God’s Promise, Peace
God’s promise was announced by the angels to the shepherds, ‘glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward all’ – the full story can be read in Luke 2.8-20.
However, before this event, everyone thought taxation was the big news. Caesar Augustus had ordered the entire population to return to their home town to register in his census. This catapulted society into turmoil and uncertainty, so the fact that a young Jewish couple were travelling to Bethlehem was completely overlooked. And yet, it was there that the biggest news of all was happening, as Christ the Lord was born.
This is when an angel appeared to the shepherds in their field, announcing the good news that the birth of this baby born in Bethlehem would mean peace and goodwill to all.
Can you imagine the joy that erupted in heaven the night Jesus was born, as God’s promise of our salvation was revealed? It seems the joy of heaven was so immense it could not be contained, as the heavens erupted and hosts of angels became visible to the shepherd’s human eyes.
The angel’s message of peace, goodwill, and that they should not be afraid, was important to these men. They would normally have been treated as outcasts, because their work was considered ceremonially unclean. But, in the Bible, we learn that shepherds are respected, to the point that God introduces Himself as our Shepherd in Psalm 23, and later, Jesus referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd in John 10.11,14.
These shepherds wisely decided they should go to Bethlehem, and just as they had been told by the angel, the shepherds found the facts were just as they had been told. The baby had been born and God’s promise came to life on that first Christmas. The shepherds didn’t miss out on the experience of meeting Jesus, because they recognised God’s larger story included them. They believed God and went to find this new born boy that carried so much promise.
However, if there had been a world-wide news bulletin during that time, it would have been all about the chaos and confusion caused by the census. It’s unlikely that any importance would have been placed on the real news story of the time, which was that God had come into the world and taken on human flesh. He was lying in a manger and had promised peace and goodwill to all.
After the shepherds had met Jesus in person they returned to the field. But their lives took a different direction through the significance of Jesus birth, and these shepherds now had a new mission as they took the message of God’s promise of peace everywhere they went.
If you’ve ever watched any of the Mission Impossible movies, there’s a line at the beginning in all of them, when the main character, Ethan Hunt, is asked the question told, ‘Your mission, should you choose to accept it …’ and the details of his impending mission are given. This is inevitably followed by an action-packed story that involves the main character saving the world.
The story of Jesus birth is huge in comparison. He was sent by God to fulfil a specific mission, which was to forgive, restore relationships with God and bring wholeness through His peace. All available to those who receive this same good news as the shepherds did that night. Jesus could have walked away at any time, yet He chose to carry out all that God asked of Him that we might know His promise in reality.
The Bible is an action-packed story of a Saviour who came to save, and Jesus’ birth is central to God’s Christmas promise. Jesus is the main character in this story of Christmas. It was good tidings of great joy to those shepherds then, and this is still good tidings of great joy for all people, even today.
Father God, as we turn on our Christmas tree lights each evening, may we look at them as a reminder of how Jesus came as the Light in the darkness. We thank You that we are now blessed that in Jesus birth we see the fulfilment of the words You spoke through the Prophet Isaiah, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9.6).
In the Name of Jesus, amen.