Christmas 2018: Santa Claus, electronic yard reindeers, snowmen, decorated trees, wrapping paper, and lights – LOTS of lights. Christmas the beginning: Mary and Joseph, baby Jesus, a manger, bright star, angelic host, shepherds, sheep, and GOOD NEWS.
Luke chapter 2, the familiar recounting of the Christmas story, like that of a well-rehearsed children’s play, all the characters are in place. The declaring angels hit their queue perfectly, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” (v14) LOVE IT! There is one small phrase prior in the narrative; “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.”(v. 8) Scholars believe, due to the proximity to Jerusalem THESE lambs were the temple lambs. Potentially, THESE shepherds were caring for lambs destined for sacrifice. The religious custom (requirement) of the day was to raise or purchase a lamb for each family, take it to the priests and have it offered as a substitutionary sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.
Keep reading… I tried to keep this short, but we don’t want to miss this!
The shepherds were the first to hear the glorious news, not chief priests or princes or even the learned men of Jerusalem, no dignitaries were found in the bunch. Oh, these shepherds knew the divine importance of keeping watch over their flocks! In addition, news of the Messiahs coming would not be “good news of a great joy” (v. 10) unless they were seeking Him and waiting for Him. These men got the message, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord” declares the angel (vs. 10, 11).
Remember the conversation Abraham had with Isaac as they climbed the mountain on that heart-wrenching day? “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “But where is the lamb…?“ Abraham answers, “God Himself will provide the lamb…” (Genesis 22:7-8) What prophetic imagery for what is yet to come.
Fast forward, this recorded of John the Baptist, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) About 3 years following John’s statement, it is Passover; Jesus is found gloriously-innocently* (See below) hanging on the cross. Onlookers watch as His blood drips from His beaten, nail-pierced body. John’s words echoing, “Behold! The Lamb of God…”
As we follow the story of God, the angels again declare, yet this time, (Let’s all stand…) “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing … be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:11-13)
This Christmas as we consider the Nativity scene, may we attempt to grasp the full message of the birth of Jesus. In the stable, the KING, the lil lamb not eating from the manger, but IN the manger – He is our substitutionary sacrifice for OUR sins. However, we did not purchase Him – He will purchase us! (Head bowed) Nowhere in scripture are we told, suggested or asked to remember Jesus’ birth. We are told to remember His death. (The Last Supper: “This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”- Luke 22:19) Don’t pack up that shiny-star tree topper yet – His birth is divinely tied to His death, His death needed for His resurrection, His resurrection the authoritative power for YOUR redemption and deliverance! Christmas leads to Easter. Hallelujah! (Hands raised!)
Where is the lamb? Behold the Lamb. Worthy is the Lamb.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.”
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
*Jesus gloriously-innocently hanging on the cross. The requirement was that the sacrificed animal was to be ‘male and without defect – without blemish’ (Ex. 12:5) Jesus was indeed THAT: “He committed no sin..” (1 Peter 2:22 – See also 2 Cor 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Jn 3:5; Jn 8:29) Peter declares; “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT)