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371. Walking in the Word, Peace and Joy in His Midst

By julie

This Christmas, run to Jesus! He has come amid the craziness of this world to bring you His peace and joy. He is calling you just like He called the shepherds on that night long ago. Peace be with you, and all glory to God in the highest. (Luke 2:8-20)

 

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Welcome to Walking in the Word, the Biblical teaching arm of the Women World Leaders podcast. I’m your host, Julie Jenkins. I hope you are enjoying our walk through the gospels as we focus on putting the four pictures from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John into one comprehensive view.

As I record this, it is Christmas week – the time when we celebrate Jesus’ birth on earth. Jesus, our Holy God, came to earth as a human so that He could die a sinner’s death and give all of humanity the opportunity to step into an eternity with Him. But our most powerful and majestic God also came to earth so that we could individually connect with Him and experience peace in our everyday lives.

Have you ever met someone you deem “important” or “famous”? I have – and no matter how prepared I am – when I meet someone “out of my league,” I often feel a bit tongue-tied, or intimidated. My head swims a bit. Do you know the feeling? Although God is, undoubtedly, in higher standing than anyone we will ever meet, He wants to relate to us on common ground. God never wants us to feel tongue-tied around Him. So Jesus came to earth as a man. He was born in a stable. And He lived a common life. He was the extraordinary amid the ordinary who went to extremes to be relatable. So on Christmas, not only do we celebrate the MAJESTY of God, but we also celebrate His HUMILITY as He descended to earth out of sheer love for us, ushering in peace and joy.

Let’s begin in prayer…

Dear Heavenly Father – today we praise and glorify your name! We know we should do that every day, but today we intentionally remember the birth of Jesus as a helpless baby, praising the fact that you saw fit to come to earth so that you could save us from our sins AND connect with us in such a loving fashion. As we study your Word, God, I ask you to teach us what you want us to know. Guide us in wisdom and joy as we open our hearts to you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

In today’s scripture, we are going to take a few moments to peer into the lives of the shepherds. These men were perhaps the lowliest of the low. And yet, they were seen by God, who counted them as so important that they were visited by the angels and were the first to hear of Jesus’ birth. Let’s read Luke, chapter 2, verse 8-20 from the New Living Translation:

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,     and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

 

One of my favorite Christmas hymns, Silent Night, gives us an idyllic vision of what was happening the night of Jesus’ birth…but it seems from this text that there wasn’t much “silent” about that night.  

Let’s start with the stable – the birthing room, as it was. I’ve had three children, and although each birth was beautiful, there simply wasn’t anything silent about the process. I think my husband remembers that more clearly than I do! And let’s not forget that the holy family was sharing their space with a stable full of animals. And I imagine the animals had their own chorus going on.

But maybe it was a silent night in the fields where the shepherds were?…Let’s imagine…

I envision a clear night, with the stars brighter than most of us are used to. After all, there was very little light pollution in those days. But scripture says the shepherds were guarding their flocks…and sheep are very loud animals who only sleep about 4 hours a night. Guarding sheep was a purposeful, 24-hour a day job – so much so that the shepherds had to take turns sleeping and standing guard against thieves and animals. I can picture the shepherds straining to be alert even in the darkness, listening for sounds of intrusion over and above the sound of the sheep.

The truth is that the job of the shepherds was far from glamorous – it was constant and messy, certainly not silent and peaceful. It makes me think of being a parent. I can remember sitting up those late hours with each of my newborns, just praying for a moment of PEACE. You probably know what I’m talking about. It can be hard to push through those nights, knowing in your heart that what you are doing is important, but at times, feeling alone in the struggle…like the whole rest of the world is silent, and somehow you alone are fighting to do your job in your loud and messy corner. Some theologians speculate that these shepherds were tending the sheep that were to be used as a sacrifice for the temple services – now that would have been a stressful job! The perfect lamb had to be carefully protected, raised without blemish. Then that perfect lamb would be sacrificed, allowing the high priest to enter the holy of holies to receive a word from God for the whole nation. No pressure.

And, to top it off, the shepherds themselves were not permitted to attend the temple because, due to their work, they were considered ceremonially unclean. These were honest men working hard in the trenches whose job was SO important, but they were considered lower class in every aspect. They were humble servants.

Sometimes the world seems upside down, doesn’t it? Those who give the most sometimes receive the least recognition. Teachers spend their days shaping the future, pouring into our children, our most precious commodity…and yet their pay is often low and the honor that should be given them is dismissed. Healthcare workers serve long hours, handling messes and dealing with the emotions of patients and their loved ones. The list goes on – social workers, foster parents, firefighters, and police officers—all are humble servants who often work amid chaos, caring for others and putting themselves on the back burner.

But in today’s scripture, we see an example of God’s love and acknowledgment for every person who puts themselves out there in service to another.

The humble servants in Jesus’ day — the shepherds — had no idea as they did their job, valiantly guarding their sheep, that they were about to receive a personal greeting that would blow their socks off. Across the noisy field, a baby was being born who would change the world. That baby, God made flesh, would open the door, tearing the curtain to the holy sanctuary, allowing God’s presence to fill the earth. The God of all majesty and honor had sent His only begotten son Jesus to earth as a helpless baby to be born in a messy, smelly stable. And the shepherds, hard at work in the fields, would be the first to know.

The angels were so excited to share this awesome news! In the book of Hebrews, the angels are called ministering spirits who are sent to care for God’s people. The angels had front row seats to not only the glory of God, which we in our humanity still can not quite comprehend, but also to the fact that God, the divine, the holy, was born among humans, as a human – this was quite the turn of events! This was quite the message – surely sharing this message was one of the angels most important missions ever! And the shepherds, the hardworking yet lowly servants, were the first to be invited to the party.

Imagine the shepherds on that dark, clear night. First, they saw one angel, and then a “vast host” of angels…some versions say a “multitude of angels” – the original word is plethos (PLAY – thahs) – sounds like the English word plethora.  – meaning a large or excessive amount of. … all praising God…the angels NEEDED the shepherds to understand the magnitude of what was happening, this was urgent and exciting information. Entire armies of angels filled the sky.

That moment must have been thrilling beyond our imaginations. The glory of the Lord had returned to the earth, and the angels could not contain their joy. Verse 9 says that “the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them.”

Of course, this site would have shocked the shepherds – it would shock you and me, that’s for sure!

The first angel said, “Don’t be afraid!” and he explained himself… “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  

And that wasn’t all…the angel clearly wanted the shepherds to go and see for themselves. He told them WHERE to go and how to find the newborn savior of the world.

And then the singing started! The armies of heaven started praising God. With something so miraculous happening, how could they NOT praise God? They simply weren’t about to miss the JOY and CELEBRATION of Christ’s birth.

The angels sang, GLORY TO GOD, and peace to those with whom God is pleased!

Jesus came to bring us that sometimes seemingly elusive peace! WE, like the shepherds, are meant to experience the peace of God in our daily lives! When we please God, He gives us His peace. So what is it that pleases God? Walking with God and trusting HIS care and protection, even as we care for and protect others, brings us peace beyond all understanding. As children of God, we do not need to fear – because our God is a god of love and protection and wisdom and PEACE. He is holding His umbrella out, waiting for you to take a step under it. Our God is a fierce protector, who, once you take a step toward Him in submission, will never let you go.

 

The shepherds were initially afraid on that crazy night, but they listened to the good news that the angels brought, and then they ran to Jesus themselves and experienced His peace. Do you remember when you first heard about Jesus and you ran to Him? If you have, you know the peace, the excitement, the joy, that the shepherds knew on that “not so silent” night. If you don’t know God’s peace, if you haven’t yet run to Him…consider this your message…and me your messenger! The Messiah has come! Your salvation is here! You never have to go it alone in this world again! God wants you to come to Him. Run to Him, just like the shepherds did.

Jesus did the hard part. He humbled Himself, stepping down from His throne to become human. In His humanity, not only did Jesus make a way for our salvation, but by becoming one of us, He also opened a path for us to communicate with Him. You never need to be intimidated to go to Jesus. You never need to become tongue-tied around Him. You never need to be afraid. This Christmas, I pray you will run to Jesus, welcome Him into your every day, and experience His peace.

Oh HOLY God! We praise you! Glory to YOU in the highest! We thank you for ushering in peace on earth! Father, I pray for each woman listening that she may experience your peace and joy today. I pray that she will RUN to your side, experience your forgiveness, rest under the umbrella of your love. Father, thank you for sending your son to us, to this very dirty, messy earthy…to save our very dirty, messy lives. We give our lives to you, O God, and ask you to lead us where you will…we will follow. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.