All was quiet under the stars. The fragrant smell of field grass lingered in the calm cool air. Each pinpoint of light from the distant stars above joined together and pooled into a subtle glow across the sky. Deep darkness fading into the belt of stars was accented by one particular star hanging low and heavy just above the horizon - as if it was hanging from a string. The muted sounds of sheep whispered down the hillside to where the shepherds congregated. Two of the shepherds lounged lazily on the grassy slope. They picked at the blades of grass and pebbles while the others stood above them sharing amusing stories. Each shepherd carried long wooden staffs, crooked and gnarled in their natural shape but worn smooth from years of use. The recent appearance of the star was odd as it seemed so close that it consumed the horizon.
Suddenly the tranquil night sky and grassy hillside exploded with devastating white light as if the sun exploded. The shepherds stumble back and shielded their eyes. Then out of the light, an angel of the Lord stepped forward only a few feet from them. The shepherds fell flat on their faces and trembled in fear.
The angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
The shepherds, although shocked and afraid, rose to their feet together and listened to this supernatural being from Heaven speak to them. They were raised with stories of prophets and miracles, but none could have ever imagined the glory and power from the Lord in this one angel before them.
The angel continued, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
The shepherds listened intently and leaned closer. Again, as suddenly as the angel had appeared moments ago, a multitude of the heavenly hosts were with the angel. The sky opened up and more of Heaven’s glory blasted the poor shepherds. The Heavenly Hosts praised God by saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those whom he is pleased!” Their collective voices stormed down and destroyed the peaceful calm. The hillside was aglow like nothing they had ever seen before.
Then, nothing. The multitude was gone, the angel was gone, the voices were gone, and the shining glory was gone. All was quiet and dark again as if nothing had happened. Sheep scattered about spooked and uneasy and the shepherds knew life would never be the same.
Immediately the shepherds looked and one another and said, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
This is the story found in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 2 verses 8 through 15. It is a story of simple men who were given an amazing message – a message we are given every year at Christmas: “I bring you good news of great joy!”
Good news of great joy? What good news could this be that brings great joy?
It is the message from a loving God who came to earth to redeem us. He came as a baby so that he could live a perfect sinless life while growing to be a man who would obediently be persecuted, beaten, bloodied, nailed to a cross, become sin (the sins of the whole world) and absorb the righteous wrathful judgment of the creator of the universe. His death paid the price for our sins and because of him, those who are in him have become the righteousness of God and will inherit the kingdom of God as heirs and brothers with he who died for us.
” Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
2 Corinthians 5:21
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Now, this is a message of great joy. Will we be like the shepherds who ran to Jesus after they received the message?