TEXT: Luke 2:8-20
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
G.K. Chesterton said, “One of the strangest things about our own topsy-turvy time is that we all hear such a vast amount about Christmas just before it comes, and suddenly hear nothing at all about it afterwards.”
I was raised with the traditional Christmas celebrations like everyone else — Santa, the Grinch, presents, Christmas trees, etc. I never knew what Christmas meant until I got saved on December 19, 1979.
Being saved six days before Christmas made a major impression on me. The church that I was in at the time took me out street preaching with them in New Orleans. The only verse I knew was Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” And I repeated that verse over and over again amid the crowds of people out shopping in preparation for Christmas.
After getting saved, no one told me how to celebrate Christmas. However, I knew that the commercialization and consumerism that I had grown up with was not what Christmas was all about. From that time forward, I never celebrated Christmas in the traditional way.
Even after I married and started a family (of over 30 years now), we never gave or received gifts, put up lights, decorated a tree, told our children about Santa Claus, sung any of the secular Christmas songs, or anything like that.
Instead, on Christmas, we keep the focus on Jesus Christ. We have our regular family devotions, followed by reading the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2. We have a special breakfast (our favorite is an English breakfast). As a minister of the Gospel, I preach a Christmas message. We also pass out Gospel tracts. In the evening, we enjoy a special dinner meal.
The colossal annual build-up to Christmas is indeed one of the strangest phenomenons in the Western world. Retailers start selling Christmas supplies and decorations in October. A week before Thanksgiving, Christmas music is playing non-stop in stores and on public transportation. The day after Thanksgiving launches advertisers into an incessant hawking of wares that lasts until midnight on Christmas Eve. And then, for many in the world, Christmas comes. There are family gatherings, parties, opening of presents, Christmas movies, maybe a basketball game. And then the next day, it’s all over. All that build-up for one day of celebration that, when it’s over, can feel hollow and vain. At least most people have the debt to remember it by.
Something is obviously wrong with the popular celebration of Christmas. The reason why so many are left feeling empty at the end of the 50-day ramp-up is because they have missed the entire point of the celebration and have only been engaging in superficial festivity. In her recent article in Church Life Journal, titled “The Sham Practice of Christmas,” Haley Stewart pulls from German philosopher Josef Pieper and Charles Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” to explain what stands at the root of the true festival of Christmas. She writes, “An encounter with the divine is always a necessary element to a true festival. Regardless of religion or cultural traditions, a true festival is founded not by humans but by divinity. It must be rooted in an event in which the supernatural touches the material—it cannot be observed merely in praise of a nebulous idea or a mere memorial. Something real must happen.”
Ask a secular person what Christmas is all about, and they will say something along the lines of: spending time with family, enjoying a good meal, giving gifts to the people you care about. To these persons, I would ask, “Shouldn’t you — don’t you — do those things all year round?” There is no true celebration in the world’s observance of Christmas because it does not acknowledge and embrace an encounter with the divine. The passage we just read records such an encounter.
Several shepherds are out doing the most mundane of duties — watching their sheep at night. Some of them are probably half-sleep, leaning on their staff. The rest are standing around, shooting the breeze, talking about about the news of the day. When, suddenly, “the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them.” In an instant, their world inverted. Night became day. Their focus shifted from the sheep on the ground to the angel in the sky. The mundane became magical. The ordinary became extraordinary. Their ease turned to fear. The glory of God ripped the cosmos to announce “good tidings of great joy.”
The good tidings were that the “Savior, Christ the Lord,” had been born into the world. Christmas is not Christmas — it is not a true celebration or festival — without Jesus at its center. In this day and time, we must heed the words of the angel and the example of the shepherds. If we want to celebrate this holiday correctly and reclaim it for its true purpose in the world, we must seek Christ on Christmas.
Notice, first, the angel’s words: “Ye shall find the babe.” The onus is on the shepherds to capitalize on the news that they had just received. They had to seek Christ on that first Christmas. It was a deliberate act. All they knew was that the Savior was born in a manger in Bethlehem, the City of David. The shepherds set a great example for us with their response to the angels’ announcement. They said to one another, “Let us now go and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” But that is not all: “They came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.” How many Christians are guilty of getting caught up in the mayhem of Christmas preparations that they completely forget the only reason it is worth celebrating? The babe lying in a manger must be at the heart of all our celebrations this time of year. John 3:16!
However, seeking Christ on Christmas is not all that is required to make our holiday observance worthwhile. Notice, second, what the shepherds did once they found the Christ-child. Verse 17 tells us that what “they had seen, they made known abroad.” They told everybody they met that night, and the next day, and the day after that — no doubt, they were talking about it for weeks on end — “The Savior, Christ the Lord is born! The Messiah is upon the Earth! God is with us! The King has come! Peace and goodwill to all!” We ought to commemorate Christ’s coming each year, but Christmas ought to also be seen as an evangelistic opportunity. What better time is there to tell people that Someone came to save us from our sins?
Finally, look at verse 20. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.” This is the basis for our continuing observance of Christmas. While some may feel that December 25th has been hijacked by the world or the devil, that is no excuse for those of us who know its true meaning to grow sour on celebration. This day ought to be spent glorifying and praising God for the gift of His Son. And not only this day, but every day. As Haley Stewart writes in the article I mentioned earlier: “A true festival must reach beyond a historical moment in the past to touch us in the present and it must point to a hope for the future. For a festival to be a true festival it must, in some sense, be always happening, a ‘mysterious contemporizing of the event.’ Easter is not merely the memorial of a historical moment but a celebration of the continuous reality of the Resurrection. With this understanding, it makes sense when Ebenezer Scrooge says, ‘I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, Present, and Future.’
“Because a true festival is always occurring, it must, in some sense, be kept all the year.”
William Chatterton wrote:
What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping,
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to show you how you can receive the greatest gift ever given – salvation full and free through Jesus Christ.
First, accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Now that is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.
Romans 10:9 & 13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your Salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you believed in your heart that Jesus Christ died on the Cross, was buried, and rose again, allow me to say, congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour! For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
If you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior today, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know. There is some free material that we want to send you. If you have a prayer request, please e-mail that to us as well, and we will pray for you until you tell us to stop.
God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.
Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in over twenty-five foreign countries. He is the author of over forty books including the Essence Magazine, Dallas Morning News, and Amazon.com national bestseller, Letters to Young Black Men. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry.
He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts/podcasts, which include: The Prayer Motivator Devotional, The Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report, the Second Coming Watch Update and the Soul-Winning Motivator, among others.
He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, a Master’s degree in Religion, a Master of Divinity degree, and a Master of Theology degree from Liberty University’s Rawlings School of Divinity (formerly Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary). He is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Ministry degree.
He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica since 1987. God has blessed their union with seven children.