Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 2:8-20 – Priming Our Hearts To Praise And Glorify The Lord

Grace For The Journey

How many angels did the shepherds encounter at the announcement of Jesus’ birth?  We know that there was one angel who brought the good news concerning the birth of the Savior.  He is simply identified as “an angel of the Lord.”  He made the greatest announcement any angel ever made, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”  

Accompanying this angelic messenger was “a great company of the heavenly host.”  This unnumbered group was a part of the singing angelic army of heaven.  That they were angels is obvious from the reference in the text, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven.”  The word “host” is the ordinary Greek word for a sizeable army.  It has as its background a Hebrew word that is translated “host” in the Old Testament.  It, too, referred to an angelic army.  Whenever “the host of heaven” made their appearance, ordinarily they were involved in some struggle on behalf of the people of God or some judgment upon the people of God.

There is no way to over estimate

The power and potential of this

Heavenly army whenever they

Are involved in a human struggle.

  • It only took one soldier from that army to devastate the army of Sennacherib and to leave a hundred and eighty-five thousand dead soldiers lying on the field of battle after only one night of struggle.
  • It only took one angel to bring devastation upon the nation of Israel when God moved against them in judgment during the reign of King David.  

This is the only occasion that the army appears on Earth in their role as a choir.  Their responsibility in heaven ordinarily is to serve as a choir offering praise to God.  What we have in the heavenly host is a singing army.  

It brings before us one of the

Basic functions of the angels –

They sing the praises of God.

I want us to take this familiar part of this great event to learn something more about the angels and its significant lesson for our lives.  


This is one of the most surprising things in the Christmas story.  Throughout Biblical history every appearance of the heavenly army on the earth had been on some mission of death and destruction.  This time they are on the earth as the heavenly choir.  Their time in the presence of God in heaven is taken up with the singing of His praises.  We have notable examples of this both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.

This appearance in this particular setting is of great significance.

1.  The Scene Is Not The Temple.  

If the singing army is to make an appearance on earth and give a brief concert, is it not logical to expect that they will do this in the temple at Jerusalem?  There was a human choir that sang the praises of God generation after generation in the temple at Jerusalem.  The temple is the place where religious leaders of the land of Israel congregate to do their service to God.  The fact that the singing angelic army did not give its brief concert in the temple at Jerusalem is a judgment on the temple.  It indicates that the God of heaven is by-passing the religious structures of Israel in bringing His Messiah into the world.  He evidently does not consider the religious leaders to be the proper subjects to hear this brief concert.  That the religious leaders of the people of God could slip into such a decadent state that when God is getting ready to do something significant He would by-pass them needs to be a warning to all of us who are involved in the spiritual leadership of our day.  

2.  The Scene Is In A Field With Some Shepherds.  

There may not have been more than two or three in company that night.  But they are the ones who are allowed to hear the earthly concert of this heavenly choir.  This says something about the purpose of God at this point in history.  

The shepherds should be seen

As representing the common

And ordinary people.

They would have been held in contempt by the religious leaders in Jerusalem.   Shepherds were considered ceremonially unclean since their lifestyle made it impossible for them to live by all the rules that the religious leaders had put in place.  They would not be welcome in the temple to hear any concert by any choir.  So . . . God sends the singing angelic army to give their brief concert to a place outside of the temple.   The concert is shared with people of the ordinary way of life.  

It is a reminder to us that the

Mission of Jesus into the world

Was not to save the religious

Structures of the day, but it

Was rather to save sinners.

We must not forget that this aspect of His mission has not changed.  He is more likely to have a heart for someone who would be considered outcast by us than He is for those of us who have worked so hard at achieving a certain level of respectability.  

The scene for this brief concert is in itself a part of the Good News.  The coming of Christ is about bringing joy to those who have had very little earthly opportunity to ever know joy.  


Their anthem was rather brief, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace , goodwill toward.”  What were they singing?  What is the essence or the theme of their anthem?  It obviously divides itself into two statements.  The first is concerned with God in heaven; the second is concerned with man on earth.

1.  The Glory Of God In Heaven.

We should see in this brief anthem sung by the singing angelic army a statement concerning what is to be accomplished by the mission of the Messiah.  As a result of the coming of the Baby born in Bethlehem, there is to be “glory to God in the highest.”  The primary result of the mission of Jesus in the earth will be to reveal to mankind the essence of the Divine Being and to bring great glory to God in the highest.  In this statement we are to understand “in the highest” as referring to heaven itself.  Because the Messiah, the Son of God, came to earth, there will be great praise, honor, and glory given to God in heaven.  This singing angelic army is sensitive to who God is and what God has done, and they are prepared to acknowledge who God is and the glory of what He has done in their Christmas song.  

2.  Peace To Man.

The second statement in the Christmas song indicates that something is to take place on earth.  We should see earth standing in contrast to the highest.  The thing that is to take place involves men and this is to be seen in contrast to God.  Something is to happen in heaven in reference to God and then something is to happen on earth with reference to man.  The thing that is to happen on earth with reference to man is “peace.”  

The inclusion of peace in their Christmas song refers to peace in a comprehensive sense.  

The mission of Jesus is to bring

Peace with God to men.  

His mission is to reconcile

God and sinful man.

Because of His mission to earth, lost human beings will now be able to draw nigh to God and enter into a relationship with God that is best described as “peace.”

When man knows peace with God, then he begins to know the peace of God.  The peace of God includes a man coming to peace with himself.  This is the experiential side of peace.  When through the Lord Jesus we are reconciled to God, it removes those destructive and negative thoughts we have about ourselves and replaces them
with a sense of acceptance, even being under the favor of God.  
The peace even goes a step further for when men are at peace with God and at peace with themselves, then it becomes possible for them to be at peace with others.  

  • The family and the home benefits from us being at peace with God.  
  • The business and market-place benefit from us being at peace with God.  
  • The community benefits from us being at peace with God.  
  • The world benefits from us being at peace with God.

When we are not a peace with God, we tend to be at war with ourselves and with others.  

Another aspect of this peace is described in this passages as, “goodwill toward men.”  This phrase gives emphasis to the fact that the good will is God’s good will.  Those who know the peace of God are those upon whom God has set His heart and to whom He has extended His grace.  It is when we come under the grace of God, even the favor of God through the Lord Jesus Christ, that we know the peace with God.  

We must never forget that even though our world only dreams about peace, peace is still a possibility through the Lord Jesus Christ.  In their Christmas anthem the singing angelic army celebrated this accomplishment on the part of the Messiah that was born that day.  He was born to be “The Prince of Peace.”  Because of His mission into the world our God is now known as “the God of peace.”  Peace is a possibility for you personally because Jesus came.   

Peace is a possibility in our world because Jesus came.  The subject of their Christmas song related to God and man, heaven and earth, glory and peace.


What significance are we to see in this brief concert given by the singing angelic army on the hills just outside of Bethlehem.  There seems to be two points of real significance . . .

1.  A Sign.

The angels made this musical mission to earth as a sign of the significance of the birth of the Son.  

Holy God wanted it known on earth that

What was happening in the stable

Outside of the inn in Bethlehem was

Of eternal and heavenly significance.

The concert was in honor of the occasion.  This singing angelic army does not sing for county fairs, or inaugurations of presidents.  Its concerts are reserved for those significant points of redemptive history.  This is the moment that is best described as “the fullness of time.”  In order to make it known to the citizens of earth that something significant is happening, God sent His heavenly singing army to give this brief concert there on the
Judean hills.  

2.  A Sample.

When I was growing up, my parents would visit a relative in northern Missouri.  They were old time farmers who did not have a lot of the conveniences that people enjoy today.  They had only one source of water.  There was an old well in back of the yard with an old-fashioned iron pump on it.  Sometimes the pump would become dry and the leather piece that created the suction that pulled the water up would shrink.  The best way for them to get the pump to operate in those circumstances was to prime it.  You would take some water, pour it into the pump and then begin to work the handle.  It would swell the leather and would be used to prime the pump.  Soon when you poured in the water, and worked the handle, fresh water would begin to flow from the pump.

It occurred to me that this was what God was doing when He sent the singing angelic army to give this brief concert there in Judea.  He wanted to prime the pump of the man’s spirit and to cause mankind to begin to sing the praises of His name and to express the proper response to the coming of His Son to earth.  

His strategy worked.  As you read the text you find that these shepherds who heard the brief concert went to search out for themselves to see if what the angels had said was really true.  When they came to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph with the new born Son.  Luke reports that they responded with joy.  Verse 20 tells us, “Then shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”  Before Christmas day was over . . .

There was not only a heavenly choir

Singing the praises of

The one born to Mary,

There was an earthly choir.

It was made up of humble men who had seen for themselves the new-born Babe and had embraced for themselves the message of the angel that He was “Christ the Lord.”  Because of the joy that is in their hearts they are giving glory to God and offering praise to His worthy name.  The Father started earth to singing the praise of the Son by sending the singing angelic army for its brief concert.  

Almost without interruption since that first Christmas morning there has been a company of people somewhere on the earth prepared to lift their voices in praise.  There has been a company who were ready to sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest , and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

I am thankful that I can be a part of such a company.  

Because of what God did in Christ,

He is worthy of our praise.  

Because of what God the Son

Did in His mission on earth,

He is worthy of the praise of my lips.  

Because of what God the Holy Spirit

Did in sustaining God the Son in

His mission to the earth,

He is worthy of my praise.  

There is no need for any new priming for there is flowing forth from my spirit spontaneously and gladly praise to the name of the Lord.  Are you prepared to join me not only on this day but in every day of life in singing of the goodness, grace, and glory of our God so that all may know what He has done in the Son?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Time: Luke 2:1-5 – Missing The Opportunity To Know God

Grace For The Journey

Phillips Brooks, a Boston pastor, wrote the words of a favorite Christmas hymn: O Little Town Of Bethlehem . . .

How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by:
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary:
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch at wond’ring love.
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth,  
And praises sing to God the king,
And peace to men on earth.

It is a matter of history – Bethlehem slept through Christmas.  God visited their village and they missed it completely.  We have focused on the innkeeper that did not find room for the traveling couple from Nazareth, but what about the whole town?  The inn was not the only place one could spend the night in Bethlehem.  They blew it!  They missed it!  Each home in Bethlehem had the opportunity to have God take on flesh in their house, but they missed it.

Are we in danger of missing God?  Could it be that we will take the children to see Santa, but will miss God completely at Christmas?  Let’s allow Bethlehem to be a warning to us.  It is rather obvious why they missed Him – things have not changed that much.  We still miss Him for the same reasons . . .


Contrast what happened in Bethlehem with what happened in the temple forty days later when Mary and Joseph went to the temple to present the Newborn Christ.  When they arrived in the temple, they were greeted by a joyous welcome from two faithful souls – Simeon and Anna.  Each of them had been waiting in the temple week after week in expectation of the appearance of the Messiah.  Yet there was no Anna or Simeon in Bethlehem.  Why?  They were not listening.

1. They Were Not Listening To The Word Of God.

Eight hundred years earlier God had spoken concerning Bethlehem.  He had spoken through Micah that the Messiah would be born in this little Judean village.  For eight hundred years they had known that He was coming, and yet they were not ready.  When He came, they missed Him.  They had not been listening to what He had said in His Word concerning them.  They heard the promise, but it had just become too familiar, they were no longer excited about it?

Are we listening?  Does not the Lord still speak through His Word?  Our generation has laid the Bible aside as having nothing to say to them.  We are the most Biblically illiterate people to ever live in this country.  The men and women who established this country were a people of the Book.  Even those who did not believe were familiar with its teachings.  But not us!  Not our children and grandchildren!  Not our neighbors!  We are in danger of missing God because we are not listening to His Word.

If Bethlehem had been listening to the Word of God, they would not have missed Him that Christmas.  He would never have been born in a cow-stall and laid in a manger.  If we are listening to the Word of God, we will not miss Him.

2. They Were Not Listening To The Spirit Of God.

The thing that set Simeon and Anna apart was that they were full of the Holy Spirit. They were listening to both the Word and the Spirit, but Bethlehem was listening to neither. Of Simeon Luke writes, “And the Holy Ghost was upon him” and, “He came by the Spirit into the temple.”  This good man was a part of the believing remnant that was waiting for the Messiah.  Evidently there were no citizens of Bethlehem in this remnant. There was no one there listening to the Spirit as He prepared those who were to welcome the Son of God Who had He arrived on earth for His mission of Redemption.
What about us?  Are we listening to the Spirit?  Have we heard His quiet voice as He speaks of the Savior?  O, we do not want to sleep through Christmas.  We do not want to miss God.


There were other things going on in Bethlehem—there are always other things going on. The temptation to become preoccupied with lesser things is always with us.

1. They Were Preoccupied With The Requirements Of Government.

Does this sound familiar?  Rome was the government of the day. The Caesar was Augustus, and he had issued a governmental decree that disrupted many lives, including Mary and Joseph.  The decree required a registration of the people for the purpose of taxation.  Actually, even though Augustus knew nothing of it, God was using his decree to get Mary to the proper place to give birth to her Son.  God had already decreed that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and His word must stand.  This must have created something of a homecoming atmosphere in Bethlehem.  People who had moved away were coming back to register.  The registration was the hot topic of conversation when the men gathered for their morning cup of coffee or tea.  This was a major disruption.  Who would think that God would come in the midst of such a disruption?

2. They Were Preoccupied With The Demands Of Life.

Everyone in Bethlehem had their own set of problems.  We pick on the innkeeper but he was just typical of the whole village.  He had an inn to run, guests to take care of, and a family to feed.  He was so caught up in the affairs of his world that he did not notice anything different about the couple standing at his door looking for a place to spend the night.  Without a lot of thought he turned them away to find a place in the stable near the inn. He had other fish to fry!

But, so did everyone else in Bethlehem!  Do you want to defend the citizens of Bethlehem?  How were they supposed to know that Mary was the Virgin that the prophet Isaiah had foretold?  How were they supposed to know that her Son was to be the Savior of Israel and the world?  Everything about them seemed so ordinary. But it always does.

God works through little things in unexpected ways to come to us.  If we are not paying attention, we will miss him.  We must not allow the demands that surround us to cause us to miss God!  There will never be another opportunity like this for this little town of David, for they had their day of opportunity to be saved and missed it.  Do you realize that as far as we know from the Gospels, Jesus never returned to Bethlehem.  What are you allowing to crowd out your Christmas?  


While they knew the tradition that the Messiah would come from their town, they expected the Messiah to be a royal figure.  If He was the Son of David, would he not come like a king?  Yet when it happened, his parents did not look like royalty.  Joseph had the calloused hands of a common laborer; Mary looked like any young peasant maiden from Galilee.  There definitely was not a halo around her head.

What about you?  Do you have a set of expectations that has kept you from receiving the Messiah and Savior?  Have you allowed your prejudices to form in you some expectations that cause you to miss God?  God may not come to you dressed the garments you expect.  You better be prepared to receive Him whether He meets your expectations or not.

2. They Expected Him To Come With Power.

Will you meet God today?  Are you listening to His Word and His Spirit?  Are ready to obey the promptings of the Spirit as He calls on you to receive the Messiah and Savior? Are you ready to set Him in His proper place, give to Him the first place in the matters of your heart?  Are you ready to surrender your expectations, and to give Him the freedom to do things His way?  It is urgent that you not miss God today.  

How can you make sure that you do not miss Him?  First, make sure that you have a relationship with Him and worship is a priority.  Open your life to His Word.  Give the Spirit an opportunity to speak to your heart as you join others in worship.  He will come to you just like He came to Bethlehem!

Second, Make room in your home for Him.  Make sure that the family gathering includes a recognition and worship of Him.  Do not get some involved with the bustle of the day that you forget the reason for the day – to know Jesus and glorify Him.

Third, renew your commitment to Him.  If you have never acknowledged Him as your Savior, this is the day to do it.  Do not be like Bethlehem.  It is the very nature of life that we have only a few opportunities to really be saved.  This is one of them for you.  Do not miss it.  He may never come your way again.

May the Christ of Christmas find a place in your heart and home today.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”