The First Christmas Service
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Sermon Delivered 12/18/05
In order to understand "the first Christmas service," you need to read the Biblical text from which I get my outline.
Luke 2:1-20 "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them."
The Old Testament prophet Micah wrote his little book about 700 B.C. Tucked away in chapter 5 we see the prophecy, written 700 years before the birth of Christ, that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. The name Bethlehem means house of bread. How appropriate it is for Christ to be born in, since He is the bread of life (John 6:35 & 48). Let’s read Micah’s prophecy -- Micah 5:2 "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
With this foundation in mind, let’s take a look at The First Christmas Service.
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night."
In the Bethlehem area there was a lot of pastureland. Ephrata was in the same area. The tower of Edar or the tower of the flock spoken of in Genesis 35:21 is in this area. It is here, at Bethlehem, David kept his father's sheep (1 Samuel 17:15). Therefore, it should not surprise us to know that shepherds were here. What a wonderful and historic place for the first Christmas service to happen.
While we do not know the date of the birth of Christ, or even the month, we do know the time of the birth of Jesus – it was at night.
Jerome says, it is a tradition of the Jews, that Christ will come in the middle of the night, as was the passover in Egypt. Further it is not likely that the Savior was born at the latter end of December, in the depth of winter. Shepherds would not be out in the fields at that time as we see here in Luke. Shepherds were diligent men, that looked well to their flocks, and watched them by night, as well as by day, to preserve them from wild beasts of prey. The Greek literally says, the Shepherds were "keeping the watches of the night over their flock." The night was divided into four watches: the even, midnight, cock crowing, and morning. Some shepherds kept one watch while some slept. They alternated through the watches.
"And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."
Most people have a very tainted idea about angels these days. They think angels are frilly female. However, there is absolutely NO truth to that in the Bible. When gender is associated to angels in the Scriptures it is always male (Genesis 19:1 & 5). Secondly, when people come into contact with angels, it is an awesome and fearful experience.
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
The angel says "unto you." John Gill says, "By this he means not only the shepherds, or the Jews only, but the Gentiles also; all the children, all the spiritual seed of Abraham, all elect men; for their sakes, and on their account, and for their good, he assumed human nature."
George W. Truett (1867-1944) said, "Christ was born in the first century, yet he belongs to all centuries. He was born a Jew, yet He belongs to all races. He was born in Bethlehem, yet He belongs to all countries."
The message was clear, Christ the Savior is Born! Is He your Savior?
"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
After the celestial announcement the Angel of the Lord with joined with by the militia of Heaven, God’s Holy Angels. We do not know how many but the Greek word translated multitude means a great number. It must have been astounding!
Those who hear the Gospel message and accept it
cannot be silent. Like the shepherds, they must tell others.