Tag Archive: advent


Living in Peace

In my recent Advent devotionals, I have been concentrating on the concept of peace, which is closely associated with the coming of the Savior. This is not the kind of peace we normally think of in this world. This term describes the state of being free of condemnation before God and, therefore, enjoying all of His blessings in this life and the next through His Son, Jesus Christ.

We considered the promise of peace made by the prophet Isaiah in which he describes a cosmic transformation of the nature of this fallen world. And one of the issues on which he concentrates in his prophecy is the piece that Christ will bring to mankind when He arrives. That peace, in fact, will dramatically affect the way in which people treat one another and, in time, have significant influence on the whole human race.

In the second devotional, we looked at the declaration of peace found in Luke’s Gospel. As he reported on the birth of Christ, Luke included a wonderful story about shepherds who were visited by an angel out in the fields one night. The culmination of that announcement, during which the single angel was joined by a myriad of others, was that declaration of peace on earth as a result of the Baby’s recent birth. Once again, the worldwide impact is emphasized in the announcement made by the heavenly beings.

In the third devotional, we looked at the means of peace, also described in Luke’s account. Through an obscure figure, a man named Simeon, and for the first time in the birth narrative, the coming struggle between good and evil, between heaven and hell, was mentioned as this man spoke a short word regarding the future of the Baby Jesus. His coming would result in building up and tearing down, in salvation and condemnation. By declaring the Word of God to the world and offering Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of His people, the Savior would bring about the peace promised by Isaiah in the peace declared by the angels.

Today, we want to look at some statements from Jesus Himself concerning this matter of peace. We’re going to consider one statement made by Him before the cross and one made by Him after the cross.

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Before commenting on this statement, I want to establish the context. At the end of chapter 13, Jesus has a brief exchange with the apostle Peter. The Savior has indicated to His disciples that He soon will be leaving them. Jesus commands His disciples to distinguish themselves by their love for one another. He declares that “all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (13:35) Peter’s mind, however, seems to be focused on the coming departure of the Lord. Without commenting on the Savior’s admonition regarding love for one another, Peter asked: “Lord, where are You going?” He is told that he cannot follow the Savior, yet Peter insisted, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for you.” At that point, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial that will take place when the Savior is arrested.

This is the background going into chapter 14 where the tone of the Lord’s remarks changed immediately to that of great comfort and encouragement. He knows that His disciples are troubled as they contemplate what He has just revealed to them. He urges them, nevertheless, to remain faithful. And He promises that He will go to prepare a place for them and, one day, receive His disciples to Himself so they might be with Him forever.

As this dialogue continues, Jesus assures His disciples that they are destined to do great things in service to Him and His kingdom. He again asserts the necessity of love manifested between them so that they might prove that they are, indeed, His followers. It is then that Jesus makes them aware of the Helper that will be sent from heaven to dwell with them and enable them to serve honorably and effectively. Immediately after the promise of the Holy Spirit, Jesus speaks the words found in verse 27.

Imagine how anti-climactic this statement from Jesus would be if He were simply referring to peace as the world typically thinks of peace. He is not promising the end of their personal struggles with one another, nor is the Savior promising that they will have a life of political tranquility. He is declaring to the disciples that they will live and serve within the context of a loving and eternal relationship with Him and His Father in heaven. This spiritual peace, as we have seen in previously, is directly tied to the fact that their accounts will be settled with God. They will be able to live out their days knowing that they are part of God’s redeemed family and that truth would provide them with confidence, determination, and purpose. They will be able to do wonderful things, just as Jesus predicted before, because they will be servants of the Most High. They will know His benevolence, mercy, provision, protection, and forgiveness.

With this truth firmly established in their hearts, the disciples could go forth and live triumphantly regardless of obstacles that they might encounter in the days and years to come. No matter what they face, they will be forever secure in the hands of God. Knowledge of this would be the source of contentment and courage as they set forth to build the kingdom of Christ. Nothing they encounter will shake their standing before God and nothing will be able to change the bonds of love between them, the Savior, and the Father, which Jesus will soon attain.

During this past year, how many times has your heart been troubled? How many times have you been fearful due to unpleasant or unexpected circumstances? Listen to what the Savior says after making this promise of peace to His disciples: “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” This was not just wishful thinking on Christ’s part. He was not simply trying to rally His troops in light of the coming ordeal of the cross. Jesus is telling His followers that they will know spiritual harmony and they will know the kind of security with God that is based in His sovereign nature and omnipotence. And they will live with this knowledge regardless of what this world throws at them, regardless of what challenges come their way, and regardless of what the enemies of the Savior might threaten or do.

When your heart is troubled, when your heart is fearful, this is where you turn. You turn to these wonderful declarations of our peace with God in Christ Jesus. You turn to these promises made by Jesus Himself before He went to the cross to pay for your sins and to remove the enmity between you and God. The peace that Jesus attained for us is a magnificent gift that we so desperately need to grasp and cherish in this sinful world. We will not escape trials, nor will we escape many painful episodes during our lifetime. But there is nothing, regardless of how painful or ferocious or cleverly designed by our adversary, that can disrupt our peace with God. This is a truth to which we should turn frequently, especially during those times when we grow weary or feel like we are going to be undone even as we attempt to live lives of honor and glory before God.

John 20: 19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

Once again let’s give our attention to the context of these verses. The 20th chapter of the Gospel of John records the event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. John begins his report by telling us that Mary Magdalene made her way to the tomb of the Savior early that Sunday morning. While it was still dark, she arrived and discovered that the stone covering the entrance to the burial site had been removed. Mary’s assumption was that someone had taken the body of the Lord. This prompted Peter and John to run to the tomb to investigate what they were been told. They too found that the body of Jesus was no longer there.

Just as Mary explained to two angels that she was weeping because her Lord had been taken away, Jesus appeared before her. At first, Mary did not know it was Jesus, but when He called her by name, she recognized the voice of her Savior and began clinging to Him. After that, Mary made her way to the disciples and announced that she had seen the Lord and that he had sent a message to them, which she repeated. This is where our passage appears. Jesus has been to the cross, has suffered, has surrendered His life for the sake of His people, and has now been raised from the dead in triumph over death itself.

Still coping with the astonishing developments of that Sunday morning, John tells us that toward the end of the day, the disciples had taken refuge and were, in essence, hiding for fear of the Jews. Obviously, the disciples suspected that the Jews might now begin rounding up the followers of Christ, especially if they could use the excuse that these men had stolen the body of Jesus. The boldness and the discernment that will come to characterize these men soon enough is not yet present. But as they pondered recent events, “Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”

What is the one thing that the frightened disciples needed at that very moment? They needed to have their hearts calmed the by the manifestation of God’s peace. And that is what Jesus announced to them. He had accomplished His mission and the peace that He promised was now theirs to enjoy. How strange it would be to continue in the fear of man when your Savior has just overcome death itself! The disciples needed to hear Jesus make that declaration. They needed to know that He was no longer dead, which meant that no earthly power or spiritual authority could bring Christ into subjection. On the contrary, He has just demonstrated that He has all power and all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, the only acceptable state in which His disciples could now exist was that of peace—peace with God.

Having pronounced peace upon them, the text says that Jesus then “show them both His hands and His side.” He proved to His disciples that He was indeed their Master, the One crucified upon the cross, taken down after giving up His life, and laid in the tomb. That tomb was now empty because He lived again. Realizing that this was, indeed, their risen Lord, the disciples rejoiced, John tells us. Can you comprehend the astonishment that must have filled the heart of the disciples? They must have been gloriously perplexed as they processed the truth of Christ’s victory over death. They must have believed and yet continued to wonder how such a thing could be. Their souls overflowed with gladness even as they continued to gaze upon the Savior in elated amazement.

John tells us that Jesus spoke again: “Peace be with you; as a Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And here we see another dimension of the peace that Christ attained for His disciples. They will soon go forth, not to return to their previous lives, but to continue the work of the Savior. The peace that Christ has established between them and God will now allow them to become His servants on the earth. Because of the atonement, these disciples are fit to become instruments in the hands of God as He continues to reveal His plan of redemption to the world.

Once they were enemies of God and doomed, but now they are children of God and destined to spend eternity in His comfortable presence. That which made such a dramatic alteration of their standing before God was the death and resurrection of Christ, facts that had now been confirmed before their very eyes. Before they faced the wrath of God, but now they will be enveloped in the love of God. Before they were worthless to the cause of truth and righteousness, but now they are going to become the heralds of God’s truth and righteousness.

Let me assure you, that it is no different for you. Because of what Christ did for you, you are no longer at enmity with God, but are now His beloved son or daughter. Because of what Christ did for you, you are no longer unable and unwilling to serve God, but are now able and eager to honor God with all your mind and all your strength. Because Jesus has made peace between you and God, you not only can serve Him, but you can serve His purposes for the rest of your days. Jesus took that which was dead and gave it life. Jesus took that which was spiritually corrupted and made it pure. Jesus took that which had no use in the kingdom of God and made it a precious treasure in the eyes of the King. That is what Jesus did for you and that is the truth in which you must ground your thinking day after day so that you are not undone by self-doubt or criticism or failure or fear.

Do not live a life full of apprehension, live a life characterized by confidence. Do not live a life that is unsteady and wavering, live a life that manifests stability and certainty. In other words, as you continue through this season of commemorating the birth of our Savior, commit yourself to a life grounded in daily evidences of that which He secured for us, even eternal peace with God.

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The Means of Peace

This is the third study in my Advent Devotionals. First, I examined The Promise of Peace as presented by Isaiah; second, I looked at the Declaration of Peace, as recorded by Luke in his account of the shepherds visited by the angels; and now, I consider The Means of Peace, also found in Luke’s account of the birth of Christ.

In a recent study, I mentioned that one of the primary themes associated with the coming of Christ is peace. We considered one of Isaiah’s prophecies in which he said the Child to come would bring peace, restoration, and reconciliation to the whole world. In another devotional, we looked at a passage in Luke’s Gospel in which angels announced the birth of that Child; and one of the truths they emphasized was the arrival of peace in the Person of the Savior. In fact, everything associated with the birth of Christ carries this same encouraging tone—peace, relief, return to God, forgiveness of sins, and hope. Both before He came and after He was born, the Savior’s arrival was interpreted as the dawning of an age of peace and gladness.

After finding the Child and relating their experience, the last thing we read about the shepherds in Luke’s account is that they went on their way “glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen.” (2:20) And this is where Luke jumps ahead a week in his report and records that the Baby was given the name “Jesus,” according to the instructions of the angel who visited Mary. In our retelling and rehearsals, this is where the recounting of the Savior’s birth often stops.

At this point, all who know of the Savior’s birth are thankful and happy. But there is a bit of news about to be introduced into this story and it will completely change the tone. Some news is going to be announced that will require people to rethink the future and the ultimate reason for this Child’s birth.

In vv. 21 and following, we find Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus coming to the temple where they encounter a man named Simeon.

Luke 2:21 And 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. 22 And 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 “), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS.” 25 And 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. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Simeon was a Jew who faithfully attended to his religious duties. He is introduced in such a manner that his spiritual devotion is highlighted. (v. 25) Notice that Luke says that the “Holy Spirit was upon [Simeon].” This statement is made of few people in the Bible. The fact that it is made of this rather obscure figure in Luke 2 is intriguing. Simeon obviously walked with God and knew fellowship with God. In the plan of God, Simeon had one primary task to perform and that task was associated with the birth of the Messiah. Simeon was appointed to make a declaration that would provide balance to the world’s understanding of the Messiah’s mission. He is going to speak words that point to something else that is to come, something beyond the birth of the Messiah.

Given this description of Simeon, we are not surprised to hear that he was concerned for the spiritual condition of his people. Luke writes that Simeon “was looking for the consolation of Israel.” This phrase has a particular meaning; at that point in history, it referred to the redemption that would come with the dawning of the Messianic era. The “consolation” would be the Messiah’s arrival and rescue of the Jews. This brief statement tells us that the chief desire of Simeon’s life was to see the arrival of God’s promised Redeemer. He was one of the devoted Jews who continued to believe God’s promise of a Deliverer. He hoped it would come in his day, of course, and so it did.

The most unusual element of this story is revealed when Luke tells us that “it had been revealed to [Simeon] by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” (v. 26) Simeon knew, therefore, that the Messiah would appear soon; he knew for certain that the redemption for which his people had waited was about to be manifested. We have no idea how long before this event Simeon had received this information. We can be sure, however, that his life had been affected by it.

At the time when Joseph and Mary came to the Temple, Simeon was moved by the Spirit to enter as well:

27 And 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, 28 then 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; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel.” 33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 34 And 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– 35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul– to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

This was, of course, a Divinely-arranged encounter and the purpose of this encounter, as I indicated, was so that an announcement might be made that would complete the prophesied picture of the Messiah’s ministry. Simeon, as I noted, is going to reveal an aspect of Christ’s ministry that is emphasized elsewhere, is certainly discernible when we consider Christ’s work, but which is, nevertheless, frequently overlooked when it comes to commemorating the Messiah’s arrival. This announcement has to do with how this Savior will bring peace to the earth. Isaiah promised the peace, the angels announced the peace to the shepherds, but so far, the means of that peace, or how that peace will be achieved, has not been revealed.

It appears that Simeon recognized the child of Joseph and Mary as the promised Messiah. Luke records that Simeon took the boy into his arms, blessed God and began to praise Him (v. 28). The very issue that had occupied Simeon’s thoughts and prayers, that being the consolation of his people, now had become the focal point of human history with the arrival of the Christ-Child.

Having taken the Child into his arms and having realized that this was the Messiah that God promised and that the people of God had looked for throughout their history, Simeon declares that he now is ready to depart from this world because God had fulfilled His promise and his eyes had seen the Christ (v. 29). As God’s servant he had witnessed the arrival of the Savior. He was ready to rest in death assured that redemption had come.

Luke tells us about the reaction of Mary and Joseph; they were “amazed at the things which were being said about [Jesus]” (v. 33) As had happened before, they heard unusual remarks made about their Baby. Simeon understood the advent of the Messiah as a glorious event for which he offered praise to God. The things that he had said up to this point caused joyful amazement in the hearts of Joseph and Mary. However, Simeon’s tone changes and he paints a distressing picture of Christ’s destiny. From Simeon’s perspective, not only did the Messiah’s birth mark the beginning of salvation, it also signaled the beginning of turmoil: “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (vv. 34, 35)

Earlier, I referred to the prophecy of Isaiah. That prophet predicted that a revolutionary process would take place in the world. He said it would begin with the birth of this Child. The world would come under His increasing dominion until He ruled over the whole earth, the prophet taught. Obviously, the coming of the Messiah represented a disruption of sin’s dominion and influence in this world. This disruption and realignment would, by necessity, involve human beings and would mean that their lives would be disturbed, to put it mildly. This aspect of the Messiah’s coming is what Simeon mentions in his last few words.

Simeon declares, “This Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel; and for a sign to be opposed…” (v. 34) The coming of the Messiah manifested the love of God as His plan of redemption continued to unfold, but it also marked the beginning of a process of separation. Some in Israel would be attracted to the Messiah while others would reject Him. Christ would be the cause of a division in the nation and, ultimately, of course, in mankind.

What Simeon predicted is precisely what has unfolded in history. Some have found forgiveness and everlasting life in Jesus, and others have encountered condemnation and everlasting death. There is no neutrality where Jesus Christ is concerned. The Scripture plainly declares that “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36) For some, therefore, the arrival of the Messiah meant condemnation.

This is Simeon’s message in Luke 2. The coming of the Messiah meant joy, of course, for those who longed for His coming and for those who had remained faithful to God; but the coming of the Messiah meant judgment for others who took pleasure in sin. Without Jesus, the day when we all stand before God to take responsibility for our lives will be a day of absolute horror. To stand in the pure light of Deity without Jesus to shield you will scorch a man down to the very center of his soul. No one will escape and no one, except those standing with Jesus, will receive mercy.

That elderly man was predicting that some men would oppose God’s Messiah and work against Him. What Jesus Christ represented and what He had to say would cause many to despise Him. He would cause the true intent of men’s hearts to be revealed. For the first time in the birth narrative, the coming struggle and suffering of Jesus Christ are mentioned. The fact that these elements are mentioned even at the birth of the Christ-Child emphasizes that a significant portion of His ministry would be concerned with disrupting mankind.

Simeon concludes his remarks with a special word for Mary: “and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (v. 35) She would experience deep sorrow over the treatment given to her Son. His coming would cause there to be a revelation of the hearts of all. As we know from a later Biblical record, Mary did, indeed, live to see her Son hated and rejected and nailed to a cross upon which He died.

We know that the Messiah has come. All of the prophecies made concerning Christ’s arrival have been fulfilled and we are living in the days envisioned by the prophets. The coming of the Christ no longer is a promise, it is an accomplished fact of history. His work in this world has begun and the Church is evidence of the progression of that work. The coming of the Messiah means salvation. It means that a payment for our sin has been made and we are reconciled to God. These truths are cause for excitement, optimism, and thanksgiving. Give thanks to God for your salvation even as you pray for the world to embrace the Savior.

Previously, I noted that the work of redemption is described in various ways in the Bible. The primary theme associated with the ministry of Christ, however, is peace. Before He came, the prophets described peace as one of the leading characteristics of His reign as our Redeemer-King. While on earth, Jesus frequently spoke of peace as He taught His disciples and, on occasion, strangers. In the epistles, we find this same theme expounded upon.

The lack of peace between God and man is traceable, as we know, to man’s fall in the Garden; that incident set the human race on a course of conflict—conflict with God, of course, but also conflict with one another. This latter issue is described by God when He confronts our first parents and the serpent. The LORD says that two lines will come forth from the woman—the line of the Deliverer and the line of the serpent. They will engage in continuing battle until the serpent’s head is crushed by the One who will be sent into the world from heaven.

The coming of the Savior is often described as the arrival of peace, the cessation of conflicts, and the end of hostility throughout God’s creation. The Lord’s appearance is seen as a restoration of the harmony that once characterized God’s creation. In the Savior, fallen man is reconciled to God and enjoys peace once more.

Please read Luke 2:1-20

In the first seven verses of Luke 2, we are given a brief account of Christ’s birth. Luke merely gives us a broad description of the circumstances in which the Child was born. In response to an order by the Romans, Joseph made his way to Bethlehem in order to register for a census (vv. 1-4). Luke adds that Joseph was accompanied by Mary who was engaged to him and who was “with child.” (v. 5) Nothing else is said to establish the context for what is about to take place.

We know from other portions of Scripture that Joseph is aware that Mary has conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and he knows that she is carrying the Christ. After this limited introduction, Luke writes:

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

One issue of inconvenience for Joseph and Mary was the fact that they could not secure a normal hotel room due to the fact that the city was filled with visitors who had come to register for the census. But the truth is, God arranged this context for the birth of the Christ.

Think of all the wonderful descriptions of Christ that we find in the Bible. Think of all the wonderful things said about Him—what He would be and what He would do; think of the fact that previous generations had hoped in Him, had prayed for His coming, and had been kept from despair by the mere thought that someday the Messiah would come into the world.

The fact that Mary and Joseph did not have a typical place to spend the night is attributable to something more than the overcrowding of the city due to the census. Through His prophets, the LORD declared that the circumstances of the Savior’s birth would emphasize His humble character. God appointed these circumstances and this time so that His Son would come into the world in a manner fitting for a Servant.

But let’s also remember a few other things, such as God’s declaration that the One to come would crush the head of the serpent and destroy his works. And remember God’s dramatic judgment of sin in Noah’s day to demonstrate that righteousness would yet triumph (and thus the promise of a Deliverer was kept alive).

Recall God’s words to Abraham in which that patriarch heard of a world-wide blessing to be brought by the Savior; and the days of Moses, the people were reminded with every sacrifice—especially the annual sacrifice for the nation on the day of atonement—that a great and powerful Savior would one day come and accomplish in reality what was pictured in the types of the Levitical system.

Remember how the coming Savior was presented in David’s day—as a beautifully arrayed and victorious Warrior-King; and think back to Isaiah’s incredible description of the work of the Messiah. He would bring light to those sitting in darkness; He would bring peace to the world; He would have all authority and He would be God in the flesh.

Keeping all that in mind, keeping in mind the magnificent buildup that the Messiah has had over the centuries, keeping in mind what His coming meant to mankind, listen again to Luke’s words: “6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And 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.”

The Baby referred to is that One promised by God, explained to Abraham, pictured in Israel’s religious services, described by David as a stunning and mighty King, and presented by Isaiah as Ruler of the earth! And here He is being born in a stable—not a palace, not even in a home; and being wrapped in cloths, not garments of royalty.

And yet—and here is one of the unique truths about the Christian faith—this is perfectly in keeping with everything we have learned about the Messiah. How can that be? It is so because the information given to us prior to this event describes a King of a different kind and a Ruler of a different authority and a Captain of a different army. This One comes to accomplish a great feat, but not through the means normally employed in this world.

From the moment of His birth to the day of His death, Jesus displayed meekness. This Savior comes to rule by submitting to Another and gain the conquest by surrendering Himself. This is God’s Messiah, not the world’s version; this is the One who saves from sin and gives eternal security, not one who merely delivers from temporal threats. This is the Christ, the Savior of our race and Luke’s portrayal of His humble beginning is completely in keeping, as I said before, with the image we have throughout the Old Testament.

After telling us the most basic facts about the circumstances of the Savior’s birth, Luke continues and describes the announcement that was made on that night. Somewhere outside the town of Bethlehem, there were certain shepherds (v. 8). These men had settled in for the night; their animals were resting and they, no doubt, would soon take turns sleeping and keeping watch over the flock.

On this night, everything appeared routine. In fact, everything seemed routine throughout the whole world. There were no celebrations because no one knew what was happening. However, heaven knew was happening and Luke tells us about heavenly beings who made an announcement regarding the Savior’s birth:

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. 10 But 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; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

One second, these shepherds were enjoying a quiet evening after a long day of hard work; they were preparing for the night watch. The next second, however, the area is filled with the purest light they have ever seen and an angel is speaking to them. They had never had such an experience. They were simple men, men of no renown.

Yet, they were the perfect candidates to be the first to hear of the Messiah’s birth. He, too, will be a Shepherd. He will be judged as a Man of no renown in the eyes of the world; He will know what it is to labor and to care for those around Him. He, too, will have a flock—the very elect of God—and He will love them and tend to them and even give Himself for them. So it is entirely fitting for these shepherds to have this announcement made to them.

The fear felt by the shepherds was only momentary and what they heard from the angel immediately vanquished any dread. “Do not be afraid,” he said, and he had good reason to make that statement! The Savior, the Son of David, had been born in the city of David, just a short distance away! They must have been instantly overwhelmed with various impulses—confusion, curiosity, hopefulness.

The shepherds, no doubt still dumbfounded, are then told how to find this Savior (v. 12) and the scene then changes as “there appeared with the angel 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.’” (v. 13) The magnificence of this moment grows now as the announcing angel is joined by a host of others and together they praise the LORD. This must have been an astonishing sight—the night sky filled with angels singing to God.

This scene ends with the shepherds determining to go straight into Bethlehem to find this Christ-Child. And, just as they had been told, they found the Baby lying in a manger (v. 16). Naturally, as Luke tells us, the shepherds related their recent experience with the angels (v. 17). As they related this news, “all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.” (v. 18)

Luke specifically mentions Mary among those who listened to the shepherds’ report (v. 19). She heard these men state that her Baby was the Messiah, the Savior promised and anticipated. Here, we are told that she “treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” The idea in the Greek is not simple astonishment, but holy wonderment and, further, the notion is that Mary kept going over these elements in her mind.

Finally, the shepherds are on their way, “glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen.” (v. 20) And this is where Luke ends his report on the birth of the Savior. The peace promised has been declared.