, but what was uncommon was a newborn infant lying in a feeding trough. Oh my friends what humility we see in our Savior in even the earliest aspects of His divinely ordained life! With that in mind I want to draw your attention to the proper and due glory that the angels gave to God.

  1. The Angels Gave Proper and Due Glory to God (vv. 13-14).

And so the lone angel, standing and giving the first proclamation of the gospel to lowly shepherds is suddenly joined by “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.” (vv. 13-14). This is the grand climax of this narrative, where the lowly, trailer-trash shepherds are exposed to the glorious splendor of not just one angel, but now an army of angels giving glory to the God of heaven for the birth of Messiah Jesus! How truly awesome that event must have been for them![16] These angels, having known and experienced Christ’s pre-incarnate glory, were all too familiar with His riches and majesty (cf. Isaiah 6:1-4; John 12:41). They also knew that man was fallen sinner, desperately in need of salvation from sin. And so, they knew of God’s provision of salvation for mankind in Jesus and they wanted to give all glory, praise, and honor to God for this unmerited gift bestowed upon sinful man! How wonderful that those who are not direct recipients of Christ’s salvation should give honor and glory to the God of heaven for it! Was it not the apostle Paul who, when thinking about God’s love shown in Christ said, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 8:9; 9:15) And was not this love very probably included among “the things which angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12) but very probably cannot? Nevertheless, they gave glory to God for this gift to sinful man!

Now, it is important to point out that the KJV translation of verse 14 doesn’t really have the best translation. The KJV says, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men whereas the NASB says, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." Now that’s a big difference in translation! The NASB has the better reading, based on a better representation of the underlying Greek text. For those of you who are more doctrinally astute, you can see how the NASB’s reading is more consistent with the biblical doctrines of God’s sovereign grace. Bruce Metzger states in regards to this passage,

“The meaning seems to be, not that divine peace can be bestowed only where human good will is already present, but that at the birth of the Saviour God’s peace rests on those whom he has chosen in accord with his good pleasure.”[17] It is also interesting to note that several similar expressions have been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls such as “the sons of his [God’s] good pleasure,” and “the elect of his [God’s] good pleasure.”[18]

So, this proclamation of the angels: that God’s true peace is bestowed on those whom He has sovereignly chosen for salvation; was proclaimed in the first presentation of the gospel to sinful men![19] Oh Christians, how we would do well to follow after the practice of these angels and preach the gospel of God’s sovereign grace to sinners. We should really do nothing else as we wait for Christ’s second advent, for this is part of the good news that these angels glorified God and blessed man with at Jesus’ first advent!

Luke 2:15-17 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.

And so the shepherds, filled with excitement after receiving the gospel directly from God through the angels, went to Bethlehem and looked for the divine infant lying in feeding trough. And the result after hearing the gospel and seeing the divine Christ was what? Verse 17 says that they told not only Mary and Joseph about the glorious appearance of the angels, but the text intimates that they felt constrained to tell as many as they could about the birth of Messiah Jesus! And what happened to those who heard?

  1. Those Who Heard Wondered and Pondered the Glory of God (vv. 18-19)

Luke 2:18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

It should be no surprise to us that there was wonder and amazement at the things that the shepherds said. Think about it: an imperial decree, angelic messages, divine signs to tell you who and where to look, a virgin-born child in Bethlehem lying in a feeding trough! “One can never fully appreciate this unless he is able to agree”[20] by faith with the words of Charles Wesley,

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see:

Hail th’Incarnate Deity.

And of course, wonder and amazement is to be expected with the Jews, but something more is seen in Jesus’ mother Mary. Verse 19 states, “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Notice that verse 19 says that “Mary treasured these things . . .” This sentence is literally translated “But Mary treasured up all these words . . .” meaning that she was putting it all together and mulling over it in her mind. She had been told by her betrothed husband about the divine dreams he had been given (Matt. 1:20ff), she remembered what she was told by the angel Gabriel (Lk. 1:26ff), she thought about all the contingencies that lead to her having to be in Bethlehem to give birth to her promised Son (Mic. 5:2); and what the shepherds told her about the announcement of the angels (Lk. 2:17). Yes, she was treasuring all these sayings up and “pondering them in her heart.” She stops to consider the meaning of it all. She did this later in Jesus’ life after they found Him in the temple as a young boy questioning the religious leaders of the day (1:51), and eventually, we see Jesus’ own mother worshipping the very One to whom she gave human birth (Acts 1:14). Her prayerful “pondering” of all those things God had been doing and was going to do through her Divine Son produced in her a steadfast faith that had been foreordained from all eternity! We also have a fantastic end of the story for those lowly shepherds too!

  1. The Shepherd’s Rejoiced because of the Truth of God (v. 20).

Luke 2:20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

These lowly shepherds had mingled with the lowly Joseph and Mary to see “a Savior, Christ the Lord.” They glorified God that what had been told them by the angel was true and that God’s promised divine Messiah had finally arrived on the world scene. They were like the 72 disciples that Jesus sent out on a preaching mission, whom upon returning (10:17) were “glorifying and praising God” for all the wonderful things that they had seen.[21] And it is this attitude of giving glory to God in the midst of a humble, lowly situation that was characteristic of the first Advent of Christ!


Brothers and sisters, have you given due honor, praise, and glory to God for the greatest gift the world has ever known or have you become ensnared by the idols of materialism and selfishness that are so prevalent during the Advent season? Have you continually sought to give glory to God by faithfully proclaiming as well as living out the truth of God’s sovereign grace in your lives? Have you, like Mary sought to carefully meditate and consider God’s active hand in your life or have you become dull, insensitive, and ignorant of God’s dealings in your life? Do you rejoice at the giving of the greatest Gift the world has ever known or will know, or have traded the beauty of the Divine Savior for a mess of materialistic pottage? Oh brothers and sisters, I admonish you to repent and turn from your dependence on material things, for they will rust and corrupt, they can be stolen by thieves, they can be repossessed by the empires of this world. But the greatest gift the world has ever known, “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (v. 11) can never be taken away from you, for He is the giver of all things, and in Him we find the greatest display of God’s love for your sorry soul.

[1] Walter L. Liefeld, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, Luke, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 845. It is important also to note that Liefeld points out that by setting up a rival celebration, another pagan celebration called “Sol Invictus” or the

“Unconquerable Sun” was indeed conquered by the celebration of the nativity.

[2] I have found it very difficult to see why events and practices from someone else, in a far distant past, unknown (or at least not taken seriously one way or another) by myself and all my 'pagan' acquaintances (cf. 1 Cor. 10), and of no logical connection to the modern

implements of the celebration of the Advent season (i.e., Christmas trees) should enslave me.

[3] http://www.bible.org/docs/soapbox/4versions.htm

[4] I.e: “The Purpose Driven” this and that type philosophy which has run rampant in such as books with the titles, “The Purpose Driven Life, The Purpose Driven Church, etc.”

[5] This decree would’ve been sent via the Roman Senate because the phrase "from the emperor” indicates that . Octavian was Caesar from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14. He was known for his administrative prowess. The passive infinitive verb (apographesthai) translated “should be registered” (so ESV, NKJ) is regarded as a technical term for official registration in tax & military lists (cf. BDAG 108 s.v.).

[6] Josephus (Ant. 18.1.1 [18.1–2]) only mentions a census in A.D. 6, which is obviously way too late for this setting. Such a census would have been a massive undertaking; it could have started under one ruler and emerged under another, to whose name it became attached. This is one possibility to explain the data. Another is that Quirinius, who became governor in Syria for the later census, may have been merely an administrator for this census.

[7] Aramaic paraphrases of the OT originating in the last few centuries BC, and committed to writing about AD 500. See F.F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments, Fleming H. Revell Co., Westwood, p. 133, Rev. Ed. 1963; Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1982; W. Ramsay, Bearing of Recent Discoveries on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, Baker, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 223 ff, 1953.

[8] Nigel Turner, Grammatical Insights into the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1966), 23-24, edem, Syntax, 32. Also, New Testament scholar N.T. Wright points out that πρώτος (prōtos) not only means “first”, but when followed by the genitive can mean “before” (cf. Jn. 1:15, 15:18). Cf. N.T. Wright, Who was Jesus, SPCK, Great Britain, p. 89, 1992. This book is an excellent critique by a New Testament scholar of the three recent anti-Christian books: 1) Barbara Thiering, Jesus the Man: A New Interpretation from the Dead Sea Scrolls; 2) A.N. Wilson, Jesus, Sinclair-Stevenson, London, 1992; 3) J.S. Spong, Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Birth of Jesus, HarperSanFrancisco, 1992.

[9] W. Ramsay, Bearing of Recent Discoveries on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, Baker, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 222, 1953.

[10] For detailed positive evaluations of this historico-critical problem online, see http://www.tektonics.org/af/censuscheck.html and


[11] Ex. 14:31; 1 Sam. 12:18; 1 Kings 18:3; 1 Chron. 16:25; Psa. 47:2; 76:11; 96:4; Jon. 1:16; Mal. 1:14, 3:16.

[12] Strack and Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch., Vol. II, 113.

[13] I am in no way disparaging those who live in mobile homes with this observation. I am simply pointing to the fact that just as people are stereotypically mislabeled today by the conditions they live and work by other sinful people who think they are better off materially, so it was with the field shepherds in 1st century Palestine.

[14] William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary on Luke, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1978), 149.

[15] fobei/sqe is the present middle imperative 2nd person plural (deponent) verb from

[16] This phrase in verse 14, “Glory to God in the highest” is what has been traditionally known as the Gloria in Excelsis Deo, translated from the old Latin Vulgate Bible. See footnote at Luke 2:14 in the NASB Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 1463.

[17] Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, (Stuttgart, Germany: German Bible Society, 1994), 111.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Hendriksen, 156.

[20] Ibid., 158.

[21] Walter L. Liefeld, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, Luke, 847.

posted by Dusman at 1:28 PM

Piedmont Freethought Association PFA Atheist Greensboro Athiest site Atheist Group Athiest Yahoo Group
Eric Harrington Eric Harrington Eric Harrington Eric Harrington Eric Harrington Eric Harrington Eric Harrington Eric Harrington Eric Harrington Piedmont Freethought Association Piedmont Freethought Association Piedmont Freethought Association Piedmont Freethought Association Piedmont Freethought Association Piedmont Freethought Association Piedmont Freethought Association Piedmont Freethought Association Piedmont Freethought Association

No comments: