The Angelic Messages – The Official “Meaning of Christmas” statement
What is Christmas about?
These days, Jesus seems to be often left out of the story. But even in looking at Scripture, there are a lot of ways to look at the Christmas story. We could look at prophecies, genealogies, the shepherds, the wise men, Herod, Joseph, Mary, etc. All of these are important and we can learn from them. But what if we stripped away all of that and looked at the core message of Christmas. How would we do that and what would it be?
It’s actually more simple than we might think. On the day that Jesus was born, God sent His angel to make an announcement to the world. That announcement contained the exact message that He wanted to communicate about the significance of Christ’s birth.
The simplest way to understand the importance of Jesus’ birth is to look at what God’s spokesperson said about it. The angelic message is the official statement. So today we are going to look at the source, the official statement from the angelic spokesman on the night Christ was born.
Luke 2:8-14 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 great 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!”
We will be looking at six core truths about Christ’s birth we can learn from the angelic message.
I. Fear Not
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 great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not”
Notice the reaction of the shepherds to the angels. They are filled with great fear. That is a very common reaction in the Bible when people encounter the supernatural. And it is not surprising. These guys were minding their own business, alone in the countryside, watching their sheep. Suddenly, the stillness of the night was interrupted with a remarkable sight. The glory of God surrounded them. The simple men were overwhelmed. The very first words the angel speaks are “fear not.” These simple words are amazing words of comfort.
The birth of Christ is about God approaching man. For sinners, that can be quite a terrifying prospect. God is holy and people are far from it. What was God going to do? Would He bring judgment? Was He coming to rebuke?
Imagine a child who has run away from home. The parent searches long and hard and finally finds him. As he approaches, the kid is afraid. Am I in trouble? The parent kindly stretches out his arms and says, “Don’t worry. Everything will be OK.”
God’s message to sinners was “fear not.” He wasn’t sending His Son to judge the world or to punish sin, but to save it.
John 3:17 – For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Application – Are you living a life of fear? Our God is good and gracious and kind. Like the Father of the prodigal Son, He is waiting for you with open arms. Christmas is not about fear; it is about forgiveness.
1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
No matter what sins you have committed in the past, they are not too many for God to forgive. The message of the angels to mankind is simple, do not be afraid.
II. Good news of great joy (unto you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord)
The angel said this is “good news of great joy.”
Did you remember what it was like when you were a kid. You had perhaps not been on your best behavior. Then you hear your dad call from the next room over, “Come here, son. I have something to talk with you about.” As you walk over, your heart is jumping. You put a brave face on, but you are terrified. Does he know what you were doing? Is he going to punish you? What is it going to be? Cleaning the garage (my least favorite growing up)? A ban from playing video games? A week of chores?
Then your dad says, “I have good news.” At the mention of the words, “good news” your entire outlook and countenance change. You are not in trouble at all!
The angel came with good news. The meaning of the word “gospel” is “good news.”
What was the good news?
The good news is that God had sent a Savior. This wasn’t just a generic Savior. He was a Savior for “you.” The angel says, “Unto you is born…”
You don’t have to pay the price for your own sins. You don’t have to be judged. You can be saved. You can be healed. You can be restored. Adopted. Forgiven. Sanctified. Justified. Redeemed. Reconciled. ALL of those rich theological words that we love. You can experience all of it.
And the result of the good news is great joy. Our joy is rooted in our relationship with Christ that is made possible because of His incarnation, life, death, and resurrection.
Application – Are you joyful today? The answer should be a resounding “yes!” We have everything to be joyful about! Our sins have been forgiven! We are free! We are in His family! We are in His kingdom! We are in His grace! We have a future! An inheritance! A hope! This is not good news of a little joy. It is good news of great joy! And if you are not experiencing that great joy, you are missing something. Perhaps you don’t know just how good the news is. Or perhaps you know, but you forgot. Or perhaps you are too focused on this world. Today, come back to the great joy that you have in knowing the Creator of this world became a man and took your sins to save you.
Application – Share it! Good news is meant to be shared.
Some good news we love to share:
- Birth of a child
- End of Covid lockdowns
We have better news than all of these. The angels only shared this news once. Now it is our turn.
III. For all the people
The angels made it clear in their announcement that the good news of the Savior’s birth is for all people.
All social classes
It was announced to shepherds. Shepherds were some of the poorest of the land. Generally, they were uneducated and illiterate. The good news was for them. Most of Jesus disciples would later come from the poorer classes.
But neither did it exclude rich people. The magi were wealthy and educated and God guided them to worship His Son through the star.
The good news supersedes economic status.
All ethnicities (not just Jews)
The Jews liked to think that the Messiah was theirs. They thought He would subjugate their enemies and help them set up a kingdom to rule the world. While that might be good news for Israel, it would hardly be good news for the rest of the world.
Later the disciples would question when Jesus went to Samaria to preach or when the gospel in Acts went from Jerusalem to the Gentiles. The Pharisees were so angry when they heard that God cared for non-Jews they wanted to kill the ones who said it.
This announcement makes it clear where God’s heart is. He is inclusive. He wants to reach out to everyone.
Revelation 7:9-10 – After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
He is going to accomplish this.
Sometimes when I have shared the gospel here, people have commented that Christianity is a Western religion. They have the idea that “He is your God only.” He is the God of all. This was emphasized even more as the Magi came from the East.
There is one manuscript with a story from the 2nd or 3rd century that suggests these magi may have come from China. The more traditional interpretation is that they came from Persia. Either way, they were Gentiles and their journey showed that the gospel is for all people.
All types of sinners
It’s good news because it is available for all. There is no cost. There is no precondition. You don’t have to and you can’t earn it. Jesus didn’t come for the righteous. He came for sinners.
Luke 5:32 – I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
Among Jesus’ closest followers were liars (Peter), traitors (Matthew), and demon-possessed (Mary Magdalene). He reached out to adulteresses, tax-collectors, and what were considered to be the dregs of society.
Brothers and sisters, this is the good news of the gospel. It is available. You might think that your sin is too ugly, your mistakes too many, your heart too rotten for God to forgive. But it’s not the case. He loves you even in the middle of it all. His mercy and grace are enough to cover you. Stop trying to deserve salvation as you never will. We are unworthy. But He doesn’t care. He offers salvation anyway.
Throughout Scripture we see that God delights in showing mercy to the undeserving. We have just studied through the hall of faith in Hebrews 11 and those characters were filled with flaws, many of them serious (adultery and murder just to name a couple of the more serious). And yet God forgives.
It is good to be aware of the depth of your sin. But don’t let that prevent you from coming to the Lord. He was fully aware of every sin you would commit when He instructed the angelic messenger to say “for all people.” That “all people” includes you.
Salvation is accessible for everyone
One of the great truths about salvation is that it is accessible to everyone. If there is any man, woman, or child from any country or any time period who genuinely comes to Christ in repentance and faith, He will not turn them back. If you have never come to the Lord, let today be the day.
John 6:37 – Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
IV. Glory to God
After the key announcement is made, an entire multitude of the heavenly host join together in an angelic chorus. Now you would expect that if anyone should have correct doctrine in their worship songs it would be angels. They have access to the throne room of God. They hear and execute His every command. And these angels are so moved by God’s grace and mercy toward mankind, that they seem to spontaneously erupt into praise for God.
God’s redemptive plan for humanity had been revealed. And the natural response for angels was to give glory to God. Now if that was the natural response for angels (who hadn’t sinned and needn’t receive the same mercy that we do), how much more should that be our response to God’s salvation plan?
John Piper – Grace is the pleasure of God to magnify the worth of God by giving sinners the right and power to delight in God without obscuring the glory of God.
God’s redemptive plan is so remarkable, so magnificent, that it drives us to praise Him. A more one-sided deal has never been seen.
One of my boys once wanted to sit next to me at a meal, but it was the other’s turn. So he made an offer that couldn’t be refused. “I will let you sit next to Dad for a month if you let me sit by him today.” That was a very one-sided deal, but it doesn’t hold a candle to salvation.
We had a debt that we could never pay because of sins too many to count. The result would be eternal punishment without end. And our perfect and loving Creator looks down from heaven. He knows our predicament. It is no fault of His own. He could have chosen just to let it be. But He instead chose to do something about it. His own Son would become a man and take on our debt, our sins, and our punishment. He would sacrifice Himself on our behalf.
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.
We can trade the worst stinking pile of rubbish in the galaxy for the most priceless treasure.
Many have asked me, “why did God create the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?” I don’t know the answer for sure, but I can see a result. Because of our sin we can see and understand God’s character much deeper than we ever would have been able to otherwise. We understand love. We understand forgiveness. We understand mercy. We understand grace.
That is what Jesus’ birth, life, and death are all about.
So how does He want us to respond to Christmas?
There are many responses to God’s redemptive plan:
- Indifference –
- A desire to be better or do better –
- A nostalgic, warm Christmas-spirit – Feeling good and happy and benevolent around the holidays only for that to fade back to normal sometime in early January.
The correct response is to be consumed with the glory of God.
John Piper – We are all starved for the glory of God, not self. No one goes to the Grand Canyon to increase self-esteem. Why do we go? Because there is greater healing for the soul in beholding splendor than there is for beholding self.
God’s salvation plan is the Grand Canyon of the Bible. God is telling us, “Look at who I am! Look at how much I love you! Look at my kindness!” And as we gaze at that, we are to come away marveling at the glory of God. We are to come away with the decision, “there is nothing in my life so important as to bring attention to God’s greatness.”
Psalms 34:3 – Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
V. Peace on earth
This phrase “peace on earth” is beautiful. It makes its way into many Christmas carols. But what does it mean?
When you look at the news headlines, it doesn’t look very peaceful. There are wars, assault, crime, coups. Did Jesus fail?
In Isaiah, it was prophesied that the Messiah would be called the “Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Yet Jesus seemed to downplay His role as a peacemaker.
Matthew 10:34 – Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
So is there peace on earth or not? If you read farther in Matthew, Jesus describes the conflict that will occur in families when one person follows Him and another does not. Jesus’ coming would actually result in persecution for many of His followers. A Jew would have more visible peace by rejecting Christ than by becoming His follower. A Muslim should not expect that by turning to Jesus he will have a more peaceful life (at least as the world would view peace.) His life would more likely be turned upside down.
The peace that this world offers is fragile and shallow. It may result in a lack of direct conflict, but not genuine reconciliation. Jesus offers another kind of peace altogether.
The peace that we need is between man and God. In Genesis 6, God commented that His Spirit was striving with man. Man’s sin had brought about enmity between he and God. This resulted in a war. Man’s rebellion against God has continued almost unabated since the fall.
God would have been perfectly justified in wiping us out. He could have said, “I am done.”
But He didn’t. Jesus came to bring an olive branch. He came to mediate a peace treaty between God and man. When a superior force offers terms, they are normally simple. Total surrender. The peace treaty that He offered is truly remarkable. He would take all of the sin, debt, and punishment onto His own shoulders. He would sacrifice Himself on our behalf. And He would bring us into God’s own family to be adopted as His very own sons and daughters.
Romans 5:1 – Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The peace is available for all. But there is still a condition. We need to place our faith in Christ. We need to repent of our sins. We need to stop fighting Him and submit to Him.
1. Do not expect that your life will be free of conflict. This decision may bring you into conflict with others.
2. Once we have received that peace, we are His emissaries. We are then authorized to offer it to others. Our job is to pass on the message of “peace on earth” and tell people how they too can have peace with God.
3. Look forward to the final peace. As long as there are people who are not submitting to God in this world, there will be no final peace. One day, God will bring all into submission to Himself and then and only then there will be perfect and visible peace in every aspect of society.
VI. With whom He is pleased
Turn to your neighbor and say, “God is pleased with you.” Now ask, “what does that mean?” That is a good question. It always seemed strange to me that it says God is pleased with people.
Humankind had done very little that appears to be pleasing to God.
- First, they rebelled against God’s command and declared their independence from Him in the Garden of Eden. God was not pleased. And they had to leave the Garden.
- Soon after that, came murder. And Genesis 6:5 says that every inclination of their hearts was evil continually. God was not pleased. And He sent the flood.
- After the flood, people again refused to obey God’s commands. He told them to spread throughout the world so they did the opposite, gathering all in one place and building a the Tower of Babel, a memorial to rally people in their rebellion against God. God was not pleased and confused their languages.
- Throughout the Old Testament, people turned to idols and rejected God’s prophets, even killing the very people He sent to warn them. He was not pleased and disciplined them with seventy-years of exile.
- By the time Jesus came, did people finally learn their lesson? Were they finally living in a way that pleased God? Religion had become ritual-based. People were looking for a hero to save them from Rome. The crucifixion of Jesus would reveal the rot in their hearts. But that wasn’t surprising to God. Jesus Himself would not entrust Himself to people because He knew the depth of their sin (John 2:24).
How can God possibly say that He is pleased with man?
It is not a feeling. God did not look down at mankind and get the “warm fuzzies,” thinking, “Oh, they are so cute.” Neither was people’s behavior pleasing to Him. In fact, it was nothing in us at all that pleased God.
It was instead a unilateral act of favor. God, from His own character and will, chose to look upon man with favor. He chose not to treat us how we deserved, but instead to extend us grace.
The NIV says that His favor rests on us. The KJV says that He extends us good-will. The Greek word is “eudokia,” which can mean “kind intention.”
It can help to see two other places where the same word is used in a similar way.
Ephesians 1:5 – He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.
Ephesians 1:9 – Making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ.
He purposed to treat people kindly even though we didn’t deserve it. Jesus’ birth was proof that God had not gotten fed up with people. He didn’t say, “Enough is enough. I’m done.” Instead He chose to extend His divine favor and good will to us.
Just a quick side note before we go on. Are you ever tempted to say, “enough is enough” toward your children? Do you ever get fed up and think, “they don’t deserve any more grace?” Or perhaps toward your spouse? Remember that God chose to treat you with kind intention and good-will even though you did not deserve it. Likewise, you must continue to do the same toward those around you.
- Fear Not
- Good news of great joy – unto you is born a Savior
- For all the people
- Glory to God
- Peace on earth
- He is pleased with man
The shepherds responded to the angelic message by going and seeing the newborn Savior. After they visited the baby, it says that they “returned glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” That is my hope for us this morning. That we will be filled with joy because of the gospel and that we will go our way glorifying and praising God.
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