Recently, I received some good news. My publisher and I were getting ready to release my new book, The Bible in a Year: A Reading Plan Focusing on God’s Character. However, the shipment was stuck at a port and we had no idea when it would be unloaded. After many days and weeks of prayer, I received a call from my publisher. The shipment was unloaded and would arrive at the warehouse later that evening. I was thrilled! I had asked many to pray that we’d be able to release the book before Thanksgiving. And God made a way. I praised Him for answering our prayers and I couldn’t wait to tell everyone when I got the good news!
When was the last time you received some good news? How did you respond? With Christmas just days away, I wanted to reflect on the Christmas story. At first, I didn’t have a particular passage in mind. But, as I read the first couple chapters of the gospel of Luke, the story of the shepherds stood out to me. They too received good news and I was particularly impacted by their response and how it applies to us today. So, let’s dive into the passage.
[I]n the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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. 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. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
The Shepherds Hear
Try to imagine what it must have been like to be the shepherds. They had a humble job tending to sheep. Until one night, an angel appeared and the glory of the Lord was visible to them. It was almost too much for them to handle. They were afraid. The New International Version says they were terrified. But, the angel quickly told them not to fear because he came to bring good news. The Savior of the world had been born! And, the shepherds could find the newborn Christ swaddled in cloths, lying in a manger in Bethlehem. After hearing this news from the one angel, they suddenly heard an army of angels in heaven singing praises to God.
Having trouble imagining this? I don’t blame you! Before the Bible was completed, God sent messengers to speak to His people. He spoke through many prophets and on rare occasions, He sent angels. But today, we have the complete written word of God and we can hear the good news directly from God Himself through Scripture.
The Good News
Woven throughout the Bible is the clear message that we are all sinners and that payment must be made in order for sins to be forgiven. However, no amount of worldly sacrifices or payments in the form of good works can cancel the debt we owe God. The just punishment for sinning against the infinite God, Creator, and Ruler of the universe is hell. However, this is not the fate He desires for humankind.
John 3:16 says it so well: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus Christ – the Son of God who is fully God and fully man – came into the world to save sinners. He died a brutal death on a cross and three days later, rose from the dead. All who repent and believe in Christ’s death and resurrection receive forgiveness. Their debt is paid in full and they are promised eternal life. We are saved by His grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) This is the good news – this is the Gospel.
God has revealed the good news to us, and like the shepherds, we must listen.
The shepherds were awaiting the promised Messiah. Little did they know they would meet an angel who would tell them the good news and how to find the newborn Savior of the world! They heard the good news and responded. We too have been given the good news and we must also listen and respond.
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.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
The Shepherds Respond
We can learn a lot from the shepherds’ response to the good news. First, they believed and quickly went out to seek Christ. When they found Him, they told others the good news. And upon their return, they praised God for what they saw and heard. Everything had turned out just as the angel said it would.
This reminds me of many stories of those who put their faith in Christ. John the Baptist pointed out Christ to Andrew, who immediately sought after and followed Him. Then, he told his brother Peter, “We have found the Messiah!” and Andrew brought Peter to Jesus. When Philip put his faith in Christ, he too followed. Then, he found Nathanael to tell him the good news. When Philip brought him to Christ, Nathanael responded in praise: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:35-51) Likewise, when Jesus revealed He was the Savior to the woman at the well, she went and told the town. Many Samaritans came to Jesus because of the woman’s testimony and when they heard what He had to say they too believed the good news.(John 4:39-42)
When we truly believe in Christ, we are compelled to praise and share the good news with others.
Questions to consider
The shepherds heard the good news and believed. They responded by going out to find Christ and when they did, they went out and told others.
Have you responded to the good news?
If so, is your desire to praise Christ and tell others about Him increasing? Why or why not? Maybe you consider yourself a believer, but you don’t relate to how the shepherds and disciples responded. If your faith doesn’t compel you to praise God continually and share the good news with others, ask God to reveal why that is. Ask Him to increase your trust in who He is and what He says.
If not, you can put your faith in Christ today! Trust He is who He says He is: God and Savior. Confess to Him that you are a sinner, that you desire to change and live for Him, and trust you are forgiven because of His death and resurrection. Praise Him! Tell someone (tell me!) if you are putting your faith in Christ today. And, start pursuing a relationship through prayer and reading the Bible.
If you aren’t ready to take that step, what’s holding you back? The shepherds believed before they even saw Jesus lying in the manger. But as they sought Him, walking by faith, God brought greater clarity to what was true. Like the shepherds, we don’t have to have it all figured out right away. God simply wants us to trust Him and He will reveal Himself in greater measure as we seek Him in faith.
To conclude, when we receive good news, we get excited! The better and bigger the news, the more quickly we want to share it and the more people we want to share it with. I experienced this when I got that call from my publisher recently about my book shipment being unloaded at the port. Maybe you’ve received good news recently and can relate to the thrill of it and the desire to tell others! If we respond to good news in this way in our day-to-day circumstances, why would we respond to the good news of the Gospel any differently?
The Gospel is the greatest news we will ever receive. True belief in the message results in overflowing joy that we express to God and share with others.
Many people are more open to spiritual conversations during the Christmas season. I invite you to share this post with someone in your life who needs to hear the good news and hope we celebrate this time of year.
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Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.