Sermon Audio for Midweek Advent Service, Wednesday December 14, 2022
SERMON FOR MIDWEEK ADVENT SERVICE #3
DON’T GO ON BEING AFRAID
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Luke 2:10–11 (ESV)
10 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. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Born the Savior of all Humankind,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
What things did shepherds fear in 1st Century Judea?
Bandits? The rocky hills of Judea were known for highway bandits who preyed on solitary travelers making their way up to Jerusalem...but these bandits sought easy money...and stealing, hiding and raising sheep was certainly not easy. Highway bandits were around, but likely not a great concern for shepherds.
Predators! The wilderness of Judea was also home to predators looking for a meal. King David had been a shepherd as a boy in the same fields and had to protect the sheep from both Lion and Bear (cf. 1 Samuel 17:34). Shepherds had to protect the sheep, because they were their livelihood.
Sheep brought a good price because there was a great need for the animals. They weren’t only used for food during the annual Passover meal, but also for the daily sacrifices in the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem. A lamb every morning and evening, as well as animals for individual sin offerings called for a great many lambs.
If their animals were to be used for this purpose, they had to be protected and kept healthy. The Word of God required that animals used for the Passover and offerings in the Temple be without blemish or spot (Exodus 12:5, Numbers 6:14). So, if they were injured or infirmed, they were of little value and the shepherd’s livelihood in jeopardy.
Shepherds relied upon one another to protect the sheep, to fight off the predators. They often did so as young David had, with a simple sling and stone (1 Samuel 17:50).
It was part of the job, one often handed down from father to son. When they settled in for the night, it was routine. No doubt each of the shepherds had their assigned duty. Some stood as sentry, watching the hills for any sign of predators. Some would see to the personal needs of the sheep, dabbing olive oil on any wounds so they would heal. Some would count the sheep and make sure all were present, while another would see that every lamb found its mother. For nothing could be done for a lamb rejected by its mother. They would die.
If the shepherds who kept watch over their flock outside of Bethlehem had any fears...they would concern their animals and not themselves.
But their puny weapons would have no effect on the bright shining warrior who suddenly stepped from the darkness bathed in light. They were in the fields, in the 1st Century, when there was no light pollution to lift the darkness. Then again, not even the darkest of nights could hide an Angel of the Lord bathed in God’s Glory. If Moses’ face shone after being in the presence of God for a short time...imagine the face of one who dwelt in His presence!
This was a new thing of which to be afraid. They were all afraid too, whatever they were doing, tending the fire or tending to the sheep or resting from a long day...they were all ‘afraid with a great fear.’
It was one thing to protect from predators. They were flesh and blood. They came for the sheep, not the shepherds. This messenger of God didn’t come for the sheep...He came for the shepherds. They were all sinful men...and if He had been sent to bring to them God’s Judgment...then they had something of which to be afraid.
We don’t know if this Angel was the Angel Gabriel because it isn’t specifically said...but we do know that He had the same message for the Shepherds that Gabriel had for Zacharias and for Mary. The Angel said to them:
Don’t Go on Being Afraid! The reason that neither they nor we need to be afraid...is because God has sent to us a Savior, to deliver us from sin, death and the power of the devil.
We therefore revel in this Good News this evening: “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Fear not sin and its consequences. Fear not death and it’s darkness. Fear not Satan and His threats and accusations. There is born to you a Savior, one to deliver you from all these enemies.
“Sanctify us by the Truth, O Lord, Your Word is Truth.”
Did the Shepherds feel immediate relief when the Angel spoke to them...or did it only allow them to breathe again. It was surely good news to discover that this Angelic Warrior had not been sent to bring news of judgement to them. It was even better to be told that the message he brought from God was good news for them...and for all the people.
Nevertheless...I think that the shepherds were far from relieved. It was one thing to be told, don’t go on being afraid; it was another to have reason to relax...and even rejoice. It’s true that the Angel told them why they could stop being afraid...but it would take some time to fully grasp what had been said.
The first part of the message wasn’t unbelievable. A baby born in Bethlehem? I would think that it happened fairly frequently...when it wasn’t bursting at the seams with visitors. After all, babies are born to locals and to visitors. The news that a child had been born was likely not enough to chase their fears.
“A baby has been born in Bethlehem” wasn’t the good news. What was Good News was just WHAT and WHO this child was born to be. Let’s start with the WHAT, shall we?
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior...
What was this child born to be? A Savior. In a sense, there had been more than one Savior to have risen from Bethlehem in its history.
Boaz – The book of Ruth tells us about a savior from Bethlehem by the name of Boaz. He was living in Bethlehem when a relative named Naomi returned home a widow, with a daughter-in-law named Ruth who was also a widow. Neither of the women had the means to support themselves...unless one of Naomi’s relatives was willing to become a Kingsman Redeemer and marry Ruth.
In order to do that the Redeemer had to be a relative. He had to be able to support Ruth and willing to do so.
Boaz became a Kinsman Redeemer and a savior of sorts for Ruth.
David – God gave Ruth and Boaz a son, whom they named Obed. God blessed Obed with a son, named Jesse. Then God gave yet another savior out of Bethlehem, Ruth’s Great Grandson, whom you know as David. He began as a shepherd, but God granted many rescues at his hand for Israel. He defeated the armed giant Goliath with his shepherd’s weapons, a sling and a stone. He led the armies of Israel and God blessed his leadership.
David became yet another savior to arise from Bethlehem.
God promised a still greater Savior. The Prophet Micah from Moresheth, just 20 miles southwest of Bethlehem, foretold that the Great King would arise from this little town, saying (Micah 5:2, ESV):
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”
It’s true that there were different kinds of saviors to arise from Bethlehem. Boaz was a kinsman redeemer, who in a sense rescued Ruth from a difficult life. David was a great king and leader for Israel, and God delivered Israel during his reign. The Judges were all saviors in a sense too, but none of them could save his people from their sins.
Does it bother you to read, ‘a savior’ in these words? Does it seem to say that He is only one of many saviors like the Oprah Winfrey and Joel Osteen’s of this world say, that Jesus is just one of many ways to God? Jesus would be just ‘a savior’ except that the next phrase singles him out and specifies Him, setting him apart from every other ‘so-called savior.’
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.
The Prophets didn’t promise many Christs...but one. They called Him different things, like: “Seed of the Woman, Seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Jacob called him “Shiloh, the Bringer of Peace.” Jeremiah called Him, “The Lord our Righteousness.” Daniel called Him, “The Son of Man.”
Isaiah called him “The Branch” or “the shoot to spring from the stump of Jesse”; and “Immanuel, which means God with us.” Malachi called Him “the Messenger of the Covenant.”
These promises all concerned The Christ, the Messiah. The angel didn’t foretell the birth of ‘another option’ for humankind, but the only option. He’s called a Savior, because that’s what He is...but He’s the only one...for He is Christ the Lord. There are not many, but one.
He isn’t one of many, but one of a kind. For it is written of Him and Him alone (Acts 4:12):
12 And there is salvation in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven given among men
by which we must be saved.”
While we don’t know with certainty what all a 1st Century Shepherd was afraid of...we do know the things that we fear. We are afraid of death. We are sometimes afraid of the future. When we ask ourselves whether we are good enough to stand before God...His Law tells us the unvarnished truth...NO. All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.
Which is why we dare never forget the real meaning of Christmas. It’s summed up for us in the words of an Angel to terrified shepherds. “Don’t go on being afraid...A Savior is born for you, Christ the Lord.” Cling to Him and you need never again fear sin, death or Satan.
“Don’t go on being afraid.”