Luke 2:1-20: True Good News
June 6, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Luke carefully sets this most momentous birth in the realm of the historical and the factual: “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered” (2:1). Note: it is important for us to remember that Jesus’ birth is not simply a story but a historical event. There was a time, there was a place, there was a moment when the Savior of the world, God Incarnate, was born. Scandalous, and miraculous, and wondrous.
Mary gives birth and, famously, he is laid in a manger (a feeding trough for animals). What humility is this, what gracious condescension, what stunning love and mercy—that God himself would deign to come down so low as to be born in a mere manger. At a human practical level, it was simply because “there was no place for them in the inn.” There was nowhere else for him to be born, so Mary and Joseph took the only feasible option to them. The Lord Jesus Christ, who graced a manger with his presence, will not scorn to come and reside by his Spirit in your heart, if you ask him—and do not close the inn of your heart to him.
The shepherds get the news first (2:8). We think of this as a “pastoral” scene, in the sense of peaceful and quiet if not actually quaint. But shepherds at the time were rough and ready, tough, more like cowboys, looking after their herds. An angel of the Lord appears to them and—as so often—the first words out of the angel’s mouth are “do not fear.” Angels are not cute and cuddly pixies; they are the fearsome messengers of God. The angel tells the shepherds the good news, indicate the sign that this baby is lying in a manger, and then suddenly there is a whole angelic choir praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
This does not mean that after Jesus arrived there would be a cessation of all wars immediately (“peace on earth” in that sense). It means that peace between man and God—and therefore, in principle on earth, and perfectly in heaven thereafter, peace between people who are reconciled to God to be so reconciled to each other—is on offer for those “with whom he is pleased,” or on whom his favor rests. God graces those who turn to Christ with peace with God, and therefore an eternal peace forevermore. All this is to God’s glory. When the gospel is truly preached, God is truly glorified, for all is from God, to God, and through God, and therefore honors God as the loving powerful Lord of all.
The shepherds follow the angels’ instructions and go to find the baby. When they arrive, they tell those there what they had been told by the angels. Everyone, understandably, “wonders” at what they had been told. But Mary “treasured” up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
When God speaks, it is good to wonder. It is good to praise. It is also good to listen carefully, to take note, to treasure God’s Word, and turn its meaning over and over in our minds until we understand its implications. And the shepherds return glorifying and praising God because all that they had heard and seen was as it had been told to them. Not only was it good news, it was true!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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