And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Luke 2:8-15 NIV

As we celebrate Christ’s birth this week, let’s remember these important truths found in the announcement passage above (Luke 2):

God uses unlikely people.

'Good Tidings 09' photo (c) 2011, Waiting For The Word - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Shepherds were not Bible scholars. They weren’t wealthy or influential. They weren’t really even respected. They smelled. They were weathered. And yet they were the audience of a heavenly invasion party, announcing the singular event that would split history—measured now in terms of before and after—Christ’s birth.

God delights in turning convention on its ear. Expect the unexpected.

Encountering God (or his messengers) can be frightening.

God is not tame. His angel-messengers aren’t all blonde-haired ladies in flowing robes with wings, so delicately placed atop Christmas trees. Every biblical encounter of God or his angels resulted in fear… terror, even. And the shepherds weren’t settling in for a concert at the angels’ appearance. In fact, “a great company of the heavenly host” (verse 13) isn’t describing a really big choir, but a military unit. “Host” is another word for army, and so “company” isn’t just referring to a full house. But once again flipping the world upside down, God sends warriors to declare peace on earth, telling the shepherds to not be afraid.

The message of Jesus is good news.

No doubt, the gospel (which is Greek, the original language of the New Testament, is a word meaning “good news”) has been controversial, with champions and detractors alike. But make no mistake… it is good news. Where there was separation, distance, and certain destruction, now there is reconciliation, relationship, and eternal life. And as this passage says, peace and favor.

The message of Jesus is for all people (no matter what we believe).

The good news “will cause great joy for all the people” (verse 10). There were no distinctions. It’s not for some people. It’s not for those people, or those other people. It’s for all people. Even if you don’t believe. And especially if you don’t believe, for a later Christian leader, Paul, wrote to the believers in Rome, “[H]ow can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14b NIV). In other words, the message is there so that those who don’t believe yet can hear about Jesus and come to believe in him. And even if someone hears the message and chooses not to believe, the message is still for that person, as for us all; it doesn’t change.

The message of Jesus evokes worship.

No dry announcement from the angels. No newsflash and then onto the next story. The angelic army was moved to praise the God who sent his Son into the world, knowing that they carried good news indeed: peace for everyone! Peace for those who previously knew no peace and were estranged from their maker because of sin! Humans were not abandoned; God was providing a way of restoration. “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (verse 14)… glory, indeed!

The message of Jesus brings peace.

Peace.

In our modern Christmas shop-’til-you-drop mode, peace seems a distant hope at this time of year. But peace is what the message is all about. From the first sin that fractured the relationship between humans and their Creator, the enemies of peace (with God, with people, with the world, and even with ourselves) have waged against it in every arena of life. But in the message of Christ, peace is not just possible, but promised in the reconciliation Jesus came to achieve. And this isn’t just some sort of truce with God, but real, genuine, lasting, restorative peace. It’s a homecoming. Welcome home, child. Welcome home.

The message of Jesus is meant to be shared (and motivates sharing).

The shepherds, used to being isolated in the countryside, rarely ventured into town. But this good news was too good, too important, too life-changing to keep to themselves. Others in Scripture, like the Samaritan woman of John 4, had similar responses, risking reputation to tell the message of Jesus. Some were not so quick, but the story still must be told. If you’ve experienced the good news, the message of Jesus, tell your story. Someone told their story… and that’s how you came to hear the message. Spread the peace.