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The Heavens Declare
the Glory of God

Dec, 2002

By Dr. Mary Craig

Have you ever felt like you were on the outside looking in on another world? Have you felt rejected and even despised because of what you do for a living, even if it is in fact honorable? Have you wondered if God cares about you, knows youíre even alive on planet earth, or is too busy to pay you a visit? Do you yearn for peace on earth and favor with God?

Since 27 B. C. the Pax Romana ensured the absence of war, but as the Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, "While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace."

Much like today, in what Galatians calls "the fullness of times," people searched for peace. Godís peace, shalom, means more than the absence of war. It describes well-being, health, prosperity, security, soundness, and wholeness. It has more to do with character even in the midst of conflict.

The time of Jesusí birth was a time of high taxes, unemployment, failing morals, a military state, life on the dole. It was a time of Roman law, Greek philosophy, and a Jewish religious life with lots of rules and regulations. The world was in a moral darkness, a dark night of the soul.

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the Land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shinedÖFor unto us a child Is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder, And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and Peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to
Order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from hence- forth even Forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9.2, 6, 7)

Luke 2. 1-20. Long ago and far away Caesar Augustus decreed that a census should be taken of his empire, the Roman Empire. With those few words, people had their lives disrupted. Everyone had to go to his own town to register.

Joseph lived in Nazareth, in Galilee, but because he was of the house and line of David, he had to go to Bethlehem, the city of David, to register for the census. Mary went with him, very pregnantóvery. They get to Bethlehem (house of bread), but thereís no more room at the inn. It ends up that the Child is born in either a stable or a cave, because we are told that Mary wrapped her Firstborn in cloths and placed Him in a manger, an animalís feeding trough.

What a strange birthing room, especially when we look at what follows! Some think such inns would have been either the second story of a house that housed animals below or a one-story building with an adjacent stable. Whatever it was, we can agree it wasnít any palace or place of prominence. Who noticed? Who cared?

At the same time, and that evening, shepherds were abiding in fields in the same region. They were on the night watch, keeping watch over their flocks. That was their job and their shift. Itís dark, itís ordinary, and itís dull. Were they talking about King David, a shepherd of Israel? Were they thinking about the prophecies of a promised Messiah? There hadnít been a true prophet of God since Malachi. Maybe they discussed politics and life under Caesarís regime. Maybe they didnít care out there on the hills of Judea under the stars.

Back then, shepherds were despised by the orthodox religious people because they couldnít keep the details of the ceremonial law. They failed the "hand-washing test" and other rules and regulations imposed by the religious community. So, they were ritually unclean. "Good" people kind of hoped they didnít exist, except they were taking care of sheep and lambs, whose life-blood would mean atonement for their sins.

Taking care of sheep is a lot of work. Iíve only visited sheep farms in England and New Zealand, but what I saw was enough to tell me how much work and love has to go into it. Those sheep seem to like to stray, and sometimes theyíre smelly. They keep everyone busy, from the shepherds to the sheep dogs. No wonder Scripture says these shepherds were guarding the guard.

All of a sudden the angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord haloed them. And we are talking Fear! Mega fear.

It can be frightening to realize that God is real, that He is holy, that He is here, that He has a Voice, that your life has just been interrupted and will be forever changed. The questions will come later. For now, you just hang on and experience the encounter of a lifetime.

The atmosphere is electric with energy as the angel delivers his message and the purpose of his mission:

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to All the people. For unto you was born this day in the city of David a Savior, which Is Christ [the] Lord. And this to you the sign: You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.

Now remember, in the first century, shepherds were seen as shiftless, dishonest people leading a nomadic lifestyle not trusted and not condoned. So we have shepherds of shaky reputation shaking in the midst of the glory of angels. Donít get the idea that they could be fooled. Shepherds deal with the grit of life. And now they were squaring off with a great declaration and revelation of truth.

The message isnít just for them, although itís remarkable that Yah Veh chose to reveal the birth of Messiah Adonay to them. Remarkable, until we also remember that King David was a man after Godís own heart and the prophetic word promised that the Messiah would be the son of David and born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5.2; Isaiah 9.6, 7)

What do we have here? We have the glory of the Lord shining round about like a halo. We have good news. We have news so good it is meant to fill us with great joy. And itís for all the people. Whatís the good news? A Savior has been born in Davidís city, Bethlehem, the house of bread, and this Savior is Christ Lord, meaning Christ and Lord or Christ who is the Lord.

You donít have to be prominent in the world to receive revelation from God. God chooses those to whom He will reveal Himself. He will interrupt your life to do it, and you wonít be able to stop the glory of His appearing. He will bring good news to you that will fill you with great joy.

Want in on it? This Child is called the Christ Child because He is the Savior-Messiah and He is Lord. Itís an angel of the Lord who brings the message. The glory of the Lord haloed the shepherds. The babe of Bethlehem is also Lord? Yes. The Christ, the Anointed One, the Promised Messiah now born is God. This Savior is God Incarnate, the Sovereign not just of men but of angels as well, Lord of heaven and earth.

How do we know this Savior is the promised Messiah, the topic of OT prophecies? Hereís some help, but I wonít do your homework for you: Luke 1.32, 33; Luke 1.46-55; Luke 1.68-76; Luke 2l11, 29-32, 38; Matthew 1.16, 2.2, 2.11, 2.4, 2.6, 2.15, 23.

It was fitting that Jesus, "[the] ruler who shall shepherd My people Israel" (Micah 5.2) would be revealed to shepherds out in the fields of Judea near Bethlehem. It also means we can look for God in ordinary things and find Him revealed to ordinary people. The great joy of the good news is that at long last a Savior has come, God Incarnate, who will live the life of obedience as the Servant of Israel and die the death, the penalty of sin, and rise from the dead all according to the Scriptures to save His people from their sins. The good news is that sins can be forgiven as the Lamb of God became the living sacrifice for sin, His Blood shed for the remission of sins and to allow access into the Holy of Holies.

The religious community let these shepherds know daily that they were unclean and denied access to the worship of God. But God looks for those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Out there on those hills, were they seeking? Yearning for the Creator? Asking for a Savior? We are all born in an estate of sin and misery, cast out from the presence of the Almighty. But things are changing.

The angels came with a proclamation. They also came with the sign, a point of identification. "You shall find" meant these shepherds would surely find. Then it gets so exciting to the holy host of heaven that:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and upon the earth peace among men Of good pleasure.

The angelic host give God honor for what is taking place. All of heaven is rejoicing at the unfolding of Godís plan of redemption. Salvation has come in the Person of Jesus Christ. This means peace on earth among men on whom Godís favor rests. In other words, those who respond to Godís gracious gift, Messiah Adonay, will be numbered among Godís chosen people and find peace.

My husband, Rev. Jim Craig, noted: "Real peace on earth exists only among those who are the subject of Godís good will, who are characterized by good will toward God and man, and who are among men in whom God is well pleased." Jesus is Godís beloved Son is whom He is well pleased. Jesus is the Prince of Peace who breaks down the walls of alienation. In Christ, we have peace.

Jesus, Yeshua, this Savior, is the Great Shepherd of the Sheep, the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. The angels go back into the heavens, and now the shepherds whose dark night has just been flooded with the light of the glorious gospel of Christ want to go and see this thing which the Lord has made known unto them. They take off in the first Christmas rush to Bethlehem, and find things exactly as the angel had told them. There it is: Mary and Joseph and the babe, lying in a manger.

Okay! God has interrupted life. Thereís glory, good news, great joy. Thereís proclamation, praise, a point of identification, and a promise of peace. Weíre invited to go and see. We can be included in those of Godís chosen people.

The shepherds listened. Then they must have believed because they wanted to go and see for themselves. Their faith led to obedience so that they did find Jesus. And what they saw, they had to share with anyone who would listen. They told people what the angels told them, all about their trip to Bethlehem, and what they found. People wondered. Mary pondered.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things That they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

C. H. Spurgeon wrote, "This little planet of ours was made to burn with a superior light among its sister stars while the Creator sojourned here in human form. If for the first time you had heard of the visit of the Incarnate God to this world, you would be struck with a wonder which would last throughout eternity. This is the heart of the gospelóthe incomparable fact of the incarnation of the Son of God, His dwelling upon the earth, and His presentation of Himself as a sacrifice unto God for the sins of mankind."

The shepherds returned to their work changed men. They had seen the Savior face to face, in fact seen the Father in seeing the Son. Already, Jesus was turning the world upside down. He was now connected to some shepherds watching sheep in the night watches. They were now connected to Godís Son, His passion and His peace. They received the Promised One, the Anointed One, the Sovereign One.

The heavens declare the glory of God. Do you? Are you willing to go and see for yourself if Jesus is the Savior, Messiah Adonay? Do you have the courage to pray and ask the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ if the things written in the Scriptures are true? Will you receive Jesus as your own Savior and Lord by asking Him into your heart and life? Jesus isnít a baby any more. His mission in coming to earth has been finished, fulfilled. Heís in heaven now seated at the right hand of the Almighty, with all power and all authority given unto Him. But all you need to do is ask. Ask Him for grace to believe, grace to repent of your sins, grace to be saved, grace to follow Him, grace to have revealed to you what angels know and shepherds came to see.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

© 2002 Mary Craig Ministries, Inc.

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