by Ricky Chelette, Executive Director
Birth announcements are important. They herald the arrival of new life into the world and are both delivered and met with exuberance. Historically, the more important the person, the grander the announcement, from simple word of mouth for the peasant to the ringing of bells and feasting for a prince. When baby George was born on the 22nd of July 2013 to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the birth was announced outside Kensington Palace by a brightly costumed town crier, complete with scroll, official words from Queen Elizabeth II, and the ringing of church bells. Hundreds gathered and thousands watched by television to hear the birth of the heir to the throne.
It seems only fitting that the advent of the Son of God into our world would be met with similar extravagance, and indeed it was, but not in the way you or I might expect. Luke’s gospel records it this way:
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2:8-11, ESV)
The magnificence of this moment—an instant in which the glory of the Lord shines upon the creation—is almost incomprehensible. The cosmos seems almost to pause for a moment as the angel appears in all its splendor to proclaim the beginning of the world’s restoration, news longingly anticipated for thousands of years. While this divine proclamation contains numerous multifaceted truths, it can be broken down into three primary announcements:
The angel announces “good news of great joy for all the people.” Good news because finally we, estranged from God and enslaved by our sin, can be reconciled to Him and freed from our bondage. This freedom could not be gained through our own effort, for we had proven our inability to do so through our failure to uphold the law. Such liberty brings joy, hope, and life.
The angel also declares, “unto you is born… in the city of David a Savior…” Unlike the angel who made the announcement, Jesus did not simply appear, but instead experienced birth. He was born like any other human because he was human. He had a genealogy that not only connected him to humanity, but to the fulfillment of ancient prophecies long awaited. Additionally, note that the angel does not say that Jesus will become a savior, but that He was born a savior. The very purpose of Jesus coming was not to become something, but to reveal who He already was and to display the fullness of God in His person for all the world to see and believe (Col. 2:9).
The angel concludes his announcement by referring to Jesus’ title “Christ the Lord.” This is the first and only time this combination—χριστὸς κύριος or Christ Yahweh—is used in scripture. It boldly identifies this baby as both the long-awaited Messiah, who had been spoken of in ancient scripture, and the incarnation of I Am.
Despite the majesty of this message, the juxtaposition of announcer and recipient in this text cannot be overlooked. The angel delivered this world altering news to shepherds. Shepherds. These men were not scholars, nor aristocrats. No, they were not the leaders of anything but sheep. They were simple, ordinary men, doing honest work in an ordinary way. They were watching, waiting, and anticipating something, but certainly not expecting the message they received.
So, what are we to make of a resplendent message delivered to the most ordinary of men? This apparent incongruity of announcement and audience actually foreshadows the very mission of Christ, a one-of-a-kind Sovereign announced to the common man to bring the most uncommon redemption. His ministry consistently demonstrated His ability to defy the expected for the extraordinary, to transform the lives of sinners to saints and murderers to martyrs for his Kingdom. The power of the Gospel transforms lives for God’s glory!
This Christmas, the announcement of the Christ-child calls you to action. It invites you out of bondage and into freedom. It invites you to abandon your way of thinking and living for a new way of believing and loving that will transform you and the community in which you live. It was the only hope of the ancient world and it is the only hope for our modern one as well. Don’t get lost in Christmas-business and miss the Christ-baby. Be like the shepherds. Heed the message of the coming King and run to Him. See Him with new eyes and an open heart. The shepherds did, and they were never the same again.