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Occupy Bethlehem!
Luke 2:1-20
Skip Heitzig

Luke 2 (NKJV™)
1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.
3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
10 Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
11 "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12 "And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men!"
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us."
16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Jesus: Celebrating All That He Is

During the last quarter of this year, much of the news has been about a growing movement in America and around the world--"The Occupy Movement." Crowds of assembled protestors have gathered to object to perceived corporate and government mismanagement. Two millennia ago, a heavenly movement was afoot to occupy the small Judean town of Bethlehem. Let's see why.

In this special series, Pastor Skip Heitzig offers a fresh look at the familiar story of Jesus' birth. As we consider Christmas from various vantage points, we receive a valuable reminder that He should be the center of not only our celebrations, but of our lives.

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Outline

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  1. Jesus' Family Occupied It As Strangers (vv. 1-7)

    1. Governmental Intrusion

    2. Providential Occasion

  2. Angels Occupied It As Speakers (vv. 8-14)

    1. In the Surrounding Country

    2. To Unsuspecting Shepherds

  3. Shepherds Occupied It As Seekers (vv. 15-20)

    1. They Left Seeking Christ

    2. They Returned Finding Hope

Preparing for Christmas:
  1. If you were protesting against one thing, what would it be? If you were standing up for one thing, what would it be?

  2. What position does Jesus have in your life? Does He occupy the throne of your heart?

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. Occupy Movement
      1. "The Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one"--Spock, Wrath of Khan
      2. Timeline
        1. Began in September 2011 in New York City --Occupy Wall Street
        2. Spread to 600 cities by October
        3. 92 cities in other countries
        4. 2720 cities by December 2011
      3. Protestors
        1. Protesting government irresponsibility
        2. Protesting corporate greed
        3. Time Magazine's Man of the Year: Protestors
          "From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, all over the world protestors of 2011 share a belief that their countries' political systems and economies have grown dysfunctional and corrupt."
    2. Occupy Bethlehem
      1. General population (including Joseph and Mary) because of the government edict
      2. Angelic hosts to give announcement to the shepherds
      3. Shepherds search for the Savior
      4. Reasons
        1. Not to protest
        2. Caesar Augustus called for a census
        3. Heavenly perspective
          1. God dealing with our need to have our sins forgiven
          2. God sent His Son to occupy a manger
          3. To grow up and live
          4. Occupy a cross
          5. "The needs of the many (salvation of the world) outweigh the need of the One (the temporary comfort of the Savior)."
    3. Classic Christmas Story: Luke 2
      1. We know it too well: remember what has been passed to us through tradition
      2. "Silent Night" inaccurate
        1. Population shift
        2. Angels speaking to shepherds
        3. Shepherds seeking the Savior
      3. Joseph and Mary
        1. In Nazareth in virtual isolation
        2. Gossip: 13 year old girl pregnant while betrothed to 19-20 year old husband, quick wedding
        3. Census moved them to Bethlehem
  2. Jesus’ Family Occupied It As Strangers (vv. 1-7)
    1. Governmental Intrusion
      1. Census
        1. Military purposes: find out the number of warriors (registration census)
        2. Government needs money (taxation census)
          1. Pax Romana (Roman Peace)
          2. Roman Roads
      2. Caesar Augustus
        1. Gaius Caesar Augustus
        2. Named Augustus in 27 AD by the Roman Senate
          1. formidable ruler
          2. brilliant man
          3. incredible authority
        3. Turned Citizens into occupiers
    2. Providential Occasion 
      1. Joseph and Mary
        1. Traveled 90 miles south from Nazareth
        2. about a week and a half
        3. Inconvenient, intrusive, dangerous
      2. Messiah to be born in Bethlehem (See Micah 5:2)
      3. No room at the inn
        1. Inn not a hotel, a caravansary
          1. Where caravans stop
          2. Square building, courtyard at center, rooms around the perimeter
          3. Animals rested, fed, and watered in the courtyard
          4. People stayed with their own bedding in a room
        2. Joseph and Mary forced into the courtyard
        3. Manger: a feeding trough for animals
        4. Inn possibly a guest room (a relative's home)
        5. Possibly a cave
      4. Application
        1. King of Kings occupied a manger; people too busy to notice
        2. Jesus would like to occupy a place of prominence in people's lives; we are preoccupied
          1. "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him." (John 1:11)

          2. Busy world
            1. So busy the most important things are crowded out
            2. "We are overwhelmed by information. We are rocked by innumerable opportunities and a limited number of hours. We are struggling to remain abreast of the sweeping changes that are impacting lifestyles and relationships."—George Barna
          3. "The many" don't recognize their need
  3. Angels Occupied It As Speakers (vv. 8-14)
    1. In the Surrounding Country (countryside)
    2. To Unsuspecting Shepherds
      1. No longer a "Silent Night"
      2. Angels
        1. Referenced in 34 books of the Bible
          1. 17 Old Testament
          2. 17 New Testament
          3. About 300 references
        2. ἄγγελος; angelos: messenger
        3. Activity
          1. Worship
          2. Do God's bidding on the earth
        4. The angels weren't singing, but saying
        5. Angels limited singing
          1. "When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 38:7)
          2. Four living creatures (See Revelation 5)
          3. Before the fall and after the curse (as though during the fall they minister without song)
          4. We are redeemed; Jesus occupies our hearts, we should sing
            1. "To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven--things which angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:12)
            2. Turkish proverb: "As the music is, so are the people of that country";
            3. People's songs reflect where they are from; as citizens of heaven we ought to sound like it.
  4. Shepherds Occupied It As Seekers (vv. 15-20)
    1. They Left Seeking Christ
      1. Shepherds were considered outcasts
        1. Ceremonially unclean
        2. Bedouins; generally overlooked
        3. When God told the message that His Son the Savior was born, He tells the Bedouin: His Grace
        4. The Sign: Jesus was born as their children were
          1. "He is one of us"
          2. Swaddling cloths; feeding trough
      2. Came with haste; quickly
      3. Found: to find after a period of intense search
    2. They Returned Finding Hope
      1. Jesus occupied a place in their hearts
      2. Their example
        1. Received the word about Christ by faith
        2. Responded to the word immediately
        3. Recounted what they saw to people around them
      3. Some say they were raising the temple lambs for sacrifice; Looked for the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world

Greek Terms: ἄγγελος; angelos: messenger

Publications Referenced: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Time Magazine;  "Silent Night," by Joseph Mohr; "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," by Charles Wesley; Close Encounters of the Third Kind; A Social Network Christmas

Figures Referenced: George Barna

Cross References: Job 38:7; Micah 5:2; John 1:11; 1 Peter 1:12; Revelation 5;

Transcript

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Would you turn in your Bibles this morning to the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2?  Let's pray.  Father, we have the last few weeks been looking at this story, this advent through different lenses, first through a historical lens and then through Joseph's own life when you dispatched an angel to give them the news and then today to the event itself, the story we are probably most familiar with.  Thank you Lord that we can revisit it and considerate it afresh, and I pray that you would help us to cut away the baggage that weighs us down from seeing it and in part, experiencing it how it really happened.  Help us to get in touch with that and more than anything else to walk away in awe, that you display the love toward us by sending your Son to this earth to consider us.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

I'm going to say a statement and you're going to tell me where it's from.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  Where did it come from?  Who said it?  Spock.  We have trekkies here.  If you're a die hard Star Trek fan, you know that.  It comes from the 1982 movie "The Wrath of Khan" where Mr. Spock is explaining to Captain Kirk why he has just entered a room filled with radiation which would mean his certain death.  And he went in that room to get the engines going to the USS Enterprise once again which would spare the life of the crew and he says to Captain Kirk like this, puts his hand on the glass, remember?  "Captain, it's logical.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one," pointing to himself for he would sacrifice himself for the crew.  Now that statement made by Mr. Spock has been adopted by a movement for the last few months called the Occupy Movement I know you've heard about it if you've seen any news at all.  It's always being shown.  And it has been since September of this year.

In September of this year, it started in New York City, Occupy Wall Street.  By October one month later, the Occupy Movement had caught fire, so that between September and October it was up to 600 cities across America in one month.  In 92 other cities in 85 countries around the world, same movement spread.  As of today in America it's just a few months later, 2720 cities have Occupy Movements in their town.  Now they're protesting things like government irresponsibility, corporate greed and a list of other things.  I even think there are people that go to these things who have no idea why they're protesting.  They just want to protest.  But I noticed in their literature that statement.  They're protesting because they say the needs of the many, them, the 99% outweigh the needs of the few.  That's the Occupy Movement.

It is so popular, get this, Time Magazine, you know how every year Time Magazine has Man of the Year?  The Man of the Year this year is the protester.  And they say, this is Time Magazine, "From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street all over the world, protesters of 2011 share a belief that their country's political systems and economies have grown dysfunctional and corrupt."  This morning I want to talk to you about another kind of Occupy Movement and as you can see by your worship folder, I've called this message Occupy Bethlehem.  And I've done that because we have different groups of people all converging on this little Judean town called Bethlehem to occupy it for various reasons.  We have the general population which will include Joseph and Mary.  They'll occupy it because of a government edict.

Then we're going to have Angelic Host that come out of heaven.  They will occupy the air space around Bethlehem to give an announcement to shepherds, the shepherds then will go back into the town and occupy the town in search of the Savior.  Now this Occupy Movement, occupy Bethlehem is far different from the modern day occupation.  It is not to protest corporate greed.  It is not to protest government irresponsibility from the human level.  Bethlehem is being occupied because Caesar Augustus calls for a census.  But from the heavenly perspective, it is being occupied because God is dealing with a deep issue and that is the need to have our sins forgiven.  Think about it from heaven's perspective.  God is sending His Son into the world to occupy a manger.  To grow up and live, He will one day occupy a cross and He has sent His Son into the world, same philosophy because the needs of the many, the salvation of the world outweighs the need of the one, the temporary comfort of the Savior.  He would give that up to deal with the needs of the many.

Now I'd have to turn to Luke Chapter 2.  That is the classic story.  It's the classic Christmas story but our problem is we know it too well.  We read it like we would read an American novel.  As we're reading the story, what's in our minds are all the stuff that has been passed down to us from Christmas cards, Christmas songs and seeing our own nativity sets.  It's hard to strip away some of that baggage but we need to try to do that.  I think it's safe to say we can, first of all dispense with the idea that it was a silent night.  We like that song.  We sing it every year.  It's a great song, don't get me wrong.  It's an Austrian Christmas carol and so I have a special affinity toward it because that's my background.  By the way, it's very inaccurate.  It wasn't a silent night.  If it was an occupation of a whole population shift and angels speaking to shepherds and shepherds seeking the Savior, the song, the word should be something like crazy night, holy night.  All is pandemonium, all is bright.  That would at least be accurate.  We come to Chapter 2.  We start in Verse 1.  We're going to read several verses down to look at these three groups but allow me to sort of bring you up to speed where Joseph and Mary are.  Joseph and Mary are in Nazareth.  By this time, they are in virtual isolation.

The tongues in Nazareth have been wagging.  People are gossiping.  There is a 13-year-old girl who is pregnant.  There is her 19 or 20-year-old husband.  They were engaged, betrothed.  Now, she is pregnant.  They do this quick marriage.  It's not what they planned.  They planned an enormous wedding, no doubt.  Now they have to do a Las Vegas style wedding, really quick.  Grab the Rabbi, get it done and people are talking, talking, talking.  And probably when gossip reaches its pinnacle, they get news that there is a census which will move them down to Bethlehem and I think if I were Joseph, I'd be wiping my brow going, "Whew!  Praise God, we're getting out of this town."  And they're going to go to a place called Bethlehem because that's where he is from in his family origin.

Let's begin in Verse 1, "Now it came to pass, in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered some versions say tax.  The census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria, so all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.  Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and the lineage of David.

So Jesus' family, Joseph and Mary occupy Bethlehem as strangers.  Sure their family heritage is from there.  But they don't live there.  They're not from there.  They're going back to where the family originated.  They occupy it as strangers.  All right.  There could have only been two reasons why a census was taken in those days.  Reason number one, for military purposes.  If the ruler in this case Caesar Augustus, if he ever wants to find out how many warriors he has in his empire at his disposal in case a foreign power attacks him, he is going to want to take a registration census.  It will help him know how many men he can count on to fight any attackers.  That's number one, for military reason.

The second reason, more pragmatic than the first is simply because the government needs the money.  It's called taxation.  Isn't it interesting how governments can't seem to live within their own means, and when they can't they go to the people and they tax them to get more.  Roman government was the same.  But keep in mind, the Roman government offered a lot of perks to the world.  And they brought peace to the world, at least a relative peace.  It was called the Pax Romana or the Roman peace.  It was an enforced heavy-handed peace.  Roman soldiers were garrisoned everywhere and that kept people in check.  But you have got to pay for soldiers.  You have got to pay for that kind of organization.  Also, Rome built roads that connected population centers across the world.

Today, you can visit the remnants of Roman roads, some of them in perfect shape up to this time.  So all of that costs money and a census is taken so that the people can be taxed.  I heard about a man who was on vacation in Acapulco and he heard a women scream.  He didn't know Spanish very well.  He was an American but he knew just enough to figure out that that women's child had swallowed a large coin.  So he immediately grabbed the boy, turned him upside down by the ankles and shook him and out dropped the quarter.  The woman is very thankful.  She said, "Thank you sir.  Thank you, sir.  You knew just how to get that out of him.  You must be a Doctor."  He said, "No, ma'am.  I work for the United States Internal Revenue Service."

Rome also knew how to just get it out of people.  Well, the ruler that is named in Verse 1 is Caesar Augustus.  His real name was Gaius Octavius Caesar.  He was given the name Augustus by the Roman Senate in 27 A.D. because he was a formidable ruler.  He was a brilliant man, they thought.  So he has an incredible amount of authority.  He can lift a finger and cause this thing to happen.  He is ruling on earth.  Virtually when he says everybody must be registered, he turned all of the citizenry into occupiers.  They all have to pack their bags.  They all have to hit the road.  They all have to find their town of origin and stay in it until they can register.

For Joseph and Mary, this is what it meant.  They have to make a trip 90 miles South.  They are up in Nazareth, that's 90 miles from Bethlehem.  Now today if you go to Israel with us, we'll put you on a tour bus.  We can get you from Nazareth to Bethlehem in a couple of hours and that's with a lunch break.  In those days, there were no tour buses.  There were no taxi cabs.  They went by foot or by mule.  Mary probably rode a mule, maybe that part of the Christmas story is accurate.  It would have taken them probably, I'm guessing, a week and a half.  Usually you could travel by foot in those days twenty miles a day but a woman who is pregnant ten miles.  So between a week to ten days, it took them to get down from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  It was very inconvenient for them.  It was very intrusive and it was very dangerous to travel.  But it also happened to be the Will of God because the prophet said in Micah Chapter 5 Verse 2, "Bethlehem is the city God named where the Messiah was to be born."

Joseph and Mary didn't put all this together.  They just went along with the program.  Interesting, we don't read that Joseph raised a protest sign and saying, "We don't believe in this tax.  This is government greed."  It might have been but if you try that kind of occupy movement then, they'd just kill you.  So the people went along with it and Joseph and Mary did too and they found their way down to Bethlehem.

Now it says in Verse 4 when we noticed it, "Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth to Judea to the city of David which is called Bethlehem because he was of the house and lineage of David."  To be registered with Mary, notice again his betrothed wife who was with child.  And so it was while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered and she brought forth her first-born Son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger for there was no room for them in the inn.  I don't know if you have this experience but my mind goes back to the days when my parents would take me on a vacation.

And they pile four boys on the back of an unairconditioned Rambler station wagon.  Anybody remember Rambler station wagons?  Okay, we had a white Rambler station wagon, red interior, vinyl, four boys in the back.  My dad liked to take vacations like from California to Minnesota.  He didn't like to stop.  So we always get into towns really late.  I remember going through towns and seeing motels, no vacancy, another one, no vacancy, no vacancy and it's so frustrating when there's no room.  It says there's no room in the inn and maybe you're thinking, I get that, Ramada Inn, Days Inn, Holiday Inn.  You'd be wrong.  They didn't have those in Bethlehem.  They had inns but it was no holiday, trust me.  Now the inn that probably is represented here is called the caravansary.

Have you ever heard of a caravansary?  Maybe not.  But you've heard of a caravan, right?  You know what a caravan is.  A bunch of animals that carry things or people from one place to another, that's a caravan.  A caravansary is where caravans stopped.  So this is what it would look like, a square building in the middle was a court yard.  Around the perimeter were rooms.  That's where people stayed, in the rooms.  The rooms were raised up about a foot off of the ground.  The animals were kept in the courtyard.  They rested there.  They were fed there and watered there, while the people who brought their own bedding would rent a room in the caravansary to spend the night and leave the next day with their caravan.

So Joseph and Mary would have gone to the end of the caravansary.  There are no rooms for rent.  They then perhaps would have been forced out in the courtyard where the animals were.  That's where the mangers were.  You know what a manger is.  It's a feeding trough.  It's where the hay is placed for the animal.  So maybe in a tent enclosure in the middle of the courtyard where the animals were kept, that's where Jesus was born.  That's one thought.  Here's another thought.  Scholars have looked at the word for inn and it can be translated guest room.  It's an odd word.  I won't get into the language but it's an odd word.  And some translate it guest room.  So they think, these scholars, that Joseph and Mary would have gone to Bethlehem, would have sought out relatives because that's from his family origin.

See he must have had a cousin or something living there and Joseph would have gone up, knocked on the door, a relative would have answered and said, "I'm sorry.  Another member of the family has gotten here before you.  The guest room is full.  You can go out back where the animals are kept.  It's all we've got."  That would have forced Joseph and Mary to a place, an enclosure perhaps a cave, that's where many animals were kept.  "And Jesus was brought forth and they laid him," it says in a manger.  Now here is what's going on in Bethlehem.  Jesus Christ is born in that city.  Jesus, the King of Kings is occupying a manger in Bethlehem.  The people of Bethlehem are just to preoccupied with their own busy schedule and government edict and busy commitments to notice the birth of a child.  So nobody cares.  And doesn't that sound a lot like today?  Jesus would love to occupy a place of prominence during this season of the year in people's lives and hearts.  But people for the most part are preoccupied, busy.  The Bible says, "He came into his own and his own what?  Received him not.

We live in a busy world.  I think it's safe to say that probably all of you are busy people during this time of the year.  But some of you are busy all times of the year.  You're just busy.  It's part of our culture.  We respect busyness.  Get busy we say.  We don't like down time or we don't look favorably upon it.  And some people are just so busy that that busyness has crowded out the most important things of life, like a relationship with God.  Isn't it funny we have email and we have text messaging.  We are so connected and we feel so disconnected.  One researcher wrote this of Americans.  This is George Barna.  "We are overwhelmed by information.  We are rocked by innumerable opportunities and unlimited number of hours.  And we are struggling to remain abreast of the sweeping changes that are impacting life styles and relationships.

Jesus came into this world because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and the many don't realize the need that they have.  That is going on in Bethlehem.  Jesus' family occupies that city as strangers.  Now, we come to Verse 8.  And the camera shifts now from Bethlehem to the outskirts of Bethlehem, the countryside where the shepherds are.  They are not in town.  They are out of town.  They liked it that way.  I think if shepherds would have had chariots, they would have bumper stickers that said, "I'd rather be camping."  We get to them in Verse 8.  Now there were in the same country, shepherds living out in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night.  Behold, whenever I read and behold, it is like, "Okay, stop.  Check this out."  That's what behold means.  And check this out, an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them.  Just put yourself in their sandals for a moment.  And they were greatly afraid and the angel said to them, "Don't be afraid for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be for all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign.  Actually, I read that wrong.  "This will be the sign to you."  I will get to that in a moment.  You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths 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, good will toward men.  Now if it was a silent night for these shepherds, it wasn't any longer.  It says a light shone round them.

Remember the scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when the UFO appears overhead, the brilliant light?  See I'm dating myself.  I know with my movie references this morning.  But just imagine the shepherds and all of a sudden, "Whoa!"  And they are out there in the field smoking hookah or whatever shepherds do.  Wow!  This happens to them.  I mean, just think about it for a moment.  These shepherds don't see a lot of excitement, right?  I mean the last exciting thing that happened was when the six goats ate schlow mo's rug in his tent or something.  They are still talking about it.  Now, vhoom this appearance of angels.  The Glory of the Lord it says shone round about them.

A few years ago, I was flying from America into Amman, Jordan.  It was about a week before Christmas.  It was about this time.  Well, it's real close to Bethlehem and as we're going into Amman Jordan and we're coming in over Israel, we flew right over Bethlehem.  And I couldn't help -- but then I'm thinking, I'm over Bethlehem.  I'm looking down at it.  And I expected that any moment, the pilot would just say, "We are now entering into angelic airspace."  It would have been a perfect opportunity for them.  "The Glory of the Lord shone round about them."  And the angel said fear not.  This is because these shepherds are grabbing their hearts by now.  Now these angels, these creatures who are they exactly?  We have them in every nativity set.  They're the little figurine we wire to the top of that little set or it's the figure on top of the Christmas tree.  But who really are they?  Do they really have like big bird wings and they have long flowing robes and glow like a light bulb?

Thirty-four books of the Bible mention angels: 17 in the Old, 17 in the New.  There are about 300 references to angels throughout the Scripture.  The word "angelos" in Greek means a messenger.  Think of an angel as a heavenly messenger.  They principally do two things: they worship a lot and they do God's bidding on the earth.  And here, they are making an announcement.  They have come to occupy the airspace around Bethlehem to make an announcement to the shepherds.  Now in your worship folder, I said, "The angels occupied it as speakers."  And some of you are thinking, "Well shouldn't he have said they occupied it as singers?"  Because after all, we sing that Christmas carol, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

I've got to break it to you.  There is never one hint in the text that the angels sang a single note.  Did you know that?  Well, I want you to see it for yourself.  Look at Verse 10.  "Then the angel said to them," Verse 13, "And suddenly, all his buddies show up now."  There was with the angel, singular, a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, not singing.  They are saying.  I did a little digging and I discovered that in the Bible, there are no references to angels singing at all, except for twice.  I'm going to give to you the two passages.  One of them is the Book of Job, the other is the Book of Revelation.  Now this is interesting.  The Book of Job, which most scholars believe is the earliest book in the Bible, written by Job who was before Moses who wrote Genesis and the Pentateuch.  In Chapter 38 Verse 7 of Job, God is telling Job about creation.  When He created the Heavens and the Earth and He said "That was when the morning stars sang together and the angels of God shouted for joy.  It's the only reference we have and it's an obscure passage.

The other passage is in Revelation 5, when the four living creatures, also angelic beings in Heaven, lead an anthem in Heaven, a praise to God in song.  So before the fall of man and after the curse is removed, the angels are singing.  It's as though the angels during this time of the Fall and the curse on the Earth are ministering but without song.  Now they will sing again.  They sang before and they will sing again.  But there is no reference to them singing here.  I know that blows it for some of you because then it would be, "Hark the herald angels talk," and it just does not sing right.  But that's what they were doing, saying.  I have a point to make about that.  You and I, we're not angels.  You're pretty wonderful people, but you're not angels.  You are however, God's redeemed people.  And unlike angels, Jesus Christ occupies the throne of your heart.  Am I right? And because He occupies the throne of your heart, you better sing.  You better sing.  I think the angels can't wait to sing when that curse is lifted and they are going to join us in song.

But you know the Bible says in 1 Peter that concerning our salvation, these are the things Peter says, "Even the angels desire to look into."  I imagine these angels look at us sometimes and go, "Uh, I don't get these folks.  Look at what God has done for them."  I imagine if an angel sees us sitting in a Church service during the song service and we're doing one of these numbers, here's our singing.  I think that, that totally frustrates them.  It's like, they could sing.  The curse has been lifted from their lives.  Jesus is living in their hearts.  They have a different relationship than we have.  We're waiting to sing.  They can sing.  They are not doing it.  There is an old Turkish proverb I came across that says, "As the music is, so are the people of that country."  In other words, the people's songs reflect where they are from.  You and I are citizens of heaven.  We have to sound like it.  You know I don't have a good voice.  Good.  Sing so loud that it's so obnoxious that anybody with a good voice around you will sing it louder.  You've heard me harangue on that before.

Let me take you to the third group of occupiers.  These are the shepherds.  Now Joseph and Mary, they occupy the town as strangers.  The angels they occupy the airspace around town as speakers.  The shepherds now who hear the message, they go back into town and occupy it as seekers.  They are going to look for Jesus.  "So it was", Verse 15, "when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass which the Lord has made known to us."  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in a manger.  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying, which was told them concerning this Child.  And all those who heard it, marvelled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen as it was told them."  The shepherds weren't there at first.  They came later on.  I don't know, late at night, early in the morning while it was dark.  They came to occupy the seekers looking for Jesus.  Okay.  Truth be told, none of us would care about these shepherds, were they not told in the Christmas story because even back then, people didn't care about shepherds.  They were considered the outcasts of the society.  In this Jewish Society, they were reading about shepherds because they kept animals.  The kind of work they did made them ceremonially unclean.  So, they were the overlooked people, the outcast people, the whatever people.  If you go to Israel today on a tour, you'll even see something akin to them.  They are called Bedouins.  And if you're on a tour and you are around Jerusalem and you are coming from the desert areas, you see these pockets of tent enclosures in cities around, these little black tents.  And you ask the tour guide, "What's that?" "Oh, those are the Bedouins."  Yeah, they're a nomadic people.  They travel around.  They're on the move. They go from place to place, living off the land."

Nobody visits the Bedouin tents.  Nobody really cares much about the Bedouins.  We just take pictures of them and the bus goes on, generally overlooked by the main population.  Every culture has its shepherds, overlooked people.  I'm not just talking about homeless people.  These are the blue-collar workforce that does stuff around us that nobody really cares about or gets into their lives.  The last time you travelled and took a taxi cab, from one place to the hotel, did you ask the cab driver his name and where he's from, and what his hobbies were?  Most people don't.  Or when you got to the place you staying if it were a hotel, and the person who registers you and writes your name down, did you meet that person and engage in a conversation?  The kid who bags your groceries at the store, ever get to know that guy?  When the trash collectors come, do you wave your arms?  And have you ever gone out on the step of the truck and said, "Excuse me, just thanks for taking away this trash every week.  Thanks for doing that.  What's your name?"  Or the UPS or FedEx driver.  Those are the shepherds in ancient times.  They are there.  There work is obscure.  They are overlooked.

But here's what's interesting to me.  When God wants to tell really big news to the earth, the news that His Son, the Savior is being born, who does He go to?  He didn't even go inside the town.  He didn't go to the mayor of Bethlehem.  He doesn't go to the blue bloods living in Rome or Herod the Great in his palace in Jerusalem or even the religious elite in Jerusalem.  He goes to the Bedouins.  That's God's grace.  That's why, they don't even wince.  They don't even go huh when God says here is the sign that you'll find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths laying in a feeding trough.  That didn't bother them.  That's how their kids are born. He's not one of us.  That's what that means.  Swaddling cloths is what was wrapped on in a poor family.  The baby was wrapped tightly, snuggly in this little banded strips of cloths and then laid down and in the Bedouins' case, the shepherds' case in a feeding trough typically of an animal.  The angel was saying, "There's a baby coming into the world who's like one of all you all.  All you guys, you can relate to Him.  Find that baby in Bethlehem and you found the Savior of the world."

Look at Verse 16, "They came with haste."  You know what that means?  In a hurry, quickly.  So this is the first Christmas rush.  They are running into the city to check it out.  And found Mary and Joseph.  The word found means to find after a period of intense search.  So, Jesus' family occupied Bethlehem.  Jesus occupied the manger when He was born, that brought the angels dispatched out of heaven to occupy the skies around Bethlehem and make an announcement, which brought the shepherds to occupy the town in search of the Savior.  They came seeking Him and they left.  They walked away with Jesus now occupying a place of prominence in their hearts.

These shepherds are great examples for us.  Number one, the shepherds received the Word about Christ by faith. The angel said, "It happened, they believed it."  Number two, they responded to what the angel said immediately and they went themselves to check it out.  Number three, they recounted what they saw and heard to people around them.  They told the story.  Question, does Jesus occupy a position of importance and greatness in your life?  Does He?  Then tell someone.  They believed it.  They checked it out for themselves and then they told someone.

There's an old legend that comes to us.  And it's just a legend.  It's just a story.  The legend goes that these shepherds who were there that night gathered for a reunion forty years later.  Sitting around the campfire talking about the night that the skies lit up and the angels were there and spoke to them and going into Bethlehem.  They are telling the story, the grand kids are also around the campfire by now.  One of the grand kids says, "Grandpa, did it really happen like that just as the angel said?"  He ignored his grandson.  He kept telling the story engaging with the other shepherds.  Again the grandson interrupted, "Daddy, Daddy," or "Grandpa, Grandpa, did that really happen?"

Finally, the old man had to say, "I don't know.  I never went to see."  The other shepherds had gone.  He remained behind.  He never went himself to check it out.  So, it's all hearsay now, wasn't personal experienced.  I find there are a lot of people who live their entire lives like the shepherd in that legend.  They hear sermons week after week.  They come to Church week after week.  They see changed lives around them and the commitments that people have made, but they never check it out themselves and never have Jesus change their lives on their own for themselves, for them to experience.  That's a pity.

There's something else I just want to tie a knot on, the shepherds.  It is commonly believed by scholars were the shepherds who weren't just raising sheep, but a very special kind of sheep.  They were the lambs that were to be sacrificed in the Jewish temple, four miles away in Jerusalem.  With their own flocks, these were the temple flocks.  So if you came to the temple and you couldn't bring your own, you had to buy one there, those were the lambs you buy.  Isn't that an interesting thought?  They are raising lambs, sacrificial lambs to atone for the sins of their own people and they are looking for the Lamb of God, which would take away the sin of the world.  Jesus Christ came out of heaven to occupy a manger and one day, he would occupy a cross.  And the reason He came is because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.  He lived and died with that philosophy.  As we close, I want to draw your attention to the screens.  This was sent to me this week.  If Facebook existed 2,000 years ago, if there was a mobile community technologically, it would have looked like this on Facebook.

[Video Playing: 00:38:55 - 00:42:39]

Could you all stand?  We're going to close in prayer and my favorite part was that 23 people unfriended Joseph.  I thought you know when you come to Christ and you live for Him, and you do things that people may not understand, you might have people that unfriend you.  But God will be your friend.  And that's the best part.

Let's pray.  Father in Heaven, we thank you that Jesus came to this earth because the needs of the many, us, You thought were more important than he thought, too, than His own personal comfort.  And so He sacrificed for us, occupying a manger in Bethlehem, one day occupying a cross, today occupying the rulership as King of our hearts.  For those who don't know Jesus, I pray Lord that today they would come to know Him.  That during this season, rather than being pre-occupied, they would be occupied with the One Who wants to occupy their world.  It's in His Name, we pray.  Amen.

Additional Messages in this Series

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12/4/2011
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Can Christmas Lead You To Christ?
Skip Heitzig
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Lots of people make a lot of fuss about Christmas. Some love this time of year (myself included). Others hate it or are opposed to its celebration. Some couch their disdain in “spiritual” reasons, saying some of us have capitulated to the world's celebration of a pagan holiday. Oh, really? Is it true? And if so, can Christmas lead you to Christ?
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12/11/2011
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Joseph Did You Know?
Matthew 1:18-25
Skip Heitzig
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At Christmastime, Mary gets most of the press after Jesus. It's understandable, since she was the only virgin to give birth. But Joseph is rather sidelined. So today we'll try to see the announcement of Jesus' birth through his eyes. His range of emotions follows a stressful gamut. But his example is helpful to any who receive hard-to-hear news.
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12/24/2011
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How The Grinch Almost Stole Christmas - Christmas Eve 2011
Revelation 12:1-5
Skip Heitzig
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In the classic tale How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, the hard-hearted Grinch attempts to steal Christmas from Whoville. The Grinch couldn't stand the joyous celebrations, the laughter, and the love—and he went to extreme lengths to prevent them. Throughout history, there has been a real Grinch working behind the scenes to rob the world of the only true source of joy and love—Jesus Christ. Let's consider the cosmic battle between heaven and hell, and God's plan to wash away sin and provide everlasting life.
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12/25/2011
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Christmas Day Celebration
Skip Heitzig
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It's not easy for us to find the perfect gift. It's difficult to know the right size, the right flavor, or even the right packaging. But God knows exactly what we need—a Savior. Join us as we celebrate the greatest gift ever given: Jesus Christ.
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There are 4 additional messages in this series.