The Lord’s Day Evening
December 5, 2010
Adored by Angels”
Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas
Turn with me now to Luke chapter 2, Luke chapter 2, and we’re going to be
reading in a minute verses 8 through 14; Luke chapter 2 and verses 8 through 14.
I’ve always loved this time of year.
Thirty-nine years ago when I first came to know the Lord Jesus, Christmas became
filled with another meaning altogether.
It isn’t, you know it’s an interesting question, isn’t it — What’s at the
heart of Christmas? A young teenage
girl who learned she’s pregnant out of wedlock, it was as fraught with danger
then as it would be today.
Or shepherds abiding in the fields at
night watching over their flocks – who can’t love that story?
Or the scene in Bethlehem itself in a manger stall because
there was no room for him in the inn.
A little child has been born, the baby Jesus.
Or later when wise men from the east with all of the mystery that
surrounds them and they come with gold and frankincense and myrrh.
But what’s at the heart of Christmas?
And our text tonight is going to answer that question.
And I wonder, as we’re going to read the passage together, can you answer
this pop quiz? It’s exam time.
What’s at the heart of Christmas?
Our text will tell you.
Let’s go to God in prayer. Let’s
Gracious God and Father, how
blessed we are to be among the blessed by God.
And in joy, we praise You for the endless stream of blessings that have
come to us in Jesus Christ because we belong to His people and we pray for
further blessing, that You’d come to us in and through Your Word, that You’d
help us to find those treasures that are to be found only in Jesus Christ.
We pray that we might not just find those treasures but take delight in
them and rejoice in them that You’d come to us personally and corporately as a
body that we might know that we are being addressed from Your Word.
Open our ears, bow our wills, enable our whole being to do what we cannot
do apart from grace, to come to You and worship You.
Open Your Word to us, for Jesus’ sake.
Now turn with me to verse 8 of Luke chapter 2:
“And in the same
region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by
night. And an angel of the Lord
appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were
filled with fear. And 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.
And this will be a sign for you: you
will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and 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 among those with whom He is pleased!’”
Amen. May God bless to us that
reading of His holy and inerrant Word.
Now, did you see what’s at the heart of Christmas?
In verse 10 — “I bring you good news.”
The Greek is, I think, “euangelion”
evangel, which is Gospel.
“I bring you Gospel.”
Christmas is all
about the Gospel. It is
Gospel-centered in the precise definition of that term and meaning.
Now an angel, verse 10, said to them — a singular angel said to them — there are
shepherds and they’re watching over their flocks on the fields of Bethlehem.
Some of us have been to
and I can’t but imagine now these fields in my head because I’ve been there,
seen them, these fields, these undulating hills.
I can almost imagine that time has almost stood still at least outside
the town of Bethlehem.
An angel, one angel. I wonder
how much notice he got? You know,
our music for Christmas always begins with the choir coming down the aisle.
It’s a — I was going to say magical, but maybe I can’t use that word!
— it’s a wonderful, blessed moment.
It’s reminiscent of course of the famous Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from
Cambridge College, where a little boy, a boy soprano, a chorister, walks down a
similar aisle — though a much smaller building than this — and sings those
extraordinary words, “Oh come all ye faithful” in almost that pure, boy soprano,
voice. But you may not all know
this, that that boy has only been told that he is the one to lead them seconds
before. There are a hundred, maybe,
of these boys who come down in this choir, but the tradition is that the one who
leads them is only told seconds before.
Can you imagine it? I wonder
how much lead time this angel got. I
don’t know whether or not angels get nervous.
They’re filled with awe for sure.
“You’re the one. I want you
to go.” I just can’t imagine the
excitement to go to Bethlehem.
“I want you to go to Bethlehem to these shepherds and I want you to
tell them the Gospel. I want you to
preach the Gospel to them. Tell them
there’s good news for sinners.”
You know, shepherds were so distrusted in the first century that they could not
be witnesses in a court of law. If
the only person who had witnessed this crime against your person was a shepherd,
his witness wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans, as they say, because they were
untrustworthy. They were unclean.
They were not fit for any office.
And yet God chose them to be the witnesses of the birth of the Savior.
Isn’t that Gospel in itself?
God chose these, in the eyes of the first century, sinners of the worst type to
hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
You know, you can’t get tired — I don’t know how many times I’ve preached on
Luke 2 — dozens and dozens of times I’ve preached on this passage every year.
It’s a birth announcement. I
attended a function last night, but I was severely underdressed.
I miscalculated southern protocol.
I beg forgiveness. I was
underdressed. You know there’s a
protocol, there’s a protocol to birth announcements.
Birth announcements usually go something like this:
Born to Mr. and Mrs. So-And-So, a baby boy — so many pounds and these
days a length. That’s not what you
I. Born in the City of David.
Five things appear in this birth announcement.
The first is that He is born in the City of David,
born in the City of David.
You see, there’s a segue here from 2 Samuel.
Perfect! That’s where we’ve
been for the last two months. This
is not the City of David, Jerusalem, which
David adopted after he had conquered the city, but his birth city, Bethlehem,
Bethlehem, the house of bread.
This was David’s home turf.
This was his home town. A thousand
years before, David had roamed these same hills, looked after similar sheep to
these shepherds. All these shepherds
knew David. David was a great king
He was one of them. They
could identify with David, a shepherd boy who’d become a king, a great king.
You remember just a few weeks ago we were in 2 Samuel chapter 7, and in 2 Samuel
chapter 7 you have the covenant that God makes with David.
It’s a great moment in the history of redemption.
I think I said something like, it’s the most important chapter in the
Messianic expectation of the Jews.
Whatever the Jews thought about the coming Messiah was molded and fashioned and
formed by the words of that covenant with David in 2 Samuel chapter 7.
And in that chapter, you remember what God said to David?
“I will establish David’s throne, the throne of his kingdom, forever.”
II. He is the Messiah — Christ.
Now that was all very well and good when there were kings sitting on the throne
in Jerusalem, but for the last four hundred fifty, five
hundred years, there’d been no kings in
They don’t even have a land that they can call their own anymore.
For five hundred years, Babylon and
and Greece and now Rome — “I will establish
the throne of David and his kingdom forever.”
You know, maybe one of these shepherds remembered.
“Didn’t that ancient prophet, what was his name, Micah?
Didn’t he say something about Bethlehem Ephrathah?
That out of Bethlehem will come a ruler, a king in Israel?”
And now an angel has come and he’s giving this birth announcement – of
the City of David, born in the City of
David, a Savior who is Christ.
That’s the second thing — He’s Christ.
He is, you know, Christ, Christos in Greek is the translation of the
Hebrew “Messiah.” Christ is a title.
It’s not so much a name, it’s a title.
The one who is born in the City of David in Bethlehem is the Messiah.
He’s the long expected Messiah.
You know, from the very beginning of
Scripture, from Genesis 3, from the first Gospel promise of the seed of the
woman bruising the head of Satan, there’s been a Messianic expectation.
A Messiah would come and this Messiah — it means “Anointed One.”
Anointed One. Kings were
anointed to rule. Prophets were
anointed to speak. Priests were
anointed to perform ceremonies in order to enact the forgiveness of sins, but a
king had never reigned who ruled over our hearts.
A prophet had never spoken so as to speak right into the heart.
A priest had never performed his actions in a way that could actually
forgive sins. But such a Prophet and
such a Priest and such a King, an Anointed One, a Messiah is born in Bethlehem
III. This Messiah is also the Lord.
And He’s the Lord, verse 11 — He’s the Lord, “Christ the Lord.”
Now in the context of Luke, you understand, what has been the dominating
authority in this second chapter? It
is in the rule and reign of Caesar Augustus.
He had issued a decree that all the world, imagine, all the world – the
Roman Empire was the world — that all the world should be taxed.
That one decree, that one statement from the emperor had now reached this
little town of Bethlehem. Mary and
Joseph had made their way from Galilee, Nazareth, and they had made their way
down to Bethlehem, to the home city where they would have to register in order
to be taxed. They were there because
the most powerful authority, the most powerful lord of their day had issued a
decree. But a greater decree had
been issued in the councils of eternity from the throne of Amighty God.
A decree that said, “Through My Son, the Gospel, the Good News for
sinners, will be proclaimed.”
There may be an authority in the city of Rome, an emperor, but this little child
who has been born in Bethlehem, He is Lord.
He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
He is the one before whom emperors bow and presidents bow and nations bow
and authorities bow. “At the name of
Jesus every knee shall bow and tongue confess that He is Lord of all.”
It’s a birth announcement of a baby born in the City of David who is
Christ, Messiah, the Anointed One, who is Lord.
IV. He is born for us
But perhaps, perhaps the strangest thing about this birth announcement — you
see, we would expect this birth announcement to say:
Born to Mr. and Mrs. Smith — but you notice, “unto
you is born.” It’s
startling, isn’t it? It’s not what
you were expecting. “Unto you” for
you and you and you and you and you — “unto you is born.”
This birth, this birth announcement is for you.
It’s the difference between understanding Christmas, it’s the difference
between understanding Christmas and some vague celebration of Christmas.
Unto you, a Son is given.
Unto you, a Child is born.
In the seventeenth century — actually the sixteenth century — Cardinal
Bellarmine, who did not like the Reformers or anything to do with the
Reformation, said that the greatest of all Protestant heresies is — what?
Fill in the blank. The
greatest of all Protestant heresies is assurance. Assurance.
You see, in a system of theology whereby you have to perform rituals and
enact deeds of performance you can never have assurance.
There can never be enough of them.
But Protestants believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and they were saved.
They knew they were saved.
They had assurance that they were saved.
The Spirit witnessed with their spirits that they were the children of
That’s what the angel is saying — “unto you” for you,
this birth is for you, this Savior is for
you, this Anointed Prophet, this Anointed King, this Anointed Priest is for you.
This is Gospel. This is Good
News for you. You can take it; you
can imbibe it; it can become yours; it can become your testimony.
This is my belief. This is my
faith – that Jesus came for me. He
came for me. Not that He came
generally in some vague way, but He came for me.
Can you say that tonight? Can
you say that tonight in your heart of hearts?
He came for me. He veiled His
glory and took the form of a servant and was found in fashion as a man for me.
I want you to try and enter into the councils of eternity as the Father and the
Son are having a conversation together and the Father says, “Son, it’s time.
The time has come.” And He
looks down and it’s not River Oaks Hospital.
It’s not the best obstetricians and gynecologists, but a stable in
Bethlehem. It’s into the darkness of
the womb of a young virgin girl. And it was for me.
He came for me. As Ligon was
saying this morning, He came inexorably
to go to Calvary. The incarnation
was a doorway to Calvary. For me.
V. Jesus came to glorify God. We also should give God praise and
And suddenly, suddenly, as the shepherds are trying to take all of this in,
they’re looking at one another — “What in the world has this angel just told
us?” And suddenly, there’s two,
three, ten, hundred, thousands, ten thousand, I don’t know, a multitude of the
heavenly host and they’re praising God and they’re saying, they’re saying,
“Glory to God in the highest.”
They’re repeating the answer to The
Children’s Catechism tonight.
These angels know The
Shorter Catechism question 1:
What is the chief end of man?
To glorify God; to glorify God. And
these angels have been listening to this one angel giving this message of Gospel
and good news to sinners.
You know, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, when he was young, he was a preacher for a
long time, but as you look through his sermons you can trace the young Spurgeon
from the more mature Spurgeon, but the young Spurgeon could sometimes say things
perhaps the old Spurgeon wouldn’t quite have said in the same way.
But the young Spurgeon, preaching on this text said, “These angels were
Calvinists because they refused to give the glory of salvation to the will of
men. It was all to the glory of
God.” Glory to God in the highest.
Now Richard Ridgeway, who I can see sitting in the back there, gave me such a
hard time last year for saying that these angels didn’t sing but
said, “Glory to God!”
And he’s right. I love that about
our elders, love that. They’re
always checking their Bibles. I love
that! I love that, Richard.
But you know, I’ve been thinking about this for a whole year (laughter).
It does say, “Praising God and saying,” but Richard, I can’t imagine ten
thousand angels in monotone voice in unison saying — no, I can’t take it in.
You know, there’s only one thing you can do when you hear the Gospel.
You know when you really understand the
Gospel, that it’s good news for sinners, it’s good news for the undeserving,
that God is so, so lavish in His goodness, in His provision. He sent His Son for
us. More than Prince Charming.
Ten million times more than Prince Charming — His own Son.
And not in a carriage of gold but into this manger in Bethlehem.
There’s only one thing you can do when you hear the Gospel.
You’ve got to give God the praise and the glory.
Now that’s the test my friends.
That’s the test. That’s the test.
Do you really understand Christmas?
Because if you really understand Christmas, the first thing you want to
do is to give thanks to God. You
can’t hold it in. You’ve got to
praise Him. You’ve got to praise Him
with all of your being because He has done something without which we would have
no hope. We would have no hope.
God gets all the praise. And
do you see, do you see what it says?
“And on earth, peace among those with whom He is pleased.”
You know those who have received grace are in a condition of peace.
You know, when you give praise to God, everything else falls into
perspective, no matter what. I know
some of you have mess all around and trouble and trial and difficulty and
Christmas is a difficult time. I
understand that. But when you see
the true meaning of Christmas it’s not about Christmas trees and tinsel and
presents and all the rest, and I love all of that, but that’s not what Christmas
is about. Christmas is about God’s
gift of His Son — the Gospel — and when you understand that, there’s peace.
It’s the peace of the Gospel.
It’s the peace of justification.
“Being justified by faith we have peace with God.”
Now, do you have that peace in your heart – the peace that comes from the
Gospel, the peace of sins forgiven, the peace of justification?
Father, we begin another season
of reflection on the incarnation of the Lord Jesus and we want tonight to do
what the angel did – give glory to You.
You did it all. It was none
of us. It was all You.
It wasn’t ninety percent of you and ten percent of us, it was one hundred
percent You. Your initiative, Your
enablement. Good news, great, great
news for sinners like us. May we
know that Gospel peace in our hearts tonight for Jesus’ sake.
Please stand. Receive the Lord’s
benediction. Grace, mercy, and peace
from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
© 2019 First Presbyterian Church.
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