The night Jesus is born, shepherds keep watch over their flocks of sheep in the hillside pastures around Bethlehem. An angel of the Lord appears to them, stands beside them. The “clearness of God shines about them” and they are filled with “great dread.” The angel tells the shepherds not to be in dread because he comes with a sermon of “a great joy.” The angel proclaims the first evangelism – that “a great joy shall be to all people. For a Saviour is born to day to you, that is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.”
The angel says this joy is for all people.
“And shepherds were in the same country, waking and keeping the watches of the night on [upon] their flock. And lo! the angel of the Lord stood beside them, and the clearness of God shined about them [and the clearness of God shone about them]; and they dreaded with great dread. And the angel said to them, Do not ye dread; for lo! I preach to you a great joy [lo! soothly I evangelize to you a great joy], that shall be to all people. For a Saviour is born to day to you, that is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.”
The angel tells the shepherds that a token is to appear in the form of a newborn child – one they can find in a manger. Immediately after he speaks, a “knighthood” of heavenly beings appears to praise the Lord. Likely the shepherds are still in dread, but they decide to check out the message of the angel. They speak among themselves, move together to seek out the Christ Child. Only when they find Him do they believe the news of “a great joy that shall be to all people.”
Joseph naturally dreads his marriage to the young maiden, Mary since she is pregnant; and that, out of wedlock. Joseph ought to report Mary, have her stoned to death per the Law of Moses. Yet, he listens to the angel of the Lord who comes to him in his sleep.
The angel of the Lord says something truly extraordinary, that Jesus “shall make His people safe from their sins.” The angel doesn’t say, “Jesus shall make His people free from sin.” Rather, the angel verifies that Jesus is to make His own people “safe from their sins.”
“But while he thinks these things, lo! the angel of the Lord appears to him in sleep, and says, Joseph, the son of David, do not thou dread to take Mary, thy wife; for that thing that is born in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall make his people safe from their sins.”
That we sin is a fundamental truth in the Christian life. That Jesus died for our sins is also a fundamental truth of the Christian life. Jesus nails the Law to the tree, and washes away the wage of death with His blood.
The High Priest and colleagues who are Sadducees arrest the apostles at Solomon’s Portico in Jerusalem. Apparently all the apostles are imprisoned. But an angel of the Lord releases them by opening the prison door during the night. After all, what good is it for all the apostles to be imprisoned together at the same time and in the same place? The angel says,
“Go, take your place in the temple and speak to the people, and tell them about this new life and all it means.” (Acts 5:20)
“This new life and all it means” is the message that the apostles are charged to share with the people and from a particular place in Jerusalem. The angel of the Lord charges them to “take [their] place in the temple.” After all, this is where the people of Israel come to hear whatever God has prepared for them to hear.
The angel of the Lord sets the apostles free so that they are able to speak of the “new life and all it means” and to speak of it from the temple of God in the holy city, Jerusalem. From the center of God’s earthly rule, the apostles preach at the command of God.
And, what a message!
You can have a new life, one of Light which brings you out of darkness. You can walk in this Light, which shines from within you because that Light dwells inside you as a Person. All this means is you can be a fundamentally different kind of human being both now and in eternity. You can be changed from the inside out. And this is not of yourself, lest you feel the urge to boast of this change in yourself. This alteration of your very nature is a gift, a present from utmost kindness of God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son.
Lift your voice! Sing praises to the One and Only King of the Universe!
Herod the king hears that wise men from the east are searching for the one “who has been born king of the Jews.” These men have traveled to Jerusalem, saying: “for we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” Herod and “all Jerusalem with him” worry. (Matthew 2: 2, 3)
Herod brings together “all the chief priests and scribes of the people” and asks “where the Christ was to be born.” (Matthew 2: 3) Oddly enough, the chief priests and scribes correctly identify the Messiah’s birthplace as Bethlehem.
In fear for his throne, Herod secretly meets with the wise men and instructs them to find the Christ child in Bethlehem. He lies, saying that he wants to worship the Messiah, too. The wise men set out; the star appears and “goes before them until it comes to rest over the place where the child is.” (Matthew 2: 9) They come to the house where Jesus is with His mother Mary. The wise men fall down and worship the Christ child. A dream warns them not to return to Herod, and they obey. Each returns to his own country.
Joseph is then also warned in a dream by an angel of the Lord, who tells him to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt. Joseph obeys.
“Then Herod, when he sees that he has been tricked by the wise men, becomes furious.” (Matthew 2: 16) He kills all the male children in Bethlehem and surrounding region who are two years or younger “according to the time he has ascertained from the wise men” and their report of the star’s appearance.
“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, for they are no more.” (Matthew 2: 18)
When Herod dies, Joseph obeys the angel of the Lord again, settling his family in Nazareth of Galilee. “He [the Messiah] shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2: 23)