SHEPHERDS and ANGELS
By Bishop J.C. Ryle
St. Luke 2:8-20
WE read, in these verses, how the birth of the Lord Jesus was first announced to the children of men. The birth of a king's son is generally made an occasion of public reveling and rejoicing. The announcement of the birth of the Prince of Peace was made privately, at midnight, and without anything of worldly pomp and ostentation.
Let us mark who they were to whom the tidings first came that Christ was born. “They were shepherds abiding in the field near Bethlehem , keeping watch over their flocks by night.” To Shepherds—not to priests and rulers, to shepherds—not to scribes and Pharisees; an angel appeared, proclaiming, “unto you is born this day a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
The saying of St. James should come into our mind, as we read these words: “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He hath promised to them that love Him” (James 2:5). The want of money debars no one from spiritual privileges. The things of God's kingdom are often hid from the great and noble, and revealed to the poor. The busy labour of the hands need not prevent a man being favoured with special communion with God. Moses was keeping sheep, Gideon was threshing wheat, Elisha was ploughing, when they were severally honoured by direct calls and revelations from God. Let us resist the suggestion of Satan, that religion is not for the working man.
Let us mark, secondly, the language used by the angel in announcing Christ's birth to the shepherds. He said, “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
The way to pardon and peace with God was about to be thrown open to all mankind. Liberty was about to be proclaimed to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind. The mighty truth was about to be proclaimed that God could be just, and yet, for Christ's sake, justify the ungodly. Salvation was no longer to be seen through types and figures, but openly, and face to face. The knowledge of God was no longer to be confined to the Jews, but to be offered to the whole Gentile world. If this was not “good tidings,” there never were tidings that deserved the name.
Let us mark, thirdly, who they were that first praised God, when Christ was born. The first hymn to the honour of “God manifest in the flesh,” was sung by “a multitude of the heavenly host.”
It shows us what good servants the angels are. All that their heavenly Master does pleased and interests them. It shows us what clear knowledge they have. They know what misery sin has brought into creation. They know the blessedness of heaven, and the privilege of an open door into it. Above all, it shows us the deep love and compassion which the angels feel towards poor lost man. They rejoice in the glorious prospect of many souls being saved, and many brands plucked from the burning.
Les us strive to be more like-minded with the angels. Our spiritual ignorance and deadness appear most painfully in our inability to enter into the joy which we see them here expressing. Surely if we hope to dwell with them for ever in heaven, we ought to share something of their feelings while we are here upon earth. Let us seek a more deep sense of the sinfulness and misery of sin, and then we shall have a more deep sense of thankfulness for redemption.
Let us mark, fourthly, the hymn of praise which the heavenly host sung in the hearing of the shepherds. They said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will towards men.”
Now is come the highest degree of glory to God, by the appearing of His Son Jesus Christ in the world. He by His life and death on the cross will glorify God's attributes, justice, holiness, mercy, and wisdom, as they never were glorified before. Creation glorified God, but not so much as redemption. “Peace of earth!” the song goes on. Now is come to earth the peace of God which passeth all understanding, the perfect peace between a holy God and sinful man, which Christ was to purchase with His own blood, the peace which is offered freely to all mankind….
“Good will towards men!” the song concludes. Now is come the time when God's kindness and good will towards guilty man is to be fully made known. His power was seen in creation. His justice was seen in the flood. But His mercy remained to be fully revealed by the appearing and atonement of Jesus Christ.
Let us mark, ere we leaved the passage, the prompt obedience to the heavenly vision displayed by the shepherds. We see in them no doubts, or questionings, or hesitation. Strange and improbably as the tidings might seem, they at once act upon them. They went to Bethlehem in haste. They found every thing exactly as it had been told to them. Their simple faith received a rich reward. They had the mighty privilege of being the first of all mankind, after Mary and Joseph, who saw with believing eyes the new-born Messiah. They soon returned, “glorifying and praising God” for what they had seen.
May our spirit be like theirs! May we ever believe implicitly, act promptly, and wait for nothing, when the path of duty is clear! So doing, we shall have a reward like that of the shepherds. The journey that is begun in faith, will generally end in praise.
Woman's Guild Annual Spaghetti Dinner Fund-Raiser for missions had a wonderful turnout. Thank you to all our cooks, those who helped with the dinner, and those who attended. Much appreciated!
Feast of St. Andrew
Monday, Dec. 1st,
Pot Luck at 6:30 p.m.
Service at 7:30 p.m.
December the 14th
Sunday, December 14, after church
CHRISTMAS EVE CANDLELIGHT SERVICE
Wed., Dec. 24, 2014
Service at 10:00 p.m.
Refreshments following in the Parish Hall.
CHRISTMAS NATIVITY MUSICAL PAGEANT
Sunday, Dec. 21st after church beginning at 12:15 p.m. in the Parish Hall.
Parishioners, please bring a sandwich to eat quickly right after the service,
so we may begin the play on time.
Sat., Dec. 20 at 10 a.m.
Missionary of the Month
Bishop Gearhard & Grace Myer Youth/Camp/ Pastoral Ministries in Germany.