Nativity: Shepherds & Angels
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday December 8th, 2019.
We are in the second week of our series titled “Nativity”. In this series we are looking at various people who played significant parts in the Nativity story. Last week we looked at Mary and Joseph and this week we are long at the shepherds and angels. We are going to have a little fun with this message today as we answer these questions Who are Angels and Shepherds? What do they do? What do the Shepherds and Angels tell us about Christmas? We will look at both groups individually and then look at them both together.
Read Luke 2:8 - 20
Who are the Shepherds?
Shepherding is one of the oldest occupations in history. It is believed to have had its beginnings about 6,000 years ago in Asia Minor. In many societies shepherding was important to the economy. On the other hand, the occupation of shepherding was also considered a lowly job. Shepherds were often looked down upon as lowly and insignificant people. They were largely nomadic and lived solitary lives away from society.
The duties of a shepherd in a country like Palestine were very difficult. According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, “In the early morning he (the shepherd) led forth the flock from the fold, marching at its head to the spot where they were to be pastured. Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed, and if any for a time eluded his watch and wandered away from the rest, seeking diligently till he found and brought it back. In those lands sheep require to be supplied regularly with water, and the shepherd for this purpose has to guide them either to some running stream or to wells dug in the wilderness and furnished with troughs. At night he brought the flock home to the fold, counting them as they passed under the rod at the door to assure himself that none were missing. Nor did his labours always end with sunset. Often, he had to guard the fold through the dark hours from the attack of wild beasts, or the wily attempts of the prowling thief.” 
Why Did God Bring the Good News to the Shepherd’s First?
We are not certain why God chose to reveal his message of hope and salvation to the shepherds. We do know that Jesus is often associated with shepherds, shepherding and sheep throughout the N.T. and this is significant because…
What/who are angels?
There are hundreds of passages about Angels in the Bible (34 out of 66 books contain references to Angels) yet we still don’t know much about them. The word Angel in both Hebrew and Greek means “messenger”. This is what we do know about angels are that they are created beings (Psalm 148:1 – 5) that are sent to minister to God’s people (Hebrews 1:14) in various ways (one instance Acts 5:19) but they are specifically sent to serve God’s people for his purposes.
What Do Angels Do?
If Angels had a job description what would it be? What purpose do they serve and why are they so important?
They Proclaim – In many, if not most, instances their job is to announce or proclaim. For example, they…
They are agents of God’s Judgment – Carryout God’s judgment (Matt 13:39 – 41)
They Praise and Worship God – In addition to proclaiming one of their primary jobs is praising and worshiping God.
They Protect & Guard
Angels in the Bible
The Bible speaks of there being an innumerable or multitude of angels. We do not know the exact number that resides in heaven and on earth we only know it is more than we can fathom. In fact, Jesus mentions in the Gospels having access to thousands of Angels to rescue him at his call. Here are some Angels mentioned in the Bible.
Cherubim (Cherub) – First mention of angels in Bible. They were Angels who were placed with a flaming sword at the Garden of Eden to guard the tree of life.
Gabriel – This is the Angel in the Advent story who brings news to Mary about her son who is the coming Messiah (Luke 1:26 – 38). He comforts her and assures her that she has found favor with God. He also tells Joseph not to “put Mary away” because the son she is carrying is indeed the savior of the world (Matt 1:20).
Angel of the Lord – Spoken of often in the O.T & appeared to the shepherds announcing birth of Christ. This is the heavenly being sent by God to deal with men as his personal agent and spokesman.
Michael – This is the Archangel or the chief angel who fought with Satan over the body of Moses (Jude 1:9)
Satan – An angel who was once good but sinned against God and was cast out of heaven (Ezekiel 28 & Isaiah 14)
Abaddon/Apollyon – The word Abaddon is often translated “The Destroyer” he is the angel of bottomless pit who reigns over the realm of the dead. (Revelation 9:11).
What Do the Shepherds & Angels Teach Us About Christmas?
The Gospel – The Angels were the first to share the Gospel and the Shepherds were the first to receive the Gospel. This proclamation of the coming Savior of the world was something even the angels had been anticipating since Creation. We established earlier that Shepherds were not highly regarded in society and for unknown reasons Shepherds were not allowed to testify in court, yet God chose them to be witnesses of the birth of the Savior of the World. This is significant because in this we see Jesus is for everyone – He is not a King who primarily works for and defends the rich, mighty and powerful. Jesus is a King for everyone, including the average and ordinary person like you and me. He is a King who defends and loves the lowly and unlovable. His beginnings were humble, and his death was as well.
Faith – Christmas is a time where we can reflect on the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ that God gave to us and to anticipate eventual return. We see in the shepherds their great faith. They knew something was special about this baby – The Shepherds encounter with the Angel convinced them to leave the place where their sheep were and guided them to the town of Bethlehem. I am sure they didn’t really know what they were looking for, but they knew an angel proclaimed this good news to them and they set out to search for this baby who is slated to be King.
Praise & Worship – When the angel visited the shepherds, we are told that the glory of the Lord shone around them. After proclaiming the news and the sign that would follow a multitude of angels appeared and praised God. The shepherds encountered Jesus and they left changed men. They met the infant savior and when they departed they praised God what they heard and saw. We see this throughout the life of Jesus. Whenever anyone had an encounter with Jesus they left changed in some way. This should be true for us today. If you have encountered Jesus how are you changed? When you came to saving faith in Christ did you receive a new heart and become a new creation in Jesus? If Jesus hasn’t impacted your life in some way, then maybe he hasn’t impacted your life at all.
Easton, M. (1996, c1897). Easton's Bible dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Lk 2:1). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
 Taylor, J. B. (1996). Angel of the Lord. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer & D. J. Wiseman, Ed.) (3rd ed.) (37). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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