The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy
Spirit be with you all. Amen.
1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census
be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while
Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register
for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee,
from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called
Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to
register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6
While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And
she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid
Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 In the
same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and
keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord
suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them;
and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be
afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all
the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a
Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a
baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there
appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and
saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men
with whom He is pleased.” 15 When the angels had gone away from them
into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight
to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has
made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to
Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had
seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about
this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told
them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering
them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God
for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (NASB)
If you attended services on Wednesday evenings during Advent, you know
that the sermon series was the “Angels of Christmas.” Throughout those sermons
I emphasized two things. First, I spent time on that message preached to Elizabeth,
Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds by the angel(s). Second we looked at their
respective responses to the message preached. The Word of God was spoken, they
believed, then they acted accordingly. They fulfilled their revocations and
worshiping their Savior as is good and right for Christians.
Tonight, we consider what happens after the angels had gone away back
into heaven. As was the case for Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph, the Angel’s sermon
on Christmas morning to the shepherds concerning the Christ Child stirred
something in the shepherds. The Word created a desire to do something. “Let us
go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the
Lord has made known to us.”
Preaching, good preaching is about moving Christians to think, speak, and
do. Preaching is not about imparting nice thoughts. It is not about rules and
regulations that help produce better Christians. Good preaching is not about
delivering words of conventional wisdom. Good Christian preaching is to be
about the business of moving people to repent in the fullest Christian sense of the
word and about educating and moving Christians to live out their faith in love.
Good Christian preaching, both in content and in delivery is to be about moving
the hearer to act in true Christian faith. The preacher isn’t supposed to be
concerned about whether the preaching of the God’s Word makes you angry or
happy. The preacher’s task is to preach the message that God has given Him to
preach from the Holy Scriptures.
The angels came to the shepherds to proclaim the Good News of the
Christ’s birth. They came to tell the world and the shepherds that God’s love for
the world had moved Him to send His only begotten Son into the flesh to save us
from our sin. The shepherds were moved by the message of the angels. They were
moved to go to Bethlehem to see this thing that has happened, the thing that the
Lord made known to them through the message of the angels. They were moved to
go to the place where Christ was present.
The goal of preaching and bearing witness to Christ to move a person
toward that place where the Lord Jesus Christ is. This is why we exist as a
congregation. We come to this place because this is one of the places,
congregations where Christ is present.
The angels come from heaven above to earth below “to bear good news to
every home” and the preaching accomplishes the purpose for which it was sent.
The shepherds go to be where Christ is. That is what Christians are suppose to do
on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It is what they are suppose to do on Sunday
mornings. They are to go where Christ is to be found.
In the second half of the 20 th century church bodies, congregations, pastors,
and parents forgot that is what’s suppose to happen. That’s why church
membership and attendance is declining in our country. People don’t think they
need to be in church. Some of them think Jesus simply follows them around no
matter where they go or what they believe. They don’t need to go what Jesus has
promised to be because Jesus, they think follows them around like an invisible
That’s why fewer and fewer Christmas Day services are held. That’s why
fewer and fewer people attend Wednesday evening Advent and Lenten services.
That’s why fewer and fewer people attend Sunday morning services.
Conservative Christian pastors, teachers, and congregations spent so much
time telling Christians that Jesus lives in their hearts wherever they go, our
children and grandchildren didn’t realize that is suppose to be the other way
Christians are suppose to go where Jesus is, where He promises to be –
namely in the Word and Sacrament Ministry – in the Church, in the Divine
Service, in the waters of Holy Baptism, in the preaching of the Law and Gospel, in
Holy Absolution, and in the Lord’s Suppe. r.
The angels told the shepherds where Christ was to be found. He was in the
City of David. And He was their “Savior, Christ the Lord. [And] 12 This will be a
sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
What happened “when the angels went away from them into heaven?”
The shepherds went to be where Christ was. That is what we should have been
teaching our children and grandchildren these past 50 years. The first duty and joy
of the Christian is to answer the call of the angels of Christmas and to be where
Christ is. The task of preaching is to preach the Gospel Truth in such a way that
the Word moves people toward that place where Jesus is- the church, baptism,
confession and absolution, and the Lord’s Supper.
Having heard the preaching of the angels, the shepherds said to one another,
“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the
Lord has made known to us.” What did they find? A poor, tiny, helpless,
newborn baby boy lying in a manger. They found their Savior, Christ the Lord.
They found God in that manger. Please note, it was not a very impressive sight. It
was not what one would expect of God. The King of kings and Lord of lords,
laying in a manager in a stall, barely notice by anyone, expect those to whom the
Word had been preached.
The Son of God left His heavenly throne and the company of His heavenly
Father, the angels, the archangels, and all the company of heaven to be born in the
most humble conditions and to grow and live among a broken and sinful people.
God took on flesh . . . Immanuel . . . was born in a small insignificant city,
Bethlehem Ephrathah. God was born in a stable and laid in a manger, a trough
from which animals fed.
When the shepherds of Bethlehem looked at the baby in the manger, they
were looking at the Lamb of God promised of old who became flesh and blood,
our brother. The little One wrapped in swaddling cloths is the One, Who would
one day be wrapped in burial cloths and laid in a tomb.
After being where Christ was on that first Christmas, the shepherds “made
known the statement which had been told them about this Child.” That is the New
Testament’s way of saying that the shepherds went home after church, after being
where Christ was, after hearing what the angels said, and what they had learned
from Mary and Joseph and told other people about the sermon and what had
I often wonder what might happen if we all could or would overcome our
fear of offending family members, or of making co-workers uncomfortable, or of
making strangers angry by telling them what we have heard in the Sunday
morning sermon or class or what we know from the Scripture.
The Angels of Christmas morning did not only speak to the shepherds.
Their words were recorded by St. Luke to be passed down century after century.
As the Angel says to you this evening, “I bring you glad tidings of great joy that
shall be to All people.” That’s you and every single one of us. To us, the angel
says, “Christ the Lord, the Savior, has been born. The glory of God is that He
has become a human being, born of the Virgin, to offer His life for mankind.
Peace is yours. The favor of God is yours, because in Christ He is pleased
Merry Christmas, Christians! It is a happy day! The Christ has been born
and the Holy Sacrament has been laid upon the altar. Both of these are for you.
Our God is merciful and overflowing in grace. In the preaching of the Church, He
gives to every Christian messengers. There is no better way to celebrate the Feast
of Christmas than this, that we hear the words of the angels, “Glory to God in the
highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” and know that
in Christ Jesus we are the people with whom He is pleased.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in
Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen..