Luke 2:15

The strange and elevating experience through which the shepherds of Bethlehem were passing prepared them for a scene which was fitted to awaken still greater surprise and spiritual excitement. For suddenly, all of them appearing together, a multitude of the heavenly host began to make angelic music; strains of sweetest song filled the air, and the words of that celestial chant, so exquisitely sweet, so full of comfort and of hope to our human race, were fixed in the shepherds' mind; they found a place in the sacred record; they make melody in our ear today. The scene and the song suggest to us -

I. THE INTEREST WHICH THE ANGELIC TAKES IN THE HUMAN WORLD. It is a striking and significant fact that the advent of Jesus Christ to our world should be preluded and accompanied by the ministry of angels (Luke 1:11, 26; Luke 2:9). It confirms the truth elsewhere indicated that the history of mankind is the subject of deep interest to the holy intelligences of heaven. They inquire with a pure and heavenly curiosity into the relations of God with man (1 Peter 1:12). They reverently admire the wisdom of God in his dealings with his human children (Ephesians 3:10). They rejoice over the smallest accession to the kingdom of God (Luke 15:10). They expend their powers in the accomplishment of God's will concerning us (text, and Hebrews 1:14). Our Savior is One in whom they also have profound interest, though they need not his redemption, and their worship of him is a large clement in their celestial joy (Ephesians 1:10; Revelation 5:11-13).

II. THE ADVENT OF CHRIST AN EPOCH IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Well might a multitude of the heavenly host chant those words of the text, "Glory to God in the highest;" well might they join in the high praises of the King of heaven. For when Jesus Christ came as he thus came, in lowliness of perfect humiliation (ver. 7), that the world into which he thus entered as a helpless babe might be redeemed and restored (vet. 10), two things were done.

1. The exceeding greatness of the Divine grace received its most wonderful illustration. Possibly - may we not say probably?-even the records of the kingdom of God contained no event illustrative of a more magnanimous pity and a more sacrificial love than this expression of "good will to men."

2. The foundation was ]aid on which a Divine kingdom of truth and righteousness should be reared. On the rock of the Divine incarnation rests the whole grand edifice of the restoration of the human race to the love and the likeness of God. Then indeed, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the glory of God was most fittingly celebrated; for then was the glory of his grace manifested, and then was the glory that should be rendered him by our humanity assured.

III. THE COMING OF CHRIST TO OUR WORLD THE INCOMING OF ITS PEACE. "Peace on earth." It has taken long for the work of Jesus Christ to bring about this result, even as things are today. And how much remains to be done! To some eyes it may seem as if only the elementary lesson had been learned. But if we look long enough and deep enough we shall see:

1. That the gospel of Jesus Christ has been, and is, offering to every burdened human heart a peace which is immeasurably profound and inestimably precious.

2. That the teaching and the Spirit of Jesus Christ are perfectly fitted to inculcate and to inspire peace, and even love, between man and man.

3. That under his benign government, and just so far as his will is consulted, man is leaving strife and discord below and behind him, and is moving on an upward path toward the sphere where peace and purity dwell together. - C.

Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see.
Every year the Christian heart takes, in thought, the shepherd's pilgrimage to Bethlehem. In this district lay the fields of Boaz in which Ruth gleaned. Here the son of Obed was born. David was anointed in Bethlehem. Best of all, in Bethlehem was Christ revealed. It was not without significance that Bethlehem, "The House of Bread," should be the birthplace of Him who had come down from heaven to be the Bread of Life for men, and that He, who was in after years to be the Friend of the people and Saviour of the world, to be Himself so straitened as often to have nowhere to lay His head, should commence His earthly pilgrimage within the precincts of a stable. Let us ask what it was that the Bethlehem manger contained.




IV.GOD'S SON.Transcendent mystery! Thought is paralyzed when it attempts to conceive how the Eternal could become a child of days, how the Infinite could be reduced to dimensions, how the Adorable Creator could become one with His own creature. Let it kindle our gratitude that we can understand something of the purpose of this sublime mystery, if even we can learn nothing of its manner. The Son of God became incarnate, that He might reveal the Father, that He might exemplify human virtue, that He might take away our sins, and that He might be able thereby to make us partakers of His own Divine nature.

(T. W.)

1. Their pilgrim mind.

2. Their pilgrim staff.

3. Their pilgrim hope.

4. Their pilgrim joy.

5. Their pilgrim thanksgiving.

(J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)

I. 1. In order that man may possess the blessings which are brought upon earth in the Person of the Incarnate Word, he must be willing to obey the Divine Voice which bids him seek if he would find.

2. The shepherds are not content with wondering at the Divine mystery which has been made known to them, nor yet with listening to the angelic song, but they hasten to Him who is born their Saviour. Being thus obedient they are filled with the angelic spirit, and they are also able to glorify God for that which they have seen and heard. Simple faith and obedience lift up the humblest to share in the work of the angels of God.

3. Yet there are many, who hearing these things, regard them only with idle and fruitless wonder (ver. 18) instead of pondering them in their hearts as Mary did.

II. 1. The gospel message that God is made man is for ever ringing in our ears. How does it affect us? There are many who are ready to study Christian doctrine as an interesting phase of human thought, or as a bright poetic vision, but who never find the Child of Bethlehem as a Saviour in very deed.

2. If we have thus found Him, our belief will show itself, either(1) by summoning us to enter into the company of those elect few who, like Mary, are absorbed in meditation on the Divine mysteries, or(2) by giving us power to praise and glorify God in the common occupations of daily life, in union with these shepherds who returned to the work of their sheepfolds, filled with a new life from on high.

3. Let us pray, at any rate, we be not among those to whom the gospel is a mere matter of curiosity and empty wonder, exercising no influence on their lives, and forgotten in the excitement of some new incident of an unusual kind.

(Canon Vernon Hutton, M. A.)

1. Its foundation.

(1)God's Word.

(2)God's deed.

2. Its properties.

(1)Emotion of heart.

(2)Activity of life.

3. Its aim.

(1)The spreading of the kingdom of God upon earth.

(2)The glory of God.


1. They seek the Child in the stable and the manger.

2. They spread the gospel message everywhere.

3. They praise God with thankful joy.


1. Their going.

2. Their seeing,

3. Their spreading abroad the saying.

4. Their return to their avocations.


God gives men information to put them upon action. No sooner are the shepherds informed of the Saviour's birth, than they say, "Let us, then, go and see Him." It will be well for us to imitate them, and take a pilgrimage to Bethlehem.

I. Let us go to Bethlehem, and see DEITY DISPLAYED. It was necessary for our redemption that the Saviour of men should be a man; for the same nature that sinned must bear the punishment of sin. In what manner the human nature was united to the Divine, we cannot tell. It is enough for us to know that it was so united (Matthew 1:23; John 1:1, 14; 1 Timothy 3:15, 16). Jesus Christ is God manifested in the flesh. Let us go to Bethlehem, and see this great sight. Angels desire to look at it. Glorious mystery!

II. Let us go to Bethlehem, and behold MAN REDEEMED. The redemption of fallen, guilty, helpless man, was the grand design of the Saviour's birth. There is something delightful in the name "Saviour." Cicero, the Roman orator, said, that when travelling in Greece, he saw a pillar inscribed with this word — Saviour. He admired the fulness of the name, but he knew not its Christian meaning. How much more may the redeemed sinner admire it! We must have perished, had He not come and saved us.

III. Let us take another turn to Bethlehem, and see SATAN RUINED. Ever since, in the garden of Eden, he seduced our first parents, Satan has ruled the children of disobedience, and led men captive at his will. At the birth of Christ his throne began to totter, and it will go on shaking until it is utterly destroyed. Christ by His death has destroyed him that had the power of death, and by His rising again has delivered all who were held in bondage by Satan.

(George Burder.)

You all feel more or less the trials, the mystery of life, its sufferings and its sins. One and One only can alleviate for you those trials, can explain that mystery, can remove that suffering, can heal those sins. Would you understand anything either of this life or of the life beyond? You can only do so by watching the life of your Saviour, by coming to Christ's cradle, by standing behind His cross, by sitting with the deathless angel in His forsaken tomb. Follow Him with the eagle eye of faith, and then you may see the heavens open and Jesus Christ standing on the right hand of God. I ask you, then, for a moment or two to stand with me beside the cradle of your Lord, in the manger at Bethlehem, and catch something of what we there may learn.

1. Some of you are poor. How glad for you, beyond all utterance, should be the meaning of Christmas! Your Lord was, as you are, poor — as poor as any of you. The lot which He chose for His own was your lot. Look at your own little children with love and reverence, for He, too, was the child of the poor. Your rooms, in garret or in cellar, are not more comfortless than that manger at Bethlehem; nor is your labour humbler than His in that shop of the village carpenter at Nazareth. It was to the poor, to the humble, to the ignorant, to those poor shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night, that the heavens flashed forth with angel wings. They were the first to see in that cradle the Blessed Child. Cannot you, in heart or mind, go with them. Let Christ's cradle teach you to respect yourselves, to reverence with a nobler self-esteem the nature which He gave you and took upon Himself, and which, by taking upon Himself, He redeemed.

2. And some are rich. Oh I come ye also to the manger-cradle of your Lord, for rich men did come both to His cradle and to His tomb. From the far East came those three wise men — the "three kings of the East," as they are called — they came, as the rich should come, with the gifts, willing and humble gifts, not doled forth with murmurs as a burden, but lavished as a privilege with delight. First of all they gave, as we all may and must give, themselves — the gold of worthy lives, the frankincense of holy worship, the myrrh of consecrated sorrow. They might have kept their gold and their treasures for their own selfishness, for their own gratification, for the enhancement of their personal luxury, for the enrichment of their sons and daughters. They might have stamped their substance with a vulgar commonplace possession; but do not you think it was happier for them that they made their gifts immortal by offering them at the cradle of their Lord? You may do the very same thing to-day. You may give your gifts at the cradle of your Lord to-day. If you give to one of the least of these your brethren, you give it unto Him.

3. Many of you are sorrowful. So was He. Whatever be the form of your sorrow, and it may be very varied — be it loneliness, or agony of body, or anxiety of mind, or the sorrows inflicted by the vulgarity or baseness of other men — He bore it all, even to the cross. That soft and tender Child by whose cradle we stand to-day, the shadow of His cross falls even on His cradle, the crimson of His sunset flushes even His golden dawn; and, perfected by suffering, He would teach every one of us out of our sorrows to make springs of tenderness and strength and beauty.

4. All of you are sinners; and to you the news of that birth is indeed "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men." While you may see there how much God hates the sin, you may see also how tenderly, how earnestly He loves the sinner. Let us come to this cradle: let the lepers come, and let the outcasts come, and the mourners with their tear-stained cheeks, and the sinners with their broken hearts, and the young man with his selfwill and his strong unconquered passions, and the poor with their struggling lives, and the rich with their many temptations, and let them kneel and drink freely of the waters of Siloam which flow softly, and let them bathe their sick and shivering souls in the golden tide of heaven's beatitude, and stand in the circle of heaven's own free light, undarkened by any shadow; let them escape the errors what, darken the mind, the lusts which destroy the body, the sins which corrupt the soul; and so one and all wish one another a happy Christmas time, as I do from my heart to all of you today.

(Archdeacon Farrar.)

This, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing," &c., was the resolution of the shepherds on the original Christmas Day. May it be our own I "Come and see," is written upon the gospel. There is no secrecy and no concealment in it. It challenges inquiry.

I. WE HAVE A FACT BEFORE US: "UNTO YOU IS BORN A SAVIOUR." It is a summary of revelation.

1. It presupposes a ruin.

2. It assumes that salvation must come from without.

3. It declares that the Deliverer, though He comes from without the creature, must enter into it by incorporation. There must be a birth to bring in the Saviour into the Cosmos. "Unto you is born a Saviour" — Incarnation makes Him such.

II. When we try to obey the summons the first thing which we notice is, that CHRISTMAS DAY IS THE FESTIVAL OF REDEMPTION AS A WHOLE. It presents to us, not so much one part or one element of the gospel, but rather the intervention of God in Christ to save sinners as a single and complete act, containing in itself all that was necessary to give it validity and efficacy.

III. But the festival of Christmas, though its foundation lies so deep, has a thought for all natures. It is in an especial sense THE FESTIVAL, OF THE BRIGHTER SIDE OF CHRISTIANITY.

IV. Christmas is by common consent THE FESTIVAL OF THE FAMILY AND THE HOME.

(Dean Vaughan,)

And what shall we find when we get there?


1. — Here are the shepherds. Let us ask them to tell their story. They say that they were watching their flocks on the hill-side, with no sounds to break the stillness but the occasional bleating of the sheep, when suddenly they became aware that they were in the presence of a glory brighter than that of noonday. An angel stood there, and as they shrank in affright from the wondrous vision, the angel spoke, and said, "Fear not," &c." And then there appeared with him "a multitude of the heavenly host praising God," &c. And —

When such music sweet,

Their heart and ears did greet,

As never was by mortal fingers strook,

Divinely warbled voice Answering the stringed noise,

As all their souls in blissful rapture took

The air such pleasure loathe to lose,

With thousand echoes still prolonged each heavenly close.

The anthem died away. The light faded from the hills. The angelic host departed. And the shepherds leaving their flocks, as afterwards the woman (John 4:28) left her waterpot, set out to see the new-born Saviour whom the angels sang. They found what? The splendour and magnificence befitting His birth who was heir of all things, and King of kings? No, but "Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger." And still, though that was what they saw, they returned glorifying and praising God.

2. But not only the shepherds — others also, and men very different from these, have been to Bethlehem before us. They are not shepherds but sages. They have come not from some near hill-side. They are travel-stained and weary, for they have travelled long and far. They tell us that they have seen a new star, blazing and flashing in the sky, and that, led by that star, they have come to the place where lay the young Child and His mother; have worshipped Him, and presented to Him precious gifts. And now, their quest ended and rewarded, and the star having paled before the Sun of Righteousness who has arisen with healing in His wings, they are wending their way home by another route, with a new hope born in their hearts.

3. And not only shepherds and sages, but a countless multitude through all the Christian centuries, have been heart-pilgrims to Bethlehem before us, and have declared that "this thing which had come to pass" was the one thing needed to give them peace here below and the hope of heaven hereafter.


1. The reality of Christ's humanity.

2. The self-sacrificing power of Divine love. Our gladness cost Christ grief. Our salvation His humiliation.

3. The perfection of Christ's example. As we stand by the manger and know that that cradle means the cross, let us pray that "the same mind may be in us which was also in Christ Jesus."

(J. R. Bailey.)

I. Is of supreme interest as an event in the world. Outweighs all other great events of history.

II. Has to do with all time and all men.

III. Should be seriously inquired into by each one of us personally.

IV. Should receive our serious attention without delay.

1. Because you are losing happiness in proportion to your neglect of Christ.

2. Because you are missing the Divine method of spiritual life and heavenward growth.

3. Because with present conduct are bound up the solemn issues of the eternal future.

(W. Manning.)

Sermons for Boys and Girls.
I. How came they to make this visit? They were directed by the angel.

II. There was no delay in the visit: "Let us go now." That is the secret of finding Christ.

III. Why did they go away rejoicing? Because they found everything just as God had said. So if we seek and find Jesus we shall go joyfully on our journey.

(Sermons for Boys and Girls.)

Every Divine prophecy has its counterpart and fulfilment sooner or later in the events of human history. If God has said, "It shall come to pass," the time will come at which men shall say, "It is come to pass."

(J. R. Bailey.)

Mark that. When there is anything specially important it is the Lord that makes it known to us. You would never have heard a syllable of this, if the Lord had not made it known to you.

(T. Mortimer, B. D.)

I. THE TRUTH INVESTIGATED. "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." It will be felt at once that there was very little room in their case for scepticism. The manner of the revelation had been supernatural, and they could scarcely doubt the correctness of the information who had received it through the ministration of angels. The inquiry must be conducted in a humble and teachable spirit. It is of no use coming to it at all if we come in the spirit of self-sufficiency. Some men seem wonderfully baffled by the mysteries there are in grace. And, after all, it is no real calamity that there is mystery connected with all the departments of knowledge. Twilights are not altogether destitute of enjoyment: even the indistinct apprehension of truth has its pleasures; and these experiences do but herald the coming light. The objector may say, "Then what is the use of inquiring? You ask us to test the truth concerning Christ, and then you practically check our inquiry by telling us that there is mystery and that we must trust!" "Not so," we reply. All we want you to see is that nature and revelation are alike in this respect, that in each department there are profound mysteries, problems you cannot solve; and just as you accept this in reference to the former, and take this for granted in all your researches into her domain, so we ask you candidly to accept this in relation to the latter; and further, just as you search into Nature, and form your own conclusions from what you can clearly apprehend, so we ask you in the same spirit to test the claims of Christ. Be assured His life and character, and His influence and power over human hearts will bear the closest scrutiny; and if the investigation is approached in the right spirit, then, despite all mysteries, the inquirer shall be led to Christ, and adoringly shall say unto Him: "Thou art the Son of God: Thou art the King of Israel!" "Immanuel, God with us."

II. THE TRUTH PROCLAIMED. "And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child." Let us look at these first heralds or proclaimers, that we may get a little stimulus, as Christian workers, from what is recorded respecting them. Clearly, they were not men of culture: they were humble, unpretending shepherds. Yet, for all this, they were genuine preachers of the truth concerning Christ. The lack of intellectual endowments or of educational advantages must not be pleaded in excuse for the neglect of this duty. "Go, tell the good news to thy neighbour." "Let him that heareth say, Come!" These men, if unlettered, could at any rate speak from experience. They had heard the voice from heaven and had seen the young child. And it was this personal experience which fitted them for service and inspired them with a true enthusiasm.And then, their hearts were full of love. The scene they had witnessed had touched their hearts with love to the new-born King, and the sweet songs of angels to which they had listened, proclaiming "peace on earth and goodwill toward men," had fired their souls with the spirit of a true brotherhood. Dr. Tholuck relates how that one who had been a great traveller said to him that he had scarcely ever fallen into company with fellow-travellers without speaking to them of the heavenly journey. Tholuck almost questioned the propriety of forcing such conversation. "Ah," responded his friend, "I endeavoured never to speak till I was certain, that I loved. I figured to myself that we are all brothers one of another, and this never failed to soften my heart, and when there was love in mine I soon found a bridge into that of the stranger. It was as though the breath of God had drawn out a thread from the one and had fastened it to the other." Nor must we overlook the fact that these proclaimers kept to the one theme, Christ. They made known "the saying" concerning Christ, but they did so with a view of leading those who heard them to Him.

III. THE TRUTH EXEMPLIFIED. "And the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things which they had heard and seen, as it was told them." They not only tested and proclaimed the truth concerning Christ, but they exemplified it in their conduct and life. Too many, alas I are content with a very defective Christian life and character. The eminent Church historian, Neander, in speaking of the Stoics, remarks that there were many among them who did nothing more than make an idle parade of the lofty maxims of the ancient philosophers, embellishing their halls with their busts, whilst their own lives were abandoned to every vice. And even so there are to be found among the professed disciples of Jesus those who are very unworthy representatives of Him, and who by their failings bring dishonour upon His cause.

(S. D. Hillman, B. A.)

I pretend not, brethren, to sum up in these few words what such aims and endeavours should be; but to set forth the spirit of them is enough.

1. You cannot, for example, go to seek Him "in the flesh," who was sought of old time in the stable at Bethlehem; but there are other humble roofs, and uninviting abodes, where you may seek, and haply find, "the Lord of life!" For Christ yet abides with His own; and very especially among the poorest and most helpless of His flock. Go to them, and you go to Him. Keep up a kindly, habitual compassion for their trials.

2. So again, you have no heaven-sent marvels of which to tell; you cannot report to others of the descent of the Angel of the Lord; nor of the gathering of an host of "ministering spirits" from above, chanting their adoration "to God and the Lamb!" But you can tell, perhaps, of the peace you may yourselves have read beneath the burning stars of some Christmas night. You can tell, perhaps, of some rough way that you yourselves have trod, and found, by God's grace, consolation and "hope in its end."

3. And need I point to one deeper and dearer realization of our subject yet? It stands in the fact that this sacred season has many opportunities for Holy Communion; for that best and most privileged way in which we can "keep the Feast." He will be veiled in His Sacrament, as aforetime in His flesh; but the same Immanuel, "God with you!" And, surely, you will return to your own paths and your own ways, like your prototypes of Bethlehem, praising and glorifying God for all the benefits that He hath done unto you; having received the Cup of Salvation, and having been answered in the name of the Lord!

(J. Puckle, M. A.)

I. Here is a lesson of doctrinal theology.

II. A lesson of intellectual theology. A new revelation of God is given to man in the incarnate Christ.

III. A lesson in. experimental theology.

IV. A lesson in emotional theology. It is a theophany of love.

V. A lesson of practical theology. The shepherds and wise men came in the spirit of earnest consecration.

VI. A lesson of consolation, of gladness, of rapture.

(C. Wadsworth, D. D.)

The trial of men's faith comes after God's awakening angels have gone away. To us God's favouring messengers are stripped of their miraculous raiment. They take the shape of merciful providences to relieve and comfort us, of Christian ordinances to strengthen us, festivals to reawaken our thanksgiving, and human hearts to enrich the poverty of ours with their affection. In the fresh mercy of some gracious deliverance, from sadness or pain or accident or threatened sorrow, men cast their thank-offering into the treasury of the Church, and wonder that they should ever be forgetful of God's care. In the stillness of a sanctuary, when all the harmonies of holy times and places seem to shut out temptation, to set open the windows of heaven, and fill the uplifted spirit with hearty praise, men say, "Would to God all days and places were like this; for when faith, and zeal, and charity never would grow cold!" In the warmth of the feast it is easy to be glad. But these hours pass by. The angels are gone away into heaven. The festive lights are put out; the temple-doors are shut; the winter snow lies white and smooth on the little grave in the burial-ground. The world comes crowding, beseeching, flattering, threatening, almost forcing its way back, with its noise and its guilt, into the unguarded and yielding heart. Then comes the test of the reality, the sincerity, the power, of your Christian principles. When the song ceased, the first Christmas Eve, and the bright host vanished from the sky, the shepherds did not fall asleep again, and so have only a dream to tell the next morning. They verified the vision, like earnest and constant men. Secondly: Such willingness to watch and seek commonly leads, as it does here, to an equal readiness to believe when the promise is fulfilled, and they that have sought Christ find Him. They might have said — and if they had been modern philosophers, conceited critics, or ambitious naturalists, they would have been very sure to say — to each other, "Beware how you believe; these, to be sure, are extraordinary phenomena; they look very much as miracles are said to look — brilliant figures plainly seen by many witnesses, nay, by our own eyes, and articulate melodies from their tongues! — but possibly electricity, meteorology, optics, or acoustics may explain them all; — light or sound." They say, "We will look into our books. It is extremely unlikely that nature would interrupt her order, or let in new light by a new channel. Let us take care not to be ridiculed for believing too much." Glories of heaven and earth, grander than telescopes ever pierced among the stars, or hammers ever uncovered in the rocks, pass by, and there is no vision to behold them. Spiritual things not seen for want of spiritual senses! God knew whom He was choosing when He opened Heaven on those clear-hearted keepers of simple flocks. They discredited neither messenger nor message. Thirdly: When faith is prompt, honest, and manly, like this, it comes out as it does in these brave men, to an open confession. The shepherds said what they said frankly, "one to another," and with one consent. So they did not hide their purposes, or play fast and loose with their convictions. Will those men who have resolved to go to Bethlehem and see, really arise and go? Many a Christian life falters and fails in every congregation between these two. Will resolve pass on into action, and a good faith confirm and demonstrate itself in good works? Yes, "they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Visions are transient; the festival is but for a day; the angels go away into heaven. But the indwelling Christ abides.

(F. D. Huntingdon, D. D.)

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