And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and 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 among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
The Christmas story just wouldn’t be the same without the shepherds, would it? Just a bunch of blue collar guys out doing their jobs one night, when God stepped in and gave them a story they’d be telling for the rest of their lives. We don’t know their names or how many of them there were, but they’re more than just pieces of our nativity sets. They’re a picture of the gospel.
The shepherds had no idea God would reveal His Son to them that night. They were just going about their lives, day in and day out, oblivious, until God intervened and brought them the good news of Christ. In a similar way, the Bible says that we walk through life day after day, dead in our trespasses and sins, until that glorious moment when God draws us to Himself, opens our eyes to the gospel, and makes us alive in Christ.
The nature of the job put shepherds frequently in contact with the remains of dead animals and insects, rendering them often, if not nearly perpetually, ceremonially unclean according to Mosaic law. While unclean, they were separated from fellowship with God. They were not allowed to enter the temple to worship until they had offered a lamb to atone for their sin. And God chose these unclean men – guilty under the law – to be the first to meet His perfectly clean and spotless Lamb who would offer Himself to make the final atoning sacrifice for their sin, and ours. Through Christ, we are no longer separated from God by our sin and guilt.
Because the shepherds had no way of knowing Christ would suddenly be revealed to them, there was nothing they could do to prepare for His coming or make themselves worthy of Him. God met them right where they were – dirty, smelly, and lower class – and brought them to Christ. Not because they were good people or had earned this honor with commendable deeds, but for God’s own reasons and His own glory.
There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation either. None of us are righteous, all of our so called “good deeds” are like filthy rags, and it’s impossible for us to please God in any way before coming to faith in Christ. Jesus meets us right where we are – dirty, smelly, and in the middle of our sin – and saves us. Not because we’re worthy, but for God’s own reasons and His own glory.
The angel knew God personally and faithfully declared His word to the shepherds for God’s glory. Those of us who know Christ must faithfully proclaim the gospel, from the word of God, to others. Proclaiming the good news of Christ brings glory to God.
When the shepherds heard the message of Christ, they immediately believed it and responded by coming to Him. In the same way, when we hear the good news of the gospel, Christ calls us to repent of our sin, believe unto salvation, and follow Him.
Once the shepherds had met Christ face to face, they couldn’t keep it to themselves. With great joy, they went out and told others about Him. Some must have believed them. Others, perhaps not. But the news they spread made an impact on everyone who heard it. If only we would share the good news of Christ far and wide as the shepherds did! Some will believe. Some won’t. But God’s word always impacts people and accomplishes His purposes.
How could the shepherds help but worship, praising and glorifying God, for all they had seen and heard and all God had done for them? And how can we, after all we have seen and heard from God’s word, and all He has done for us, help but worship, praise, and glorify our King?
Just a crew of rag tag shepherds tending the sheep that would be sacrificed in the temple. But not for long. A new Shepherd had been born. The Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Christmas songs. Everybody’s got a favorite or two, or ten! I’ve given you my list of the ten worst. Now, in no particular order (mostly), and according to nothing other than my own preferences, here are my nominations for the ten best Christmas songs ever.
(Note: I do not necessarily endorse all of the songwriters or performers listed below, the churches/organizations they represent, any other songs they may have written or performed, or their theology. If you decide to follow any of these people or groups, check out their theology first to make sure it’s biblical.)
1. Hark the Herald Angels Sing– Ok, so this one is in a particular order. It’s my favorite because of the awesome gospel theology wrapped in ribbons of beautiful wording. Just a few of my favorite phrases:
God and sinners reconciled
Veiled in flesh the godhead see, hail th’ incarnate deity
Mild, He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth
2. It’s About the Cross– This is my favorite “non-carol” Christmas song. The beginning of the story is wonderful and great, but it’s the ending that can save you and that’s why we celebrate. The incarnation of Christ has always been about the cross and the resurrection. I highly recommend the artists, Go Fish.
3. Handel’s Messiah– Yes, I know it’s way more than one song, but, having performed it several times, I can honestly say I love the whole thing. Much of it is Scripture (verbatim) set to some of the best music ever written for a choir. Phenomenal.
4. Glorious Impossible– One of the more recent Christmas songs out there, it’s chock full of allusions to Scripture and the gospel. I think the Gaither Vocal Band does a really nice job on it.
5. Angels We Have Heard on High– It adequately handles the Christmas narrative, but I have to admit, I love this song for the chorus. It has a beautiful, intricately-woven, nearly ethereal sounding harmonic structure, and a simple, yet profound message: “Glory to God in the highest.”
6. Jesus, What a Wonderful Child– Sometimes a great song is packed with good theology, and sometimes a great song expresses one simple idea. Jesus, What a Wonderful Child is one of the latter. If you’ve read the title, you’ve got the main idea. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun!
7. Sweet Little Jesus Boy– I love how this song captures the idea that when Jesus came the first time, “we didn’t know who You were.” And nobody does it like Mahalia Jackson.
8. Christmas Offering– This song draws the parallel between the offerings of the wise men and our offering of worship, the gift our King most desires.
9. Christ is Born– I know, I know, it’s twangy and most people don’t like Southern Gospel music. That’s OK, I do. And you’ve gotta love a Christmas song that starts out with the Fall of Man.
10. Rejoice With Exceeding Great Joy– This is another one that made the list because of the music. The lyrics are a simple retelling of the journey of the magi, but the music just takes you right out to the desert and plops you down on a camel’s back.
What’s your pick for best Christmas song of all time?
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
“Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.”
“Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.”
“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
And [Jesus] said to [the scribes and Pharisees], “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
1. Keeping in mind the context of the Ten Commandments passage (God was setting Israel apart as His own special people and establishing them as a nation.), why would it have been important for Israelites to honor their parents? In a practical sense, how would honoring one’s parents have promoted law and order and contributed to the stability of this tribal and patriarchal society? In a spiritual sense, how would honoring one’s parents have been a reminder and picture of honoring God as Father? How might the honoring of their parents have been a witness to the pagan nations surrounding Israel?
2. What does the second half (“that your days…”) of Exodus 20:12 mean? Which land is this verse referring to? Why would Israel’s “days be long” in this land if they honored their parents (hint: consider your answers from question 1).
3. Examine the Exodus 21 and Deuteronomy 21 passages. How do these passages describe the types of disobedience that are punishable by death? (15, 17, 20) How do these passages demonstrate the seriousness with which God views honoring one’s parents? Do you notice that these are some of the “thou shalt nots” of honoring parents compared with Exodus 20:12’s “thou shalt”? How do these passages point to the seriousness of, and eternal consequences for, dishonoring God the Father?
4. Compare the Ephesians and Colossians passages with Exodus 20:12. Is there a difference between “honoring” and “obeying” one’s parents? Do adult children still have to obey their parents? What about considering their wisdom and experience if parents strongly advise for or against something? Compare the reason Exodus 20:12 gives for honoring parents (“that…”) with the reasons Ephesians and Colossians give for obeying parents (“for…”). How do these reasons demonstrate that obedience to God is both for our good and for His glory?
5. The Exodus, Deuteronomy, Ephesians, Colossians, and Mark passages generally assume that both the parents and the child are God’s people/believers (OT- Israel, NT- church/believers). It should be easier for believing children to honor believing parents since the mindset of all should be to honor God, but what about honoring and obeying parents who are not believers? What about parents who are abusive or instruct a child to do something sinful? How could a believing child honoring and obeying unbelieving parents be a witness to them?
6. What lesson is Jesus trying to get across to the Pharisees in the Mark passage? (13) How does He use the fifth Commandment as an illustration of this point? Though it’s not the main point of this passage, what can you infer about Jesus’ thoughts about honoring one’s parents?
7. What do the Luke and Matthew passages say about the believer’s relationship with her parents? The Mark passage makes clear that Jesus wants us to honor our parents, but the Luke and Matthew passages say that believers will “hate” and be “against” their parents. Is this a contradiction, or are these passages addressing two different issues? How can Matthew 10:37 help us understand Luke 14:26? How do the Luke and Matthew passages emphasize the preeminence and priority of Christ in our lives and our affections?
8. Can you think of any Bible characters who were good examples of honoring their parents? How?
Write your parents (or someone who is like a parent to you) a “letter of honor” this week, thanking them for the ways that they have blessed, encouraged, raised, and provided for you.
Or, think of another way to proactively honor your parents in a way that would be especially helpful or meaningful to them.
For me, part of the reason Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year” is the music. There are the old favorites as well as some great new songs that have come out over the years. Unfortunately, there are some stinkers out there, too. Everybody has her own taste, so the songs that give you the Christmas crazies are probably different from the ones that get on my nerves, but, here, in no particular order, are my ten picks for the worst Christmas songs of all time.
1. The Christmas Shoes– Hi, we’re going to write a song that’s a blatant attempt at emotional manipulation, and then if you say you don’t like it, people will think you’re heartless. Merry Christmas.
2. Last Christmas– Really? We have to listen to co-dependent whining about a break up in a Christmas song? And from Wham?
3. Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer– This has such a catchy tune. It’s too bad the family in this song belongs on Jerry Springer.
4. Same Old Lang Syne– This is my pick for the absolute worst “Christmas” song (it really has nothing to do with Christmas) of all time. The only good thing I can say about this is, at least the people in the song didn’t actually have an affair. It’s bleak, it’s immoral, it’s depressing, and it’s the same four bars of melody over. and. over. and. over.
5. Must Have Been Old Santa Claus– “Happy ho, ho, ho to you.” Four million times. Kill me. Kill me now.
6. Baby, It’s Cold Outside– Because nothing says “Merry Christmas” like attempted date rape by a drink drugging lech.
7. Santa Baby– They could have named this song “Sugar Daddy” or “Implied Sexual Favors in Exchange for Obscenely Expensive Gifts.” Same thing.
8. Mistletoe– I’m just going to make a rule right here, right now: no Christmas songs that force middle-aged people to go to Urban Dictionary to understand the lyrics. My kids had to explain to me what “shawty” means. Apparently, it’s similar to a “bae.”
9. Do They Know It’s Christmas?– Stop having Christmasy fun RIGHT NOW. Just STOP IT. Don’t you know there are people starving in Africa, you soulless oaf? And, seriously, who puts the word “doom” in a Christmas song?
10. Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Canon– It pains me to list this one because I love TSO, I love children’s choirs, I love Pachelbel’s Canon in D, and I love the idea of trying to Christmas it up. But I would rather eat a ten year old fruitcake than listen to this.
What do you think is the worst Christmas song of all time?