Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

Molalla, Oregon

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The Humble See God

December 14th, 2008 by Vic

Luke 2:8-20

If you could see the invisible what would you see? (The kingdom of God)

At Christmas, eternity became visible in time. The celestial intersected the common. Reality appeared in the shadow of time. God made Himself known to man in a new way. Heaven visibly appeared in the routines of history. Have you noticed the humble see God, but the arrogant only see themselves, their plans, their projects, their accomplishments and their expectations?

Are your eyes trained to see the spiritual? What kind of God do you see? The humble see the real God. The pure in heart see the real God. The wise men are those who follow the Truth that they have and go out of their way to seek more truth. They are willing to get out of their routines and comfort zone. The shepherds represent the wise humble commoners who have learned to trust God in the routines of life. Simeon (2:25) and Anna (2:36) are 2 other humble people who represent those who have suffered a tragedy in their lives and God gave them a special promise. They lived expectant lives as close to God as they could get.

2:1 John the Baptist was born 6 months earlier. And it was at this time the Roman Emperor wanted to identify his tax base. Voter registration required a personal appearance at one’s principal city of residence. As Romans, Joseph and Mary could have registered in Nazareth. However as Jews they felt a family connection with Bethlehem. It would have been easier to register in Nazareth. Why did they feel compelled to go to Bethlehem? Bethlehem was 80 miles from Nazareth. Was it family tradition? Was it the Spirit of God in them?

2:7 Wrapping the child in a blanket or cloths was what good mothers did. The head and arms were supported.

The word for Inn suggests something like our youth hostels or it could also refer to the guest room of a house. The word for ‘no room’ could mean the family was turned away or could mean that there was not any safe place for a baby.

If this was an overcrowded home of a relative it would be a miracle for the shepherds to find them. However, in a crowded home you could understand why there was so much rejoicing.

The only sign the shepherds were given was a baby in a feeding trough or stall. In a private home, the stall was part of the house, under the same roof. It is estimated that there were 500 homes in Bethlehem at this time. Not all would have animals.

Shepherds watch (8)

They wonder (9-14)

They worship (15-16)

They witness (17-21)

2:8 Shepherds are staying out in their fields. The phrase staying/abiding in the field literally says the shepherds were watching watches. Your watch is your shift to stay awake. They were taking turns watching their watches. The watch was usually about 3 hours.

Tradition and tour guides have located this field within ½ mile of Bethlehem, but Luke does not tell us where it is. Maybe God did not let him tell us exactly where the field is because the event is more important than the site. God’s activity is more important than man’s holy sites. Remember for the Jews, the ancestor was more important than the child. Note that the shepherds don’t spend much time looking at the child. They just praise God and repeat what the angels said.

The visible signs are given to point to God, but the sign is not to be worshiped. When you are driving and a sign with an arrow says Mt. Hood, elevation 11,000’ do you stop and take pictures of the sign? Do you stand in awe of the sign? The word for sign in the NT is usually translated miracle. The miracles are not what we are looking for, but who they point to. The sign here includes all the humble circumstances.

What kind of mental pictures do you have of these shepherds in a field? It could be that the sheep were kept in some kind of an enclosure during the night. They probably came here regularly. They may have been coming here for years. The sheep corral was not a clean place, but it was a protection for the night. There was no grass here. There was no feed or water. Shepherds would move their sheep out early to get the dew on the grass.

Several shepherds may use the same corral, but in the morning the sheep knew their masters voice and would follow their shepherd. There is a special relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. His voice indicates his presence, his power, and his protection.

Another possible picture may be to have the shepherds on a hill of grass with the sheep lying round them. That would mean it was a warm night, no rain or snow.

Another picture you may draw from these facts. There was near Bethlehem, on the road to Jerusalem, a tower known as Megdal Eder, or the watch tower of the flock. Here was the station where shepherds watched the flocks destined for sacrifice in the temple. These were the ones without defect. Some Jews at that time believed that the Messiah was to be revealed from the tower of Migdal Eder.

Were these shepherds in Luke’s gospel watching over the sacrificial sheep? It would not surprise me if God had chosen these people to first welcome the Messiah, but Luke does not mention the word tower.

Shepherds were usually children or the lowest class of people. They lived with the sheep. They slept with the sheep. They smelled like the sheep. The orthodox Jew looked down on the shepherds because they were unable to keep the details of the ceremonial law. It was a lengthy ritual for the shepherds to become clean enough to go into the temple and worship. Ritual laws said they were not clean enough to worship God, but God came to them. They worshiped outside the temple. They had learned to make the routines of life an opportunity for worship. These are the people who have to work on Sundays. They don’t smell like Christians. They don’t attend like Christians. They find ways to worship in their routines.

2:9 God broke into their routine. The shepherd on watch was face to face with an angel. With ears and eyes trained to hear trouble coming, he knew he was in trouble. Do we know God well enough to recognize His voice speaking in unusual ways outside our comfort zones?

There was probably one man on watch, but when he sensed trouble he would quickly shout at the others. Immediately they were all wide awake. Their routine was interrupted by something that had not happened for many generations. It had been 400 years since anyone had heard about an angel coming to a Jew. Apparently Zachariah, Joseph, and Mary had not told anyone about their conversations with an angel. News about their angel sightings had not reached the kids in the field. The shepherds did not get a Sunday bulletin. They did not listen to the Art Bell talk show. Now an angel was standing in front of them. They were afraid. They stood alert, surrounded by Glory. Just as the sheep are calmed by the voice of the Master, so these men felt peace when the messenger of God spoke. They “feared with great fear” until the angel spoke.

Again there is a play on words here that our English misses. The Greek word for angel is ‘angelos’ and means messenger. His purpose was to evangelize (euangelos) or bring a good message. An angel is a messenger and his purpose was to proclaim the good message, to gospelize good, to announce to you a great joy. Wycliff translates this phrase, “I evangelize to you a great joy.” Joy that God brings is a by-product of receiving the message of Jesus.

2:10 Sometimes fear is appropriate, but the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, for behold, right now, I evangelize, I proclaim the good message to you.” This is not the time to be afraid. This is the time to rejoice. God’s intentions are gracious. Caesar Augustus had claimed to be the savior of the world and offered a golden age with no war, but the real Savior is here. Caesar may be the one who changed the calendar so his birthday was the first day of the year, but Jesus brings everlasting life.

What would have happened if the angel came during our Christmas Eve service? Is that why he came to kids?

The humble can hear God. The shepherds had God-sensitive ears. They did not have a lot of reasons why God couldn’t appear to them. The good news was for the whole world. But the world did not hear. Are we listening? Let heaven and earth sing. The angel announcement is a reason to rejoice. The great joy is available to all who receive the message and worship. The language of heaven is music and praise.

2:11 Your Savior is born. The Messiah your parents have been expecting has come. He is Christ the Lord, Anointed Lord, Messiah Lord, The Anointed One Lord, the Lord Messiah.

2:12 The Jews were always seeking signs so God prepared a sign. The King of kings is in a feed trough. God sent the non-Jewish wise men a star, but the Jewish shepherds received a baby in a stall or feed trough as a sign.

It is in humility that Christ comes to reign and only the humble find him.

What do you think the shepherds are thinking? Is God really speaking to us? We are unclean. We did not attend church last Sunday. We have not been to church for months. We must be dreaming. Do you see what I see? Do you hear what I hear? Would angels really come to this dirty sheep station? Is this a trick?

2:13 While they were trying to sort these facts in their minds, an army of angels appeared and announced peace. God’s army did not have to come. It appeared. Verse 9 said they saw a glow of glory around them. Now their eyes were opened and they can see the celestial in the glory. They had never seen anything like this before. They had never heard a song like this before. The night sky was ripped open with praise.

When you see a clear vision of glory, what do you hear? Praise. The language of heaven is music and praise.

2:14 They had a 2 fold message. 1. God deserves our highest glory. 2. Man is now the recipient of God’s good pleasure, God’s gift. This angelic hymn of glory and peace are the same in the highest and on the earth, to God and among men of goodwill. Real peace on earth exists only among those who are the subjects of God’s goodwill, who are characterized by goodwill toward God and man. Men of goodwill have peace.

The angels indicate that heaven is impressed by what God has achieved.

2:15 The shepherds began to speak each to the other, they kept saying, “Let’s go see.” The next would say, “Let’s go see!” Another agreed. They had no doubt that the message was true because they knew the voice of God. The humble know God’s voice when He speaks. The wise church leaders would have questioned the angel.

About 2000 people lived in Bethlehem and with the visitors who came for the census, the population may have doubled. The angel said to look for a baby in a feed box. A good place to start was the Inn. It was an historical landmark. In 2 Samuel 17:27-29 Bazillai helped David when Absalom tried to take over the kingdom. David wants to reward Bazillai, but Bazillai is old so he sends his son Chimham. (2 Sam 19:31) Chimham built the inn on David’s property in Bethlehem. (1 Kings 2:7) In 596 B.C. the inn was still used. (Jer 41:17) How would you find a baby in a city of 2,000-4,000? You ask for a feed trough with a baby in it. Statistically in a city this size, a baby could be born every 10 days.

Luke 2:16 When God makes you aware of something you should do it eagerly and in haste. Practice obedience with haste. These shepherds were coming to Bethlehem with enthusiasm. Their joy would be contagious. Can you see them like teens going door to door on a scavenger hunt. “We’re on a treasure hunt. We’re looking for a manger with a baby in it.”

After a search they found the manger just like the angel said. They found 2 tired young people, quietly trying to sort out the miracles that had been following them. The shepherds brought enthusiasm.

Normally when a child was born in a home, the neighbors would come and sing. It would be a night of rejoicing. But these kids were a 2-3 day ride from home. We don’t know how much activity was going on in the shelter this night, but we know God sent some angels to inspire some shepherds and the shepherds brought their joy to Mary and Joseph.

2:17 The shepherds woke everyone up who was staying upstairs. In 16 they found the 3 as the angels had said. By verse 18 many more had come to rejoice. The shepherds simply told what they had been told. They told what God had done for them. They did not pray for angels to come again. They did not assume they were special because they had seen angels. They did not go tell the priests to make the announcement in church. They did not stay secret believers. They did not go to a university or seminary. They told what God had done for them.

2:18 No one who hears the truth can remain unmoved. Truth and Light has come. Jesus Christ our Lord has come and the humble see Him. The humble will see God this Christmas too.

The humble shepherds had no trouble believing. It is hard for the rich. One of the most common buildings in the world, a barn or parking garage, has been dignified by the Son of God. The common things of life are sanctified by the presence of God. The routine can be an act of worship. All can be done to the glory of God.

2:19 Mary kept a baby book. After childbirth the mother could not touch anything sacred or enter the temple area for 40 days.

2:22-39 The shepherds recognized the child by a sign, but Simeon and Anna see clearly with spiritual eyes what the crowd did not see. Simeon and Anna were humble people. They were living expectantly. They had both received a special promise from God. They were expecting God to fulfill His promise any time. They were expecting to see God. They were always in church. They were not on the worship team. They were not greeters, ushers, SS teachers, council members. They were faithfully expecting God to bless them.

Many people have expectations for Christmas, especially the children. What are your expectations? God has been preparing something special for Simeon and Anna. What has God prepared for you?

They had expectations based on the promises of God. Their faith was in God. God had promised both that they would see the Christ before they died and they were looking for the promise in the face of every child they held. They were living expectantly. 2P 3:12-14

Angels had been appearing all over Palestine, but Simeon and Anna were probably unaware of Mary’s story, or Joseph’s story, or Elizabeth’s story or the shepherds story. They did not care how God carried out His promises, they were willing to wait. They were faithful in their prayers. They lived righteous lives. They had shared their dreams with others. They were getting older. Shouldn’t God hurry up a little? They may have suffered ridicule or been laughed at, but they kept praying for the promise. They longed to see God working in history.

They knew with their heads that God loved them, but they had expected something to happen before now. Why couldn’t God just give them a little sign? Why didn’t God tell them about all the angel appearances? Was it really God they had heard? Couldn’t God give them a little encouragement?

Then their eyes saw the child. Somehow when they saw the child, they heard God say, “I love you!” Imagine the joy when each of them realized that the expectation of their lives had been fulfilled. They recognized God in the eyes of this baby. The promise of God was in their arms.

This was a decisive turning point in Simeon and Anna’s lives. The goal of their watching is now accomplished. What do you suppose the people thought when Simeon and Anna no longer spent their whole days at the Temple? Has your life changed since you met Jesus? Do you attend church less?

Live expectantly this week. In the eyes of those you meet this Christmas, look for God’s appointment.

The world offers smoke and mirrors, only illusion. You probably won’t see Jesus in the glitter. He’ll say, “I love you” in some routine. The expecting will see God; the wise will follow.

Isaiah 6:3 says the whole earth is full of his glory. Do you see the glory of God in everything? The shepherds show us that we can be involved in the routines of life never attend church and still be sensitive to heaven. You can be on vacation and still worship. Or you can be in the Temple and see God when nobody else does. You do not have to do something in church to see God.

If you want joy, real joy, live expectantly and look for the face of Jesus in your routines.

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