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Sunday School Lessons

Give Glory to God

ST.LUKE 2:8-20

December 21, 2014

 

GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST

 

BIBLE BASIS:ST.LUKE 2:8-20

 

BIBLE TRUTH:The angels announced the birth of the Savior and a multitude of the heavenly host praised God.

 

MEMORY VERSE:READ – Luke 2:20

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Describe how God’s glory was revealed in the story of the Bethlehem shepherds.

 

2. Compare and contrast the reactions of first-century individuals and groups regarding the news of Christ’s birth with each other and with modern reactions.

 

3. Commit to sharing one’s own wonder at the birth of Christ with an unbeliever.

 

Focal Verses

Luke 2:8-20

 

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

 

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

 

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

 

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

 

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men.

 

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

 

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

 

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

 

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

 

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

 

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

 

Key Verse

 

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. —Luke 2:20

 

 

Introduction

 

A. Baby Portrait: Awesome and Lowly

 

People love baby pictures. Announce that a baby has been born, and people will immediately ask, “Do you have pictures?” We carry them in our wallets and purses. We share them through social media. We frame and hang them in our homes.

 

Years later we look at those pictures and ask ourselves, “Was he ever really that small?” “When did she get all grown up?” We hold in our minds the contrast between the tiny, helpless baby and the growing child or grown adult that the baby has become.

 

The story of Jesus’ birth can call up similar feelings. When we think of the infant Jesus at Christmas, we are awestruck that God was entering the world in that child. The Creator chose to enter His creation as a human baby, one as weak and vulnerable as any other. That baby grew up in a lowly setting to demonstrate amazing power that could belong only to God. Yet He also chose to surrender himself to His enemies and die a tortuous death.

 

Today’s text exemplifies this contrast. As we gain in our understanding here, we will move closer to comprehending what God has really done for us through Jesus Christ.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

Our lesson text is part of a much larger story of Jesus’ conception and birth in Luke 1 and 2. Luke weaves this story in with his account of John the Baptist’s conception and birth. Both births were announced by an angel, accomplished by God’s miraculous power, and accompanied by wonders that God performed. Both children were announced to be God’s future instruments. But Jesus stands supreme in this pairing. He is God’s Son (Luke 1:32a), the promised king (1:32b, 33), virgin born (1:35), the Lord (1:43), and the source of the salvation (2:30). To Him alone the glory of God belongs.

 

But as Jesus was born against the backdrop of Roman imperial power, there was another who claimed glory. Caesar ruled much of the world and had ordered it to pay him taxes (Luke 2:1). Some said that the true glory in the world was that of Rome’s political, military, and economic power. Of such glory Jesus and his family had none. Shut out from ordinary living quarters for humans, the newborn Jesus lay in a manger, a feeding trough for animals (2:7).

 

Where was true glory to be found—in the palaces of Caesar or the manger of Bethlehem?

 

I. Exalted Announcement

 

                                                                                  (Luke 2:8-14)

 

A. Quiet Night (v. 8)

 

8. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

 

The scene opens with a sight familiar to all who live in the area. Most people in the biblical world make their living in agriculture, and the herding of sheep and goats is prominent in their economy. Many famous people in Israel’s history were shepherds, including the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as well as the great King David.

 

Yet as common as it is to herd sheep, shepherds receive a measure of scorn from some. Because shepherds commonly stay out at night with their herds, some religious teachers view them with suspicion since nighttime is associated with thievery (compare Jeremiah 49:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:2). At the very least, the commonness of herding sheep does not impart prestige on shepherds.

 

B. Blaze of Glory (vv. 9, 10)

 

9. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

 

To this ordinary scene comes a most extraordinary event. The angel of the Lord is a heavenly messenger of God. This is now the third appearance of an angel in Luke’s story line: Gabriel had announced John the Baptist to be the prophet of the great king (Luke 1:11) and Jesus as the king himself (1:26-33). Now an angel is about to make an announcement to a band of humble shepherds.

 

Luke describes an illumination of the nighttime scene. Such light can come only from God, who calls light into existence (Genesis 1:3). The typical reaction to the appearance of an angel is fear (Judges 6:22, 23; Luke 1:11, 12; Acts 10:3, 4). God’s heavenly messengers express the power and majesty of God, so the shepherds’ reaction of being sore afraid is understandable.

 

10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

 

This heavenly messenger does not come in judgment but in mercy. So he tells the shepherds to fear not (compare Luke 1:13, 30). The angel brings good tidings, like the prophet Isaiah’s promise of good tidings for the suffering people of God (see Isaiah 40:9; 52:7; 61:1). The joyous news is not just for the shepherds but also for all who await the fulfillment of God’s promises.

 

We notice that this glorious message to all people is first given to ordinary, lowly shepherds. God’s glory works that way.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some ways the Christmas season renews your hope? Why is that?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In preparing for the season, at home or church

 

In observing family or church traditions

 

In recalling memories of Christmases past

 

C. Startling Information (vv. 11, 12)

 

11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

 

Birth announcements typically proclaim an addition “to our family” or something similar. This one is different. This announcement is of a birth that is unto you, as if the new baby is of the family or families of the shepherds!

 

The birth has taken place in Bethlehem, but the angel designates the little town as the city of David instead. This is not a secret code, for the shepherds know immediately that the reference is to Bethlehem (see v. 15, below). The angelic designation is a reminder that the birthplace is the home of Israel’s great king, the one to whom God made a promise of a descendant whose throne would endure forever (1 Chronicles 17:11-14). That long-awaited promise is now coming to fulfillment.

 

The angel calls the newborn child a Saviour. We are familiar with that term for Jesus in designating Him as the one who saves from sin. But for the shepherds, this term may sound at first like a title that the Romans give to their successful rulers. But the Scriptures call God the Savior of His people (Isaiah 43:3; Hosea 13:4; etc.). Is this child to be a rival to Caesar for the title of Savior?

 

The angel adds that this Savior is Christ, a Greek word meaning “anointed one”; therefore this is the designation of God’s king. The further designation the Lord expresses supreme authority. Rome insists that Caesar is the only king and lord, but for the people of Israel the true king is none other than God himself (notice the irony in John 19:15). Therefore only God can be rightly called Lord in the ultimate sense. This child brings with Him the authority of God himself!

 

12. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

 

Now comes the great contrast. The announced Savior/Christ/Lord will be identified with a sign indicating which newborn child is the right one. But the sign also indicates the kind of king the child will be. The sign is not that the child is to be found wrapped in swaddling clothes (that is, securely and warmly wrapped with strips of cloth); to be wrapped that way is just normal procedure. A nonbiblical work written a century or two before Jesus reflects this normalcy: “I was nursed in swaddling clothes, and that with cares. For there is no king that had any other beginning of birth” (Wisdom of Solomon 7:4, 5; contrast Ezekiel 16:4). Therefore to be wrapped in swaddling clothes is nothing unique as a sign.

 

The unique sign, rather, is that this child lies in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. No lodging is available for the family (Luke 2:7), so Joseph and Mary have taken shelter with animals, perhaps in one of the caves near Bethlehem used as a stable. The promised king, the powerful Lord and Savior, is born in the lowliest of circumstances!

 

 

What Do You Think?

 

In what format do you find the retelling of the Christmas story especially meaningful? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Children’s Christmas program

 

Christmas Eve service

 

Family gatherings

 

Live nativity scene

 

Television or movie

 

Other

 

D. Angelic Chorus (vv. 13, 14)

 

13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying.

 

The solitary angel is now joined by a great choir of angels. Or more specifically it is an army of angels since the term that is translated host typically refers to armies. Heaven’s army, so much more powerful than any human army, now joins in praise to God for the king who lies in an animal’s feeding trough.

 

14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

 

Who is worthy of glory? Only God—the true God who is sending His Son as a human infant who lies in a manger. God is supreme, above all who pretend to have authority or power. The highest glory can belong only to Him.

 

In sending His Son, God is bringing His supreme blessing to humanity. Earth has been filled with turmoil, violence, and fear ever since our first parents rebelled against God. Now God promises to restore His peace to the troubled earth.

 

For the shepherds living under Roman occupation, the angelic note of praise strikes another contrast. The Pax Romana, or “Roman peace,” is what Rome claims to give its subjects. Now true peace, God’s peace, is near—not through Caesar but through God’s anointed one.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can your church better promote the peace Christ brings?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In distinguishing Christ’s peace from the peace that the world tries to achieve

 

By use of social media

 

Through Christmas programs

 

Other

 

The peace and good will of God, sing the angels, comes to those who submit to the reign of the king whom God is sending. These people have God’s favor. The decision to submit to Christ is what will result in peace.

 

No Aurora Borealis!

 

The year 2012 witnessed what was called “the world’s best light show.” Due to an increase in solar activity, the aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) appeared with greater than usual intensity, as pulsating curtains of color danced across the night sky during February and March. One could sign up for “aurora alarms” to be notified when auroras reached certain levels of visibility. Savvy travel agents marketed cruises to locations where viewing would be optimal.

 

Yet we may safely presume that even the best view of the auroras could not compare with the glory of the Lord on the night of the angelic message. This is sharpened by the fact that the unsophisticated men to whom the angels appeared had never used a telescope, had never seen the sky pierced by searchlights, and had never heard voices or music through electronic amplification. To describe their experience as overwhelming seems so inadequate. No wonder they rushed to the baby (see the next verse)!

 

Our response each Christmas should be the same: hurry to Jesus. To contemplate the wonder of the aurora borealis is a marvelous thing. To embrace the one who created the aurora borealis is infinitely better still. See John 1:3.—V. E.

 

II. Submissive Response

 

                                                                                (Luke 2:15-20)

 

A. Immediate Obedience (v. 15)

 

15. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

 

With the expression it came to pass, the story shifts from the message of the angels to the response of the shepherds. The angels have disappeared; now the shepherds are alone in the scene. They speak in a way that confirms their immediate submission to the angelic message: Let us now go expresses urgency—“We must go!” They affirm their intent to do exactly as the angel has instructed. This reveals trust in the truthfulness of the angel’s message. That message is the Lord’s message.

 

The shepherds as ordinary people have no power, riches, or prestige to lose in recognizing that God’s promised king has come into the world (contrast Mark 10:21, 22). They are ready, eager to see what God has done. They are ready to receive the peace that God is delivering to His people.

 

B. Amazing News (vv. 16-18)

 

16. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

 

The shepherds’ words are confirmed by their actions—they go to Bethlehem as quickly as they can. What the shepherds see is exactly what the angel said they would see. The angelic appearance was not a hallucination. What the shepherds heard predicted by the angel is what they now see with their own eyes.

 

Luke introduced Mary and Joseph earlier as ordinary folk, subject to the whims of those in power. So the two have come to Bethlehem to pay taxes, perhaps on a piece of farmland that Joseph has inherited (Luke 2:1-5, not in today’s text). With no guest lodging available, this humble, devoted pair now make do with other shelter as their newborn lies in a trough used to feed farm animals.

 

The babe lying in a manger is the sign of which the angel spoke. God’s promised king, Christ the Lord, the world’s Savior, is designated by such lowliness. He will not rule like Caesar or any other earthly ruler. He will rule in lowliness, as the servant of all. And it begins here—in a feeding trough.

 

17. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

 

Throughout his two volumes of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, the author emphasizes that when people see what God has done in Christ, they share the news with others (examples: Luke 7:16, 17; Acts 8:4). The angel has brought “good tidings of great joy” to the shepherds (Luke 2:10, above). Now, having seen the child about whom the angel spoke, they feel compelled to tell others. The shepherds are witnesses of what God has just done. There will be many more eyewitnesses in the years ahead regarding Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection.

 

What Do You Think?

 

When were times you had to share good news immediately with others? If none of these involved the message of the gospel, why not?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Among members of your immediate family

 

Among members of your extended family

 

At work or school

 

Other

 

18. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

 

Like others who have heard the stories surrounding the conception and birth of John the Baptist, those who hear the shepherds’ story display wonder at this message (compare Luke 1:65, 66). The people are uncertain about its meaning. Have these shepherds truly seen and heard angels? How can a poor infant sleeping in a feeding trough be God’s promised king? How can anyone so weak challenge the power of Caesar? How can God bring peace to His people by such a means as this?

 

Years later, Jesus’ disciples will wonder whether it is really Jesus who appears before them alive after He dies the death of a criminal on a cross (Luke 24:41). Indeed, God can bring peace to His people by such a means as this! In His Son’s submissive lowliness, His obedience to the mission of the cross, God triumphs over all the powers that hold the world in the grip of evil. It is indeed a wondrous message, but it is a true message.

 

C. Quiet Reflection (v. 19)

 

19. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

 

The best informed of the witnesses is Jesus’ mother, Mary. She had received the angel Gabriel’s first message about the pending birth of her child (Luke 1:26-38). She had heard her cousin Elisabeth’s words exalting her child as “Lord” (1:43-45). Mary had herself praised God for what He was promising to do (1:46-55).

 

But even for Mary, the events are not yet entirely clear. Why does she find herself in a stable? Why do shepherds come in from the fields at night to see her child? How will her child take His place as God’s king? We easily imagine such questions going through Mary’s mind as she struggles to put everything together, to make sense of it all.

 

Luke will later note that Mary keeps memories in her heart of amazing things associated with Jesus’ childhood (Luke 2:51). Her puzzlement will be greatest when, as Simeon will prophesy, her heart is pierced with a sword of grief at Jesus’ death (2:35). Jesus’ death will become the lowest point of His lowly calling that begins in the manger. But the cross is to be answered by the triumph of the resurrection, demonstrating that God is truly victorious through Jesus’ voluntary weakness. This is what Mary and all who follow Jesus must come to understand.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How are you like and unlike others regarding the kinds of experiences you ponder most in your heart? Why is this question important?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

During times when God seems closest (Christmas, personal victories, etc.)

 

During times when God seems distant (personal or national tragedies, etc.)

 

Other

 

A New Interpretive Grid

 

I have a friend named Ron whose background growing up was Reform Judaism. He tells the story of his father’s conversion to Christianity on discovering the love of Jesus. After accepting Christ, the father shared the good news with other family members and even with Ron’s friends.

 

Ron, a teenager at the time, was somewhat annoyed at his father’s zealous new ways. One day when Ron found himself home alone, he decided to get to the bottom of this lifestyle change. He took his father’s Bible and sat down. He read the entire book of Matthew, and, as Ron said, “I just knew it was true.”

 

Some converts like to say that their lives were “wrecked” by God. That is because when we collide with the love of Jesus, we can never go back to business as usual. But in the process of wrecking our old way of seeing life, in destroying our old interpretive grid, God provides us with a new one, a better one.

 

Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, those whom the shepherds told, my friend Ron—all received a new way of looking at life, a new interpretive grid. Like them, we will not comprehend everything at first. Like Mary, we may have to ponder at length. But ultimately our response can be like hers as we treasure every touch from God.—V. E.

 

D. Joyful Celebration (v. 20)

 

20. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

 

The shepherds have made the angel’s message their own. As the angel army praised God, now the shepherds do as well. What the angel had promised, the shepherds have verified. They truly have become witnesses of God’s work.

 

The shepherds’ praise and worship will characterize the lives of Jesus’ followers after His resurrection and ascension (Acts 2:47). The shepherds show no concern regarding their low status in the eyes of the world. God has reached out to them in their lowliness through the lowliness of His Son. That changes all of life, to the glory of God.

 

Conclusion

 

A. Quite a Contrast!

 

The contrast in today’s passage is between the power of the world and the lowliness of the Son of the almighty God. That contrast is the contrast of the ages! If we know Jesus, we can never think of life in the same way again. Life can never be about becoming powerful, wealthy, or important. It can only be about seeking and embracing the lowliness of Jesus Christ, thereby giving our lives in service for the sake of others who need to follow Him as well.

 

Perhaps we feel like shepherds, alone in the night, ignored by others. If so, we can know that the angelic message is for us, that Christ comes for us. We can and should join the shepherds in joyfully sharing that good news.

 

B. Prayer

 

Our mighty, all-powerful God and Father, we are in awe that You sent Your Son into the world in such a lowly estate. We are most of all in awe that in Jesus You gave Your Son in death for us. Empower us to live as reflections of His lowly service that others might hear and believe. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

Share the news!

 

 

How to Say It

 

aurora borealis uh-roar-uh boar-ee-a-lus

 

(a as in mad).

 

Bethlehem Beth-lih-hem.

 

Caesar See-zer.

 

Gabriel Gay-bree-ul.

 

Hosea Ho-zay-uh.

 

Isaiah Eye-zay-uh.

 

Pax Romana(Latin)Pahks Ro-mah-nah.

 

 

Next week lesson December 28 Worship God’s Son Matthew 14:22-36

Devotional Reading: Mark 9:15-24

Background Scripture: Matthew 14:22-36

 

HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS

December 15 - December 21

 

Monday - 1 Chronicles 16:35-41 (Give Thanks to God's Holy Name)

 

Tuesday - 2 Chronicles 5:2-14 (Praising and Thanking God Together)

 

Wednesday - Psalm 19 (The Heavens Proclaim God's Handiwork)

 

Thursday - Psalm 108:1-6 (God's Glory over All the Earth)

 

Friday - Romans 5:1-5 (Our Hope of Sharing God's Glory)

 

Saturday - Luke 2:1-7 (Expecting a Child)

 

Sunday - Luke 2:8-20 (A Savior Born This day)

 

 

 

Kids’ Corner

December 21, 2014

GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST

LESSON SCRIPTURE: LUKE 2:1-20

PRINT: LUKE 2:8-20

Key Verse:The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told to them. Luke 2:20 (NRSV)

 

LUKE 2:8-20 (NRSV)

8   In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

 

9   Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

 

10  But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see —I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:

 

11  to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

 

12  This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth 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 heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

 

15  When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."

 

16  So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.

 

17  When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;

 

18  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.

 

19  But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

 

20  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 

 

LUKE 2:8-20 (KJV)

8   And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

 

9   And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

 

10  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

 

11  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

 

12  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men.

 

15  And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

 

16  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

 

17  And when they had seen it, they  made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

 

18  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by shepherds.

 

19  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

 

20  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

 

 

INTRODUCTION

As we look at the events in today's lesson, we see ordinary life events converge with heavenly plans. Approximately 1000 years (or 14 generations) have passed since King David, Jesus' ancestor, died. Through the experiences of lowly shepherds, men who engaged in the same profession as the Shepherd-King David, we see the realization of God's promises in the Davidic Covenant that David's house, throne and kingdom shall be established before God forever (2 Samuel 7:16). The shepherds were the first to witness this promised birth that was foretold by the prophets, including Jeremiah (23:5; 33:14-16) and Isaiah (11:1). Of all the prophecies, the most revelatory for the purposes of this lesson, is that which God himself delivered directly to David: "When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever" (2 Samuel 7:12-13). Joseph, a carpenter and descendant of King David, and Mary, his espoused wife, are used by God to set his plans in motion.

 

 

BIBLE STORY

A Holy Birth Announcement, Luke 2:8-12

Unparalleled by any human endeavors, the glory of the Lord, as presented in the scriptures, embodies different forms, including fire (Exodus 24:17; Ezekiel 1:27), a cloud (Exodus 16:10) and a bright light (Revelations 21:23). Moses' experience with the burning bush while watching his father-in-law's sheep (Exodus 3:1-5) is one of the most poignant portrayals of human reaction to the glory of God. Nevertheless, in all cases, we see the initial fear followed by humility as the Lord makes his presence known. Likewise, the shepherds, in today's lesson, also responded with fear. God used an angel to focus the shepherds' attention and to allay their fears with an evangelistic message: "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people" (Luke 2:10). After preparing the shepherds, the angel proceeded to announce the long awaited arrival of the Messiah. For added assurance, the angels also told the shepherds where they could find Jesus, and how to identify him.

 

Heavenly Praise and Glory to the Father, Luke 2:13-14

The angel clearly explained the "baby's" identity to the shepherds. This was no ordinary birth! They called him "a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord" (Luke 2:11). Joined by a heavenly choir, the angel proceeded to praise and glorify God, thereby showing the shepherds how they should respond to this good news and the newborn baby (Luke 2:13-14). Fortunately, this same angelic message is there to guide us to praise and glorify God for sending our Savior, Messiah, and the Lord to save us and to bring peace to our lives as well.

 

A Faithful Response, Luke 2:15-20

It is inspiring to see how the shepherd's responded to the visit from the angel and the "Heavenly Host." Luke notes, "They went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger" (Luke 2:16). Apparently, following up on the Good News and being obedient to the angel's bidding was top priority for the shepherds—even more important than their livelihood at that point. They "went with haste." Like the angel, the shepherds became evangelists or good news bearers as they told Mary, Joseph and others about their experience with the angel and what they knew about the baby's identity. "And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them" (Luke 2:18). They continued to emulate the angels as they returned to their sheep by praising and glorifying God. This same evangelistic model will enable us to fulfill our call, as disciples, "to go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15). In summary, the shepherds heard the good news, they responded with haste, they witnessed to others and returned to their flock glorifying and praising God. Undoubtedly, their lives were never the same again, and neither were the lives of those who believed them.

 

LIFE APPLICATION

What is your response to the "good news" this season? An increasing numbers of non-Christians celebrate Christmas as a civil holiday, not a holy day. In 2014, we saw American shopkeepers pushing the Christmas season in August, weeks before Labor Day. Remember when holidays had distinct, rather than overlapping seasons? Labor Day celebrated the end of summer pleasures and ushered in fall. October brought Columbus Day and Halloween. Next came Thanksgiving Day and the beginning of the Christmas holiday season. Now we are inundated with the incessant ringing of Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, and other secular music, along with constant reports on sightings and arrivals of Santa Claus, advertisements for the season's most popular gifts, the most creative decorations and so forth. Although physically, mentally and financially exhausting, these have unfortunately become Christmas icons for many people. Informed Christians, however, know differently, and they see the futility of searching for meaningfulness in Christmas this way. Lost in all of this is the single star shining brightly in the heavenly skies heralding the Savior's birth and the possibility of salvation for the faithful.

 

Today's scriptures add richly to understandings that inspire deeper appreciations for God's faithfulness and unconditional love, as well as Jesus' life and sacrifices for our salvation. As exemplified by Mary and Joseph, the angels and the shepherds, Christmas for Christians is a time for worship. A time when we reflect on the initial responses to Jesus' birth, and gain greater insights into reasons for devoting this season to contemplation on the faithfulness and unconditional love God demonstrated with the birth of Jesus Christ and the joy that awaits those who accept him as Lord and Savior, the Messiah.

 

We can also learn much from reflecting on the "suddenness" with which God manifested himself and fulfilled his plans with Joseph, Mary and the shepherds. The flexibility and obedience with which they responded to God's actions remind us to remain faithful. Although obviously cumbersome and uncomfortable, Joseph and Mary showed great faith and obedience as they dutifully complied with Emperor Augustus' orders by traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register as descendants "from the house and family of David" (Luke 2:4). This was a four-day journey, with an estimated distance of 70-80 miles. While there, the baby was born. Despite the lack of "good accommodations," such as the inn would have provided, they accepted what was available to them and welcomed the new baby in the most accommodating and loving manner possible.

 

With similar attitudes, we see the shepherds respond to unexpected events that interrupted their routines. We can only imagine the darkness of the sky, with only the stars providing light, when suddenly "an angel appeared in their midst, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified" (Luke 2:9). The reaction of the shepherds is one with which we can easily identify for it is common for adults, as well as children, to feel fearful when astonishing events occur. However, just as God did with the shepherds, he will provide us with needed assurances.

 

PRACTICAL POINTS:

1.  God reaches out to the lowliest of people, like the shepherds, who were looked down on by society (Luke 2:8-9).

2.  By choosing to be born in a stable, Jesus demonstrated humility that we can copy (Luke 2:10-12).

3.  We should praise God with the same enthusiasm that the angels use to worship Him (Luke 2:13-14).

4.  Seeing God’s glory should cause us to seek Him more (Luke 2:15).

5.  We should tell other people about the truths God reveals to us (Luke 2:16-17).

6.  We should not stop worshipping simply because exciting spiritual moments have passed (Luke 2:18-20).

 

 

SUMMARY

Despite the distractions created by commercialism and non-Christian activities surrounding Christmas, Christians are to be reminded that this is a holy season, highlighted by the birth of our Messiah. It is also a time to remember that God rewards faithful obedience. Joseph and Mary were favored to be earthly parents of the Messiah. The shepherds were favored to be the first evangelists to carry the good news. Our challenge is to emulate the same levels of faith and obedience, to seek to know and to fulfill the roles and plans God has for our lives.

 

 

Questions

1.  What new thoughts about the way one celebrated the Christmas season have you gained from studying this lesson?

 

2.  How will this lesson affect your observance of this holy season?

 

3.  How would you explain the meaning of Christmas to others?

 

 

CLOSING PRAYER

We thank you, Lord, for loving us so much that you sent Jesus to save us. We thank you for the sacrifices he made, and for the examples you provide to help us live according to your will. We pray that you will strengthen us to be obedient and to quickly respond as we are called to action. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

 

 

Word Search

December 21, 2014

Name________________________

 

GLORY TO GOD

 

C    X    M    T    N    P    L    G    R    K    E    N    P    I    I

V    A    B    E    H    W    R    S    G    C    R    I    X    I    F

C    C    W    C    H    I    L    D    R    O    L    K    E    Z    K

Y    S    E    C    A    E    P    R    B    L    M    G    B    Y    Z

U    K    N    X    S    D    L    E    I    F    J    Y    R    N    J

W    W    A    T    C    H    B    H    O    J    E    A    J    Z    Q

R    L    G    S    E    S    P    P    T    P    M    H    G    U    M

M    G    I    U    F    P    S    E    J    E    L    G    D    K    N

J    N    F    D    J    H    R    H    S    R    B    E    H    B    V

G    H    A    I    F    R    O    S    P    O    D    F    G    U    S

N    P    R    A    I    S    I    N    G    Z    J    X    R    N    E

W    Z    C    R    V    A    V    B    I    B    E    B    P    H    A

L    T    I    F    H    D    A    V    K    G    J    B    C    Y    B

D    E    Z    A    M    A    S    K    B    E    H    E    P    X    P

D    F    Y    Y    I    N    U    S    W    G    P    T    F    U    N

 

AFRAID         AMAZED         ANGEL

BETHLEHEM      BORN           CHILD

FIELDS         FLOCK          JOSEPH

LORD           MARY           MESSIAH

NEWS           NIGHT          PEACE

PEOPLE         PRAISING       SAVIOR

SHEPHERDS      TERRIRIED      WATCH