Just over 2,000 years ago a few simple shepherds became the first to encounter Jesus as a man. They were as far away from God as you can be, but when they encountered Jesus that first Christmas day, they responded with child-like faith, and immediately began to make the glory of God known to everyone else. It’s ironic that the shepherds, who were not allowed to testify in a Jewish court of law, were the first humans to testify of Jesus’ birth. You know the Christmas story – you’ve heard it, read it, sang about it, listened to sermons about it, watched TV specials about it. But the question this Christmas is, “Have you embraced Jesus as truth?” If you have, what is stopping you from going out and unreservedly make His glory known?
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” Luke 2:15-18
How would you have planned the announcement of Jesus’ birth?
Read Luke 2:15-18. Shepherds were poor, lower-class people in their society, despised by religious Jews, and, as Aaron said on Sunday, smelly J. Why do you think God chose them to be the first ones to hear the good news of Emmanuel, God with us?
What do you think the shepherds found most incredible about their experience?
What did the shepherds do after meeting Jesus?
In response to the shepherd’s testimony, Luke 2:18 states that “all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them”. What do you think people found so amazing – the various aspects of the story itself, or the fact that it was the shepherds sharing it with them?
Read Matthew 2:1-12. Compare the experience of the shepherds with that of the magi. How did the signs and responses differ? What significance, if any, do you find in the differences of the encounters?
Jesus is “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:16). All things in earth are held together by Him (Colossians 3:16-17). Yet for our sake, He, “in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7). Read Hebrews 4:15-16 and discuss how having a Savior who is “just like we are” (but without sin), willing to come to earth as a baby, will impact your celebration of Christmas this year.
How can you renew your enthusiasm for the message of Jesus’ birth so that it makes a difference throughout the year?
What does your passion (or lack of passion) to tell others about Jesus and what He’s done in your life say about your relationship with Him?
Aaron shared on Sunday that if you are near to God, remember how far off you once were; how you were dead in your transgressions, you were an enemy of God, a child of wrath. Each day this week, spend time thanking God for the wonderful gift of Jesus and for the joyous fact that He led you to make room for Him in your heart. Pray that others may come to know the same peace and joy that you have experienced. Ask God for the passion to make Jesus known with no hesitation, just as the shepherds did.
God wants to be found. He did not come to earth to play a game of hide and seek…His birth was announced, and His glory revealed, in a spectacular way by angels to shepherds. Their first reaction, fear, is removed by the revelation of God’s glory, and is exchanged for joy. Jesus – Savior, Messiah, and Lord – is among us!
10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” Luke 2:10-14
What was your favorite Christmas tradition as a child?
Read Luke 2:10-14. What does the angel’s announcement tell you about Christ and what His coming meant to the world?
There is a common reaction of fear in the Christmas story (Luke 1:12, 29-30, 1:65 [KJV], 2:9-10). Is any of this fear constructive or appropriate? Could or should fear be a healthy part of your spiritual life?
The good news that will cause great joy for all the people is still the same today. In the midst of a busy Christmas season, how can you more fully appreciate the joy God brings this time of year? How can you reflect the joy God brings to those around you?
Read the following passages and note how God’s glory is revealed. What do you imagine it would be like to see the full glory of God?
- Exodus 40:33-35
- Psalm 19:1
- Isaiah 6:3
- Matthew 24:29-31
- John 17:1-5
- Hebrews 1:3
What do you believe most people think about when they hear, “and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests”?
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” on Christmas Day in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War. The second verse of the poem laments, “And in despair I bowed my head ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.” The angels announced peace at Jesus’ birth, but we are obviously not experiencing ‘world peace’. What kind of peace did Jesus bring?
Do you have peace with God?
- If your answer is “no”, consider how God has offered to reconcile you to Himself. Are you willing to accept His gift of peace this Christmas season? If so, “…Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans 10:9-10
- If your answer is “yes”, what are you doing to spread the good news? Ask God for the opportunity and the boldness to share about the gift of His Son with at least one person this Christmas.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
Read the entire Christmas story in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1:1-2:40 (including the genealogy in Luke 3:23-38). Note the differences in the story between Matthew and Luke. What do you think the differences in the accounts say about the writer and the audience?
Read the following passages and list the prophecy fulfilled. What do these fulfillments of prophecy lead you to conclude about God’s sovereignty over nature, people, and world events?
|OT Passage||Prophecy||NT Passage||Fulfilment of Prophecy|
A Charlie Brown Christmas contains one of the greatest speeches a cartoon ever gives. J When Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!”, Linus responds, “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” He then quotes the King James Version of Luke 2:8-14: “And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.” Luke 2 is the well-known and still powerful story of the glory of God becoming Emmanuel, God with us.
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Luke 2:8-9
Who is the most famous person you’ve met? What was your reaction when you met them?
Read Luke 2:8-9. What stands out to you in these two verses?
Why do you think that God announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds instead of more ‘significant’ people (see Micah 5:2, 1 Corinthians 1:27-28)?
Discuss as a group what you think the word “glory” means. Look it up in a dictionary; do you think this definition fits with your definition of glory? Why or why not?
Why did “the glory of the Lord” shining around them terrify the shepherds?
On Sunday, David spoke about the differences between the Old Testament concept of glory and the New Testament concept of glory. Write down what you remember about those differences. Read some or all of the verses listed to help with your answers.
- OLD TESTAMENT: Exodus 16:10, 24:17, 29:43-46, 33:18-23, 1 Samuel 4:21-22, 2 Chronicles 7:1-3, Ezekiel 10:4-5,18-19
- NEW TESTAMENT: John 1:14, 17:20-23, 2 Corinthians 3:9-18, Colossians 1:27, 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 Hebrews 1:1-4
Read Hebrews 12:28-29. Does knowing more about the God’s glory encourage you to “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe?” What do you think this means practically for you?
Take some time this week to mediate on passages about the glory of God. Use some of the ones above, or look ones up yourself. Spend time in awe of the One who loved you so much that He came to earth as a baby to live and die for you.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
There is some debate about whether Luke 2:9 says “the” angel of the Lord or “an” angel of the Lord. Read the following scripture passages: Genesis 16:13-16, 22:12-15, 31:11, 32:30, 48:16, Exodus 3:2-6, Judges 6:22, Judges 13:21-22. Do you think it makes a different what the article is before the word “angel”?
Read the following passages and note the response in each encounter with the angel of the Lord. What do you think your response would be?
- Exodus 3:6
- Judges 6:22-23
- Judges 13:21-22
- Luke 1:11-12
Read Isaiah 60:1-3. What are some ways that you can “arise, shine” so that your light reflects God’s glory?