Friday, December 11, 2009

Lonely Shepherds and a Baby

Luke 2:8-14

I remember three announcements of births about to happen
- one at a friends house
- another when we woke up one morning
- another when I was painting an outside door jam.

Each episode is burned in my mind. Certainly everyone here has similar recall of the day the special babies came into your home.

This birth announcement in Luke 2 has some unusual features to it.
1) It is the announcement of a king’s baby. This was a special announcement in ancient times. Nearly everyone had children that they birthed or adopted, but only rarely was their a birth from a kingly family. That was news.

2) The announcement of the king’s baby was not delivered in the usual places. Normally the announcement of a king’s baby would be made in prominent places to prominent people. This announcement is made to shepherds living and working in obscurity.

3) The king had messengers to make his announcement, and they were always human. This messenger is an angel.

4) After the announcement of the king’s baby, there would be cheering and celebration. Think in our own lifetimes of the announcement of royal births in England. It was a cause for immense celebration for the people of that country. In the Luke 2 story there is celebration, also, but notice who does the celebrating: "A great company of the heavenly host" (v.13)

Here are four similarities with some differences between the birth announcement of this baby and the birth of any king’s baby. But there is something that stands out as unique in this story: the angel and the heavenly host praised the baby. They sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men on whom his favor rests." (V.14). This was truly unique.

And don’t forget the shepherds.

The shepherds were standing by watching all this. I can only imagine their reaction. They were normal guys watching sheep. Late into the night they probably muttered something about being hungry, wishing they could be at home, and even making a career change. Then, without warning, the glory of the Lord appears, an angel appears and makes his announcement about the King’s baby, a great company of heavenly host appears praising God, and then the angels left.

If you were a shepherd there, what would you think? What would you do?

When the shepherds heard about this special birth they did three things.
1) They went to investigate. V.15-16

2) They told others about baby Jesus. V.17

3) They worshiped God. V.20.

The shepherds learned something about this special child: he was the son of a king, but not any king. He was the son of the King of Heaven. This was God’s son. And that changed everything. It changed the shepherds. It can change us.

I worship a crucified and resurrected Jesus. Paul told the Corinthians, "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." (1 Cor. 15:3-4). This is the Jesus I worship.

But this isn’t the Jesus the shepherds saw that night, not yet. They saw a baby, and the baby led them to worship God. Matthew 2:11 says that when the Magi, or Wise Men, saw baby Jesus, they worshiped him, the baby.

We may feel uncomfortable today worshiping the baby since we have the crucified, resurrected and ascended Jesus.

But let’s not forget the miracle of the birth, and let’s not forget to marvel at what God has done.

When the angel and heavenly hosts praised God they said, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Peace. The very presence of Jesus, either as a baby or a crucified savior, is to bring peace.

In ancient times the announcement of a king’s baby would often mean a cessation of hostilities between warring parties. The announcement of Jesus’ birth came with the announcement of the ending of hostility. Peace.

It is the death, burial and resurrection that ushers in our salvation.

Of this Charles Hodge wrote: "Salvation is atonement not attainment! Man is spiritually bankrupt! He cannot even pay the interest let the alone the principal!"

We need the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus to save us. We have not a prayer with out it!!

But we also need this story of how Jesus came into our lives. As a baby. In a manager. To poor parents. Because this story brought such hope to lonely shepherds. And it can bring hope to lonely people today.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

Warren Baldwin


  1. "In ancient times the announcement of a king’s baby would often mean a cessation of hostilities between warring parties." This is true...and very interesting. I like how you've contrasted the birth announcement to the shepherds of our heavenly King to the birth announcements of earthly kings. Good stuff to think about here!

    I've been writing about birth announcements in the Christmas story too. It's neat to see how the Christmas season spurs us all to consider Christ and his coming to earth more deeply at this time of year.

    And I really like that quote, "Salvation is atonement not attainment." I'm going to remember that one!

  2. Thank you, Denise, for this nice response. I wrote this rather quickly, and wish I had more time to spend on it. I hope/pray I'll have a few more Christmases to investigate this more!

    Just this week I read about the announcements of a king's birth. I think it was in the Luke commentary by Fred Craddock which I have read before, but it didn't register with me until this week. That's why we keep studying, right? I'd like to read some of your research on birth announcements of the babies' of kings. Is it on your blog? I'll check it out.

    I love this quote, too, and want to find it the source for it. I got it from a preacher friend but he didn't have the source with it. Since I write and have to doucment sources a lot, I am usually reluctant to use a quote without a source, but I did this time.

    Thanks for reading! God bless, and Merry Christmas!


  3. As you speak of the shepherds I recall how much others looked down upon them. Jesus' arrival was announced to the despised, known to elite foreigners, and revealed to a select few of the Lord's most faithful servants like Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna. He has come for all, but the proud miss Him.

  4. You are right, Anne. I pray for a humble heart to truly be able to follow him.

    Can you imagine any king's son then or today being born in a manager? How blessed we are to have a savior that condescends to our low estate.

  5. To be a Shepherd on that glorious night and witness what the Shepherds heard and seen would have been an awesome experience for sure! Jesus is the beginning and the end, and we will worship Him from the beginning and until the very end!

    I would love for you to visit my blog and give me your thoughts to the question i asked. I am back up and going. Thanks and God bless you Warren!