International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday December 21, 2014
Purpose: To demonstrate the angels’ joy and the shepherds’ awe in sharing the good news of Christ
Bible Lesson: Luke 2:8-20
Background Scripture: Luke 2:1-20
Luke 2:8-20 (CEB)
(8) Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. (9) The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
(10) The angel said, "Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. (11) Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. (12) This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger." (13) Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, (14) "Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors."
(15) When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us." (16) They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. (17) When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. (18) Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. (19) Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. (20) The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
As we look at this familiar text, I would caution you about allowing the familiarity robbing you of a new blessing.
Reading today’s text I realized that all of this was not an accident. The event as planned by God tells us a lot about God. That God chose to make the announcement of a Savior’s birth to shepherds, rather than to the Chief Priest, shows God’s love for the unqualified or disenfranchised. Shepherds were looked down on by the religious leaders, they had no way of qualifying for worship within the temple. Shepherds were considered unclean ceremonially. Living on a mountain side did not offer the ceremonial cleansing required by Jewish law. Yet these are the very people that Christ came to save.
Some commentators think this field and the shepherds involved were watching over the sheep used in the temple sacrifice. I would prefer to think these shepherds were in the very fields where David was tending sheep on the night Samuel came and visited Jesse to crown a new king. In the eyes of Jesse, David, like the shepherds, did not qualify to be king so he was not included in the gathering when Samuel told Jesse he was making one of his son’s king. As you read the story of David’s anointing in 1 Samuel 16 you will notice that all of his brothers were instructed to make themselves presentable to Samuel for the anointing, but God did not choose any of them. When Samuel heard about David and he is brought to Samuel there is no mention of David being prepared and made ceremonially clean. Samuel anointed him on the spot. I think this is a precursor to the announcement to the shepherds. The birth of Jesus was for those that had no other way to be saved.
Our response, when hearing the Good News about Jesus should generate within us the same as for those shepherds. They immediately went to seek the newborn baby proclaimed by the Angelic Host. Not just seeking, but telling everyone they met about what had happened. After they saw and worshipped their newborn Messiah, they returned home, singing and praising God for all that had happened.
This is the message of Christmas, those that have no hope, no standing within a community, and are looked down on by the leaders of religions are the very people Christ came to save.
Of course Jesus proves in his ministry, that indeed He came to save the rich and the religious, like the rich young ruler, Zacchaeus, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, as well as many others. Jesus came to save sinners, wherever they are found.
“Hark the herald angels sing, glory to our newborn king” …. God and sinners reconciled”