Luke 2:18
The strange and elevating experience through which the shepherds of Bethlehem were passing prepared them for a scene which was fitted to awaken still greater surprise and spiritual excitement. For suddenly, all of them appearing together, a multitude of the heavenly host began to make angelic music; strains of sweetest song filled the air, and the words of that celestial chant, so exquisitely sweet, so full of comfort and of hope to our human race, were fixed in the shepherds' mind; they found a place in the sacred record; they make melody in our ear today. The scene and the song suggest to us -

I. THE INTEREST WHICH THE ANGELIC TAKES IN THE HUMAN WORLD. It is a striking and significant fact that the advent of Jesus Christ to our world should be preluded and accompanied by the ministry of angels (Luke 1:11, 26; Luke 2:9). It confirms the truth elsewhere indicated that the history of mankind is the subject of deep interest to the holy intelligences of heaven. They inquire with a pure and heavenly curiosity into the relations of God with man (1 Peter 1:12). They reverently admire the wisdom of God in his dealings with his human children (Ephesians 3:10). They rejoice over the smallest accession to the kingdom of God (Luke 15:10). They expend their powers in the accomplishment of God's will concerning us (text, and Hebrews 1:14). Our Savior is One in whom they also have profound interest, though they need not his redemption, and their worship of him is a large clement in their celestial joy (Ephesians 1:10; Revelation 5:11-13).

II. THE ADVENT OF CHRIST AN EPOCH IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Well might a multitude of the heavenly host chant those words of the text, "Glory to God in the highest;" well might they join in the high praises of the King of heaven. For when Jesus Christ came as he thus came, in lowliness of perfect humiliation (ver. 7), that the world into which he thus entered as a helpless babe might be redeemed and restored (vet. 10), two things were done.

1. The exceeding greatness of the Divine grace received its most wonderful illustration. Possibly - may we not say probably?-even the records of the kingdom of God contained no event illustrative of a more magnanimous pity and a more sacrificial love than this expression of "good will to men."

2. The foundation was ]aid on which a Divine kingdom of truth and righteousness should be reared. On the rock of the Divine incarnation rests the whole grand edifice of the restoration of the human race to the love and the likeness of God. Then indeed, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the glory of God was most fittingly celebrated; for then was the glory of his grace manifested, and then was the glory that should be rendered him by our humanity assured.

III. THE COMING OF CHRIST TO OUR WORLD THE INCOMING OF ITS PEACE. "Peace on earth." It has taken long for the work of Jesus Christ to bring about this result, even as things are today. And how much remains to be done! To some eyes it may seem as if only the elementary lesson had been learned. But if we look long enough and deep enough we shall see:

1. That the gospel of Jesus Christ has been, and is, offering to every burdened human heart a peace which is immeasurably profound and inestimably precious.

2. That the teaching and the Spirit of Jesus Christ are perfectly fitted to inculcate and to inspire peace, and even love, between man and man.

3. That under his benign government, and just so far as his will is consulted, man is leaving strife and discord below and behind him, and is moving on an upward path toward the sphere where peace and purity dwell together. - C.







And they came with haste. The course pursued by the shepherds is vividly typical of that which should be pursued by all Christian inquirers.1. A process of inquiry.2. The joy of distinct confirmation.3. A bold proclamation of the truth which has been realized.The gospel is self-propagating. Wherever it makes a convert it makes a preacher. Have we made known abroad what we ourselves have experienced of the power and love of Christ? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets! We want more than the formal sermon. We need the simple personal testimony of every believing heart. In the case of Mary, it is plain that silence must not always be regarded as a sign of indifference. Her joy and her wonder were too great for speech. She had, indeed, had her period of exultation, and the calmness which followed was but the natural expression of a chastened feeling.(J1. Parker, D. D.)
On the 5th of September, 1639, in the faubourg St. Germain, of Paris, then a little village surrounding the palace of King Louis XIII., was crowded the blue blood of France. Around that royal home of the kings of France had gathered all that was noble, all that was great in the land, in honour of the birth of a child to the king. In an antechamber within the palace the bishops of the Church were waiting to christen the child on its birth. Soon a nurse entered the room, bearing the child upon a pillow, and kneeling, she said, "Sire, it is my honour to bring you this son and heir." The proud king carried the babe to an open window, and, addressing the waiting multitudes, exclaimed, "My son, gentlemen, my son!" The bells rang, the people shouted, and for a week France was wild with joy. The 19th of March, 1812, 173 years later, was the eve of another great birthday in France. The little Corsican, the man of destiny, was on the throne. He had put away one wife and taken another, and the birth of a child was expected. Twenty-one guns were to be fired if a daughter was born, a hundred if the child was a boy. On the 20th of March, at six o'clock in the morning, the booming of cannon was heard. All Paris waited and listened. When the twenty-second gun was heard a mighty shout arose, and there was great rejoicing in every part of France. The dynasty of Bonaparte had a son and heir. It is impossible, men and brethren, as we come together this morning to celebrate the anniversary of another birth that the contrast between that one and these should be overlooked. There was no royalty in Bethlehem; the palace was a stable, the cradle was a manger, but what a contrast paid to Him born at that time by a whole world for eighteen centuries. The child born in St. Germain was Louis XIV., the Grand King, who ruled for many years, who first said, "I am the State." But he lived to see that the sun of his dynasty was setting. The other son died ere he had reached man's estate, obscure and neglected. Five years after the guns had fired in honour of his birth his father was a prisoner of war. Looking back to that manger in Bethlehem, we see stepping from it a royalty which has governed the world. What a conquest, what a history is His! It is told in one of the apocryphal books that when Jesus was born in Bethlehem the earth stopped on its axis, and movement upon it suddenly ceased. A great light, an ineffable joy, had come upon the world, and that light, that joy, eighteen crowded busy centuries has not diminished.

(Bishop H. C. Potter.)

Many are set a-wondering by the gospel. They are content to hear it, pleased to hear it; if not in itself something new, yet there are new ways of putting it, and they are glad to be refreshed with the variety. The preacher's voice is unto them as the sound of one that giveth a goodly tune upon an instrument. They are glad to listen. They are not sceptics, they do not cavil, they raise no difficulties; they just say to themselves, "It is an excellent gospel, it is a wonderful plan of salvation. Here is most astonishing love, most extraordinary condescension." Sometimes they marvel that these things should be told them by shepherds; they can hardly understand how unlearned and ignorant men should speak of these things. But after holding up their hands and opening their mouths for about nine days, the wonder subsides, and they go their way and think no more about it. There are many of you who are set a-wondering whenever you see a work of God in your district. You hear of somebody converted who was a very extraordinary sinner, and you say, "It is very wonderful!" There is a revival; you happen to be present at one of the meetings when the Spirit of God is working gloriously: you say, "Well, this is a singular thing! very astonishing!" Even the newspapers can afford a corner at times for very great and extraordinary works of God the Holy Spirit; but there all emotion ends; it is all wondering, and nothing more. Now, I trust it will not be so with any of us; that we shall not think of the Saviour and of the doctrines of the gospel which He came to preach simply with amazement and astonishment, for this will work us but little good. On the other hand, there is another mode of wondering which is akin to adoration, if it be not adoration. Let me suggest to you that holy wonder at what God has done should be very natural to you. That God should consider His fallen creature, man, and instead of sweeping him away with the bosom of destruction, should devise a wonderful scheme for his redemption, and that he should Himself undertake to be man's Redeemer, and to pay his ransom price, is, indeed, marvellous! Holy wonder will lead you to grateful worship; being astonished at what God has done, you will pour out your soul with astonishment at the foot of the golden throne with the song, "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and majesty, and power, and dominion, and might be unto Him who sitteth on the throne and doeth these great things to me." Filled with this wonder, it will cause you a godly watchfulness; you will be afraid to sin against such love as this. You will be moved at the same time to a glorious hope. If Jesus has given Himself to you, if He has done this marvellous thing on your behalf, you will feel that heaven itself is not too great for your expectation, and that the rivers of pleasure at God's right hand are not too sweet or too deep for you to drink thereof. Who can be astonished at anything when he has once been astonished at the manger and the cross? What is there wonderful left after one has seen the Saviour? The nine wonders of the world! Why, you may put them all into a nutshell — machinery and modern art can excel them all; but this one wonder is not the wonder of earth only, but of heaven and earth, and even hell itself. It is not the wonder of the olden time, but the wonder of all time and the wonder of eternity. They who see human wonders a few times, at last cease to be astonished; the noblest pile that architect ever raised, at last fails to impress the onlooker; but not so this marvellous temple of incarnate Deity; the more we look the more we are astonished, the more we become accustomed to it the more have we a sense of its surpassing splendour of love and grace. There is more of God, let us say, to be seen in the manger and the cross, than in the sparkling stars above, the rolling deep below, the towering mountain, the teeming valleys, the abodes of life, or the abyss of death. Let us then spend some choice hours of this festive season in holy wonder, such as will produce gratitude, worship, love, and confidence.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

C. H. Spurgeon. .
This text seems to indicate four ways of serving God, four methods of executing holy work and exercising Christian thought. Each of the verses sets before us a different way of sacred service. I know not which of these four did God best service, but, I think, if we could combine all these mental emotions and outward exercises, we should be sure to praise God after a most godly and acceptable fashion.

I. SOME PUBLISHED ABROAD THE NEWS.

1. They had something to rehearse in men's ears well worth the telling. They had found out the answer to the perpetual riddle.

2. That "something" had in it the inimitable blending which is the secret sign and royal mark of Divine authorship; a peerless marrying of sublimity and simplicity; angels singing! — singing to shepherds! Heaven bright with glory! — bright at midnight! God — a Babe! The Infinite — an Infant a span long! The Ancient of Days — born of a woman! What more simple than the inn, the manger, a carpenter, a carpenter's wife, a child? What more sublime than a multitude of the heavenly host waking the midnight with their joyous chorales, and God Himself in human flesh made manifest?

3. The shepherds needed no excuse for publishing their news, for what they told they had first received from heaven. When heaven entrusts a man with a merciful revelation, he is bound to deliver the good tidings to others.

4. They spoke of what they had seen below. They had, by observation, made those truths most surely their own which had first been spoken to them by revelation. No man can speak of the things of God with any success until the doctrine which he finds in the Book he finds also in his heart.

II. SOME KEPT CHRISTMAS BY HOLY WONDER, ADMIRATION, AND ADORATION.

III. ONE, AT LEAST, PONDERED, MEDITATED, THOUGHT UPON THESE THINGS.

1. An exercise of memory.

2. An exercise of the affections.

3. An exercise of the intellect.

IV. OTHERS GLORIFIED GOD, AND GAVE HIM PRAISE.

1. They praised God for what they had heard.

2. They praised God for what they had seen.

3. They praised God for the agreement between what they had heard and what they had seen.

(C. H. Spurgeon. .)

Some people get the notion into their heals that the only way in which they can live for God is by becoming ministers, missionaries, or Bible women. Alas! how many of us would be shut out from any opportunity of magnifying the Most High if this were the case. The shepherds went back to the sheep-pens glorifying and praising God. Beloved, it is not office, it is earnestness; it is not position, it is grace which will enable us to glorify God. God is most surely glorified in that cobbler's stall where the godly worker, as he plies the awl, sings of the Saviour's love, ay, glorified far more than in many a prebendal stall where official religiousness performs its scanty duties. The name of Jesus is glorified by yonder carter as he drives his horse and blesses his God, or speaks to his fellow-labourer by the roadside, as much as by yonder divine who, throughout the country like Boanerges, is thundering out the gospel. God is glorified by our abiding in our vocation. Take care you do not fall out of the path of duty by leaving your calling, and take care you do not dishonour your profession while in it; think not much of yourselves, but do not think too little of your callings. There is no trade which is not sanctified by the gospel. If you turn to the Bible, you will find the most menial forms of labour have been in some way or other connected either with the most daring deeds of faith, or else with persons whose lives have been otherwise illustrious; keep to your calling, brother, keep to your calling! Whatever God has made thee, when He calls thee abide in that, unless thou art quite sure, mind that, unless thou art quite sure that He calls thee to something else. The shepherds glorified God though they went to their trade.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Every season has its own proper fruit: apples for autumn, holly berries for Christmas. The earth brings forth according to the period of the year, and with man there is a time for every purpose under heaven. At this season the world is engaged in congratulating itself and in expressing its complimentary wishes for the good of its citizens; let me suggest extra and more solid work for Christians. As we think to-day of the birth of the Saviour, let us aspire after a fresh birth of the Saviour in our hearts; that as He is already "formed in us the hope of glory," we may be "renewed in the spirit of our minds;" that we may go again to the Bethlehem of our spiritual nativity and do our first works, enjoy our first loves, and feast with Jesus as we did in the holy, happy, heavenly days of our espousals. Let us go to Jesus with something of that youthful freshness and excessive delight which was so manifest in us when we looked to Him at the first; let Him be crowned anew by us, for He is still adorned with the dew of His youth, and remains "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." The citizens of Durham, though they dwell not far from the Scotch border, and consequently in the olden times were frequently liable to be attacked, were exempted from the toils of war because there was a cathedral within their walls, and they were set aside to the bishop's service, being called hi the olden times by the name of "holy work-folk." Now, we citizens of the New Jerusalem, having the Lord Jesus in our midst, may well excuse ourselves from the ordinary ways of celebrating this season; and, considering ourselves to be "holy work-folk," we may keep it after a different sort from other men, in holy contemplation and in blessed service of that gracious God whose unspeakable gift the new-born King is to us.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

And what can better befit us than to do as these shepherds did?

I. THEY RECEIVED THE HEAVENLY MANIFESTATION WITH BECOMING REVERENCE AND AWE. When "the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, they were sore afraid." They instantly thought of God, and referred the whole thing to its proper Divine source. A right mind and a right learning sees God in everything, and beholds in the commonest ongoings of the universe the manifestations of eternal Power and Godhead, as energetic in character, and as wonderful in results, as the setting up of the stars on high, or the calling forth of the world from its nothingness. It sees in every light that shines from heaven the herald of present Deity, and is ready to fall down in holy reverence at every new signal from the sky, as verily the forthcoming of the Almighty Creator and King of the universe, before whom every knee should bow, and every tongue confess, with trembling adoration. But we need especially to know and feel that it is the same dreadful Majesty that approaches us in the proclamation of the Christ. For where the gospel speaks, there God and His angels are.

II. THE SHEPHERDS RELIEVED WHAT THE HEAVENLY MESSENGER TOLD THEM. Their ready persuasion in this respect also serves to show how self-evidencing the true gospel is to minds that are unprejudiced and really open to it. Its obstructions are ethical. Its absence in those to whom the gospel is faithfully preached is not the result of the absence of sufficient demonstration, but of the absence of heart and will to be convinced, and to own allegiance to the truth. Men have intuition enough on this subject to do away with dialectics.

III. THE SHEPHERDS DILIGENTLY IMPROVED THE LIGHT THEY RECEIVED. They were not satisfied with the mere hearing of the new-born Saviour, but must needs go and see what had occurred. Faith is an active principle. It cannot know of a Saviour and not go in search of Him. Let the impediments be what they may, it will on. There is a most important sense in which He is still here. He is in His word, in His sacraments, in His Church. This is now the Bethlehem to which we must go to seek Him.

IV. THE SHEPHERDS WERE AMPLY REWARDED FOR THEIR PAINS. They found the Saviour whom the angel announced. Earnestly seeking, they also joyfully find.

V. THE SHEPHERDS, HAVING FOUND THE CHRIST THEMSELVES, FREELY CONFESSED HIM BEFORE THE WORLD. "When they had seen, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child." Christianity deals with men as individuals. But man is a social being, and social results must necessarily follow from the intense impulses which faith kindles in the individual soul. And as our existence must needs affect others, so our personal experiences also have relations, and are meant to have effects, beyond our individual selves.

VI. THE SHEPHERDS RETURNED TO THEIR FLOCKS GLORIFYING GOD. True religion was not meant to take men away from the ordinary pursuits of life, but to go with us into them to consecrate them, and to give us new comforts in them.

(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)

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