December 19, 2014
Why This Jubilee?
By Skip Heitzig
Some years ago, about a week before Christmas, I was flying into Amman, Jordan. We were coming in over Israel, and we flew right over Bethlehem. I remember thinking, "I'm over Bethlehem; I'm looking right down at it!" And I expected that any moment the pilot would say, "We are now entering into angelic airspace." It would have been a perfect opportunity.
Those angels were there 2,000 years ago to announce the birth of the Savior, and the old Christmas carol "Angels We Have Heard on High" asks an important question: "Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong? What the gladsome tidings be which inspire your heavenly song?"
Why were they so joyous? Put yourself in their sandals for a moment. Just imagine the shepherds out there in the field, and all of a sudden they saw an appearance of angels. Shepherds didn't see a lot of excitement, but now "the glory of the Lord shone around them" (Luke 2:9), and the angel said "Do not be afraid" (v. 10). These heavenly messengers were making an announcement to ordinary shepherds.
Truth be told, none of us would care about these shepherds were they not in the Christmas story. Even back then, people didn't care about shepherds. They were ceremonially unclean because they kept animals. They were the overlooked people, the outcasts of society.
But here's what's interesting: when God wanted to tell really big news to the world—the news that His Son, the Savior, was born—He didn't go to the mayor of Bethlehem, the blue bloods living in Rome, Herod the Great in his palace, or the religious elite in Jerusalem. He went to the shepherds. That's God's grace!
And when the angel said the sign would be a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a feeding trough, to the shepherds that meant, "He's one of us." The angel was inviting them to encounter the Savior of the world.
So "they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe" (v. 16). They ran into the city to check it out, and they found Him. The word found means to find after a period of intense search. They came seeking Him, and they walked away with Jesus now occupying a place of prominence in their hearts.
These shepherds are great examples for us. Number one, they received the news about Christ by faith. Number two, they immediately responded to what the angel said, and they went themselves to check it out. Number three, they recounted what they saw and heard to people around them. They told the story.
Question: Does Jesus occupy a position of importance and greatness in your life? Then tell someone! The shepherds believed it. They checked it out for themselves, and then they told others.
There are a lot of people who come to church week after week, hear sermons, see changed lives around them and the commitments that people have made, but they never check it out themselves and never allow Jesus to change their lives. That's a pity.
When you come to Christ and live for Him, people may not understand; you might have people who "unfriend" you. But God will be your friend. And that's the best part. So today, may the joy those shepherds experienced be yours as well.
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