Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 December 17, 2017
“Jesus, Our Joy”
Text: Luke 2:8-20
Two weeks ago, as we thought of hope, we heard God tell us, in Psalm 42, to put our hope in Him. Last week, could we have met, we would have heard from John 14:27 about Jesus’ peace—a peace, not as the world gives, that only He can give. Today, we continue thinking of the usual Advent themes here at Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church by thinking of joy—and Dr. Luke’s Spirit-led account of the shepherds and angels helps greatly. Let us hear the Lord’s Word through Luke’s pen.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Luke begins this portion of his account in a field near Bethlehem, at night. Certain shepherds keeping watch over the flock there, and they guard against thieves and predators (such as wolves, among others)—not to mention the occasional wandering sheep. They do this in all weather conditions; hence, the veterans among them have seen much in the line of duty. None of them, however, ever saw anything like what they saw that night.
Into what may well have been an otherwise ordinary night near Bethlehem, an angel appeared—and the glory of the Lord shone all around. The shepherds’ individual and group reactions are the same—and wholly understandable. They were filled with fear, as the English Standard Version read here today states. A more wooden translation of the Greek is they were afraid, a great fear. Into this setting the angel, having appeared, now speaks.
The angel’s first words form the most oft-repeated command in all Scripture, “Fear not….” The angel—and God Himself, Whose ambassador the angel is—brings not a portent of woe, but of sense of well. The next words tell us God’s great heart for us: “…for, behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The angel, in saying, “I bring you good news,” (Greek euangelidzo [euaggelizw]) announces good news, to be sure, but he also announces the Good News—He preaches the Gospel.
The angels preaches the Gospel of great joy. A Savior—a Rescuer, a Deliverer, a Healer, and more—is born this day in the city of David. King David, twenty-eight names ahead of Jesus in Matthew’s genealogy, was from Bethlehem. The phrase born this day in the city of David refers both to the lineage and to the humanity of this Savior. Note the appellation given to this Savior—Christ, the Lord. This Savior, to be named Jesus (Luke 1:31, 2:21), is named the Christ—the Anointed One foretold by prophets of old. This title is the near-transliteration of the Greek Christos (CristoV), which itself translate the Hebrew Mashiach, or Messiah. The angel, by calling Jesus Christ the Lord, refers to His divinity. Jesus, then, is God incarnate. He is fully God, able to save to the uttermost those who trust in Him (Hebrews 7:25), and He is fully man, able to sympathize fully with us in our weakness (Hebrews 4:15).
The angel next declares the sign that they have found the Christ Child. They will find Him wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. The angel is, of course, explicit in his description, for this is a most unlikely receiving room for a child born a king—especially for the incarnate King of the ages. Jesus, after His birth, lies on hay—and likely on hay inside the animals’ feed box. This, then, is the sign of the Child to the shepherds—and they will seek Him carefully. First, though, there remain other unusual visitors to note.
The number of other unusual visitors is quite large. A multitude of the heavenly host appears in that place to the shepherds’ view. They praise God (what a chorus that must have been) and say to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” We see, then, ascription of glory to God from Heaven—as voiced by the heavenly host—and blessing earth-ward, especially to the ones with whom He is pleased.
After the praise and declaration of the heavenly host, the shepherds act upon this unusual visitation and news. They go in haste to Bethlehem—likely not too far from their current locale—and, once there, they search carefully to find Jesus and Mary and Joseph. On finding Him, they make known both what the angel told them and how the heavenly host praised God and blessed the ones with whom God is pleased. All who heard the tidings were amazed at what the shepherd told them. Mary treasured these things said concerning her Son, and she pondered them in her heart. After these events, the shepherds return, glorifying and praising God all the way. It was a night of joy indeed—both in the declaration of Good News of great joy and in the actual seeing of what the angel declared.
Joy, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires (delight), or the expression or exhibition of such emotion (gaiety). It is also a state of happiness or felicity (bliss) or a source or cause of delight. The Biblical definition of joy, though assuredly more than this, certainly is not less. Jesus, God incarnate, is our joy. He is our joy because He rescues us from sin’s penalty, power, and presence. Jesus is our joy because He gives us life abundant (John 10:10) and everlasting (John 3:16). Having these, we have all. Rejoice, then, in Him Who is your joy—and mine.
 For this past, present, and future understanding, respectively, of salvation, see Michael Green, Evangelism through the Local Church: A Comprehensive Guide to All Aspects of Evangelism (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1992), 33.