Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Unto You Is Born This Day, Day 2

Episode Resources

Watch Nancy teach this message.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Earlier this year we shared a letter from Marla who wanted to support Revive Our Hearts but didn’t have the funds. So she asked the Lord to provide something for her to give.

Marla: I prayed and asked God to provide the money so I could give. God is so creative. I got a call from a research company asking me to be a part of a food study. They offered to pay me $135 for the job.

Nancy: Many listeners heard that and began asking the Lord to provide for them so they could give, too. We heard from so many about how God answered their prayers in surprising ways and enabled them to be a part of giving to this ministry.

Marla heard us quoting her own letter, and she was able to hear some of the responses to her letter.

Marla: I was humbled to hear how my past testimony of praying God would provide so I could give encouraged others to do the same and how God answered their prayers as well.

Nancy: Marla wanted to continue supporting Revive Our Hearts, so she did what she’d done before and asked God for the money to give.

Marla: So this is so unbelievable. The same research company God used for me to give before called me again. I said, “God, You’ve got to be kidding me! They never call me. This is the second time in five months.”

I was so happy to go and be a part of a cheese research. Now, God has a sense of humor as well. I just love cheese. So there I was enjoying something I love, and at the same time being able to give to Revive Our Hearts. May the Lord continue to provide for this amazing ministry.

Nancy: Wow! I love Marla’s testimony. And now as we close out 2017, we’re asking the Lord to provide again in a significant way. Let me explain why.

Close to half the donations that we receive for the entire year typically come during the month of December. And that’s why, without strong giving this month, Revive Our Hearts won’t be able to sustain our ministry outreaches in the year ahead.

So would you ask the Lord if He’d want you to have a part in helping to meet that need this year? And perhaps you’d like to follow Marla’s example by asking the Lord to provide for you so that you can help support Revive Our Hearts.

When you donate any amount here in December, your gift will be doubled by some friends of the ministry who are offering to match all of the donations given this month up to a total of $800,000. That means your gift will be matched dollar for dollar. If you give $50, your gift will become $100. If you give $500, your gift will become $1,000, and so on.

You can make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com. That’s a quick and easy way to give, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Thanks for trusting the Lord to provide for you so you can be a blessing to Revive Our Hearts so together we can be a blessing to women around the world.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of The Wonder of His Name, for December 6, 2017.

Nancy is in day two of a series from Luke 2 called, “Unto You Is Born This Day.”

Nancy: I think there probably isn’t a person listening to my voice today who hasn’t seen at least parts of the 1965 animated Christian classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Are you familiar with that?

You remember how Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about”?

And then Linus responds, “Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” And he proceeds to recite the account of the Christmas story found in Luke 2, verses 8–14.

I’ve been reading a little bit recently about the behind the scenes of what went on to include that Scripture reading in the original production. Let me just say that the people in the industry did not want that Scripture reading. They didn’t think it would go over. They didn’t think the public would go for it. And now here we are fifty-some years later, and still people loving and hearing the Christmas story read from the Word of God. I’m so thankful for now even that gets the Word out to people.

We talked in the last session about, beginning the paragraph of Luke chapter 2 . . . If you have your Bible, let me encourage you to turn there with me.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.

You remember that Octavian, who was later called Augustus, took the throne in 27 BC, the first Roman emperor, the founder of the Roman Empire and great nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar.

When he took the throne, it was a period of great political unrest and civil war following the assassination of his adopted father Julius Caesar. Here’s what one commentator historian on that era has to say:

Celebrated as a hero after the strife of civil war, Augustus was considered the great source of peace for Rome. [Now, remember that because it’s going to be important to the part of the story we hear today.] After defeating the enemies of Rome, he was celebrated as a great savior to the people who would have likely been hopeless had victory not been achieved.

The themes of freedom, justice, peace, and salvation permeated his reign. Whenever the great deeds of Augustus were proclaimed, they were presented with a Greek term, euangelio, which is translated, good news or gospel.

Now, we reserve that term for the gospel of Jesus Christ, but even before the birth of Christ, when Augustus would do great deeds, they would talk about these as being the euangelio, the good news, the gospel of Caesar Augustus.

So in those days, this decree went out from that Caesar Augustus, that man who was considered to be the savior, the source of peace for the known world. Verse 3:

All went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (vv. 3–7).

The life of Christ here on earth began in a manger intended for livestock. And where did it end? On a cross intended for criminals. We’re going to see why both were true and why both were necessary.

Verse 8: “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” This is the Word of the Lord.

We’re going to continue in that passage, verses 8 and following in this session, but let me just start right there: “And in the same region, there were shepherds.”

The same region. This is not far from Bethlehem, and the traditional site for the shepherds’ field was about two miles from Bethlehem, just up the road from where God was being born. Think about that.

Those shepherds were doing their job, taking care of their sheep. While it was a routine, normal night for them, another night of work, just up the road a piece a miracle is taking place—Emanuel, God with us is being born.

Now, I’m just reminded that sometimes God is at work and showing up nearby when you are totally unaware and not at all expecting it. Remember that when you feel like your life is mundane and routine—day after day you’re doing the same thing, the same job, the same task, the same responsibilities. Remember it may be just up the road a piece God is doing a great work close at hand, and He’s going to invite you to be a part of that.

So, “in that same region there were shepherds.”

Now, we’ve talked a lot about Caesar Augustus and how he was perceived to be god and amazing and divine, the savior and a man of peace. So these shepherds were a sharp contrast to Caesar Augustus, as are Mary and Joseph.

Shepherds are anonymous. We’re not told any of their names. They had no power, no influence. They were likely poor, uneducated, unskilled. Shepherds were generally considered near the bottom of the social ladder.

And since the shepherds had to stay with the sheep during the Sabbath, when other people were going to offer their sacrifices and get forgiveness and cleansing for their sin, the shepherds couldn’t do that. They had to stay with their sheep. They couldn’t celebrate the Sabbath often. So they were ceremonial unclean. And for that reason, they were considered outcasts from Israel. So who would want to be a shepherd?

Yet in God’s economy, to be a shepherd is a noble calling. First of all, God is described throughout the Old Testament as a Shepherd to His people. Not bad. Many Old Testament leaders and heroes were shepherds. To name a few: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David. These were great men of God, and they were shepherds.

The Messiah Himself is described as a Shepherd in Micah chapter 5, verse 2. And then as we get to the New Testament, Jesus describes Himself as “the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

So we have these shepherds who were this contrast to Caesar Augustus. And it’s very possible they were those outcast shepherds. But it’s also possible, as I’ve been studying this, that they were an unusual kind of shepherd.

Many commentators believe that they may have been temple shepherds whose responsibility was to care for the lambs that were intended for sacrifice.

Alfred Edersheim was a Bible scholar. He was actually a Jew who converted to Christianity, who’s best known for his book, a valuable resource, called, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. If you want an idea of what life was like, what culture was like, what was going on in that era, it’s a big, thick volume. But it’s worth having and resourcing when you want to see, like, “Who were these shepherds?” And it might not be who we’ve always thought they were.

The Jews knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. That was commonly known. Micah 5:2, we read in the last session, “Out of you, little Bethlehem, will come this one who will shepherd my people” (paraphrase v. 2, 4).

But the Jews also believed that the coming of Messiah and His kingdom would be revealed from a place called Migdal Eder. That’s a Hebrew phrase that means “the tower of the flock.”

And where did they get this idea that the Messiah’s coming and His coming would be announced from Migdal Eder? Well, they get that idea, again, from the prophesy of Micah—this time chapter 4, verse 8. Let me read this verse to you, and then we’ll put it all together.

It says, “And you, O tower of the flock (Hebrew—Migdal Eder), hill of the daughter of Zion, to you it shall come, the former dominion shall come, kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem.”

Now, when these prophesies were given in the Old Testament, they were veiled. The people who heard them, who read them, and even many times, the people who gave them could not see what this all meant. They were veiled. They were shrouded. They were not clear. You saw them dimly. You saw them not in focus.

But as the New Testament era came to be, all of a sudden the focus sharpened, and we could start to see what prophets and believers in the Old Testament had longed to see in the fulfillment of Christ.

And so Edersheim in his book, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, makes this fascinating observation, based on that passage. He says,

This Migdal Eder, tower of the flock, was not the watch tower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheep ground beyond Bethlehem, but it lay close to the town of Bethlehem on the road to Jerusalem.

Now, what was key about Jerusalem? That’s where people went to make sacrifices. Right? So if they were coming from the area of Bethlehem, they would stop and get sheep, perhaps, on this road, or these were sheep that were being prepared to be taken to Jerusalem. So this field where these special sheep were being raised, they were sheep who were being prepared for sacrifice.

And Edersheim goes on to say,

A passage in the Mishnah [which is the first written version of the Rabbinic Jewish traditions] leads to the conclusion that the flocks which pastured there were destined for temple sacrifices.

If that’s the case, and we can’t know this for sure, but if that’s the case, as it appears it may be, then these shepherds, to whom the angel appeared on that night, would have been responsible for keeping the lambs from being injured, from becoming defiled in any way—because you had to offer pure lambs. These sheep, all through the Old Testament, had always been intended to point to Jesus.

How fitting that it was to those caring for animals being prepared for the Passover and other sacrifices that it was to those shepherds that the angels announced the birth of “the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.” Isn’t that precious?

There on their watch tower, the tower of the flock, Migdal Eder, to you it shall come, the former dominion shall come. To you shall come the revelation, the first revelation that the King of Israel has been born.

And, sure enough, 650 years later God fulfills His promise at the tower of the flock, the watch tower of the flock. And so,

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear (v. 9).

Now, we know that angels are messengers of God. And numerous times in the account of that first Christmas, an angel was sent from God to deliver a message to someone who would be a part of the Christmas story, the birth of Christ.

Who were some of those angels sent to? Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, to Joseph, to Mary. Gabriel was sent. We don’t know the name of this angel, but I think it was very possible that it was still Gabriel who was delivering these messages about the birth of Christ. Of course, it doesn’t matter. It was “an angel sent from God.”

When you think that God maybe doesn’t care about what’s going on in your life or about you, just remember that those ordinary, unschooled, probably illiterate, shepherds, to them God sent an angel, a messenger with good news. And God knows how and when to send you exactly the news that you need to hear.

God is no respecter of persons. He didn’t save this news for Caesar or the upper class or the elite or to religious leaders. That’s not where the angel and the glory of the Lord showed up. It showed up to common, ordinary, uneducated laborers. You don’t have to be sophisticated to encounter God, to know His truth.

Caesar was oblivious to what was going on. The religious leaders of that day, the Jewish religious leaders, had no clue what was going on. Herod had no clue what was going. But to these simple, humble shepherds, caring for their flocks at night, doing the graveyard shift—nothing exciting about that—but to those shepherds, God sent an angel.

I mean, I can just imagine God in heaven dispatching this angel. “Go! Tell the shepherds.” God saw those shepherds. God cared. God sent them a message. And to them the glory of the Lord appeared.

The Scripture says, “God chose what is low and despised in the world so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:28–29).

When you know you don’t deserve God’s good news, then you don’t take credit for it. You don’t say, “The glory is mine,” when you know the glory is all God’s.

I think these shepherds could be trusted, as we’ll see in this passage, to steward the glory of God, and not to go out on their own book tour or start their own organization, telling how they saw this amazing sight—none of that. It was all about God from start to finish and His glory.

And the glory of the Lord shone around them (v. 9).

The glory of the Lord, throughout Scripture, is God’s manifest presence.

  • This was a brilliant light that pierced the darkness of the night.
  • This is miraculous.
  • This is spectacular.
  • This is unspeakable.
  • This is indescribable.

We can’t picture that, but the Scripture says in Corinthians that “the glory of God is shown in our hearts to show us the face of Christ.”

And listen, when the glory of God shows you Jesus, it’s no less a miracle, no less supernatural, no less wonderful than when the glory of the Lord pierced that midnight sky and made God’s manifest presence known to those shepherds who were not expecting anything like it that night.

It’s interesting to trace the glory of the Lord through the Scripture. It first appeared to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but when they sinned, they were banished from the Garden. But throughout the Old Testament there were those occasions when God revealed glimpses of His glory to His people.

You remember in the wilderness that God led His people by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. This was the glory, the Shekinah glory of God, leading His people.

And then you remember the dedication of the tabernacle and the dedication later of the temple that the glory of God came and fell on that place. It was so great that the priests could not stand to do their work.

This is why I think it’s a shame that we get so used to the Christmas story that we sense no glory. We sense no wonder. We don’t realize how amazing it is, how incredible it is, how miraculous it is. We don’t stop and say, “I can’t keep going on doing what I’m doing, living life as usual, business as normal—baking cookies and hot chocolate and buying gifts and signing Christmas cards.” Do all those things, but don’t lose the glory, the wonder that God showed up. He manifested His glory.

And when God showed up in the Old Testament, it was an amazing thing. But then we read about how in the Old Testament the people progressively left God. They turned away from Him. They turned after other gods. They worshiped idols.

So we read in Ezekiel, beginning in chapter 9–11, that “the glory of God departed from the temple”—little by little. And you know what was really sad? The people didn’t even notice. They didn’t even notice. They didn’t care. They’d gotten so used to business without the presence of God, church without the presence of God, that it didn’t make any difference. They kept on doing right what they’d been doing all along—these empty sacrifices day after day but with no heart, no presence of God.

So the presence of God was withdrawn from His people. They were sent into exile so that they would learn to reject their idols and turn back to the one true and living God. And for hundreds of years the glory of God was not seen at all here on earth until this very night on a Judean plain to a group of shepherds.

“The glory of the Lord shown around them.” The long-awaited glory, the long-promised return of God’s glory, the God of glory had come to dwell with mankind, and He revealed His glory to a band of shepherds the night His Son came to earth. His Son is the God of glory.

Well, the natural response to this mighty display of the blinding glory of God was, “They were filled with great fear.”

Of course they were! Throughout the Scripture, when people saw the manifest power and glory of God, they were terrified. They fell on their faces. Their sinfulness was exposed. We have a sanitized, diminished Jesus that we worship today. And in some cases, He’s not really Jesus at all. We’ve so distorted Him, so twisted who He is. We’ve so lost sight of who He is. We’ve made Him all human and not God.

Now, He was fully human, but He was fully God. “And in Him the fullness of the glory of God dwelt bodily.”

And so it was right that these shepherds, when they saw the glory of God, should fall on their faces. And it’s right that, when we worship God, we should have a sense of awe and wonder and amazement.

Verse 10:

And the angel said to them, “Fear not! {Easy for you to say. Right? Don’t be afraid!] for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Good news. Youonhellion(??) Not the good news of Caesar Augustus, but the good news of great joy of Jesus Christ.

This word good news, euangelion, is used twenty-five times by Luke in the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. He’s the man who’s always talking about the good news, the good news, the good news.

I think that’s a lesson to us. That’s what we ought to be talking about today. As we talk to our friends, our children, our family members, our neighbors, we ought to be talking about good news of great joy.

I’m kind of a news junkie. I follow a lot of news; I watch a lot of news—my husband and I do together. We talk about the news together. But most of the news we see and hear today is not good news. Like 90-some percent of it is bad news, at least the news that’s reported.

I think Christians ought to be talking about the good news and not letting the secular TV anchors do all the telling of what is the news. We have good news to share with our world at Christmas and throughout the year.

This is good news, and the announcement the angel was sent to make was good news indeed! It was the antidote to all fear. We no longer have to dread standing before a holy God. This good news was to counter all the bad news. The angel message came to a world that was under tyranny and oppression, and the angel said, “I bring you good news” in the middle of this Roman Empire.

The people of that day lacked joy. They had not heard good news for a very long time.

Now, the birth of every baby is good news, cause for a joyous, happy celebration. But this good news brings great joy to all who hear it, all who receive it—great joy to counter the deep despair that characterizes so much of our world.

And this news was not just for those shepherds, and it was not just for the Jews, and it was not just for a few privileged souls. Who was it for? “It will be for all the people.” And this, of course, had been God’s plan from eternity past.

And what was the news? The greatest news ever announced! Verse 11:

For unto you is born this day in the city of David [Bethlehem] a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (vv. 11–12).

And so here God shows up, off the beaten path, to a small, insignificant village—not in the center of economic, academic, political influence. This was no Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco. This was Bethlehem. But this was where God shows up.

Doesn’t it strike you as fascinating that God’s plan to reveal this earth-shaking news was so different from the way we do PR today? I mean, if such a baby had been born today, we would have had all kinds of marketing and promotional strategies. We’d want to make the biggest splash. But God did it differently.

He sent His Son as a baby, a human, wrapped in cloths as other newborn babies would have been, lying in a manger—which helped them to identify this baby who was fully human but also fully God, the God-man.

“Unto you is born this day . . . a Savior.” That’s the heart of the Christmas message. This is not just a baby. This is the Savior who was born for us—“a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”

Now, in the original Greek, those articles aren’t there. It just reads Savior. Christ. Lord. “Unto you is born today Savior. Christ. Lord.”

That was not His given name—Jesus. He would be given that name. But these were three titles.

  • He was Savior—“born to save His people from their sin.”
  • He was Christ—the New Testament equivalent to the Old Testament Messiah, anointed one, the promised Messiah.
  • He was Lord—a title of divinity. He is God, manifest in the flesh.

The birth of Jesus Christ, Savior, Lord, is good news of great joy that eclipses and overshadows whatever else may be happening in our world or in your life in this season.

I want to close with this short paragraph from Charles Spurgeon who, in a message in 1871 on this passage, brought this point home about joy to his listeners. He said:

Let me ask you. Are your sins forgiven you for his namesake? Is the head of the serpent bruised in your soul? Does the seed of the woman reign in sanctifying power over your nature? Oh then, you have the joy that is to all the people in the truest form of it. And, dear brother, dear sister, the further you submit yourself to Christ the Lord, the more completely you know him and are like him, the fuller will your happiness become.

So, as we come into this Christmas season—some of us have tears in our eyes. I’m facing a hard thing in my extended family at this Christmas season. I was awake a lot of the night last night just thinking, praying, burdened, heavyhearted over that situation. But the birth of Christ is good news of great joy for all the people.

So, in the midst of our tears, our struggles, our strains and stresses, the things over which we have no control, the things which break our hearts, remember God sent into that dismal world of despair and darkness good news of great joy, “For to you is born this day a Savior. Christ. Lord.”

So rejoice! This is joy! This is good news indeed! Amen.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been helping us recapture the wonder of Christmas.

It’s easy to lose that wonder when the season gets busy, and Nancy has helped us focus on what really matters by taking us to God’s Word. You can watch today’s teaching from Nancy on video. You’ll find the whole series on audio, video and transcript at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Tomorrow we’ll consider the angels who visited the shepherds in Bethlehem. They kept the focus of their message right where it belonged. Nancy will explain more tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you recapture the wonder of Christmas. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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