Tripp Atkinson // @trippatkinson //

Luke 2:8-20 

The Shepherds

Have you been counting the days until Christmas?  My wife, Courtney, has since about the first of November.  If you were to stop by our house you would see that the anticipation is great (decorations, music, & Hallmark movies).  The arrival of Christmas changes everything in our home!

Today we continue our Advent series titled “It’s Obvious” and we are to the part of the Christmas story where Christ has been born and the angels are giving a grand announcement of his birth. The anticipation of the birth of Jesus had been building for hundreds of years…

  • There are 333 promises & prophecies in the OT about the coming Messiah. (Then 400 years of silence.)
  • It has been said the OT was like a ballet…everyone on tiptoes looking for the Messiah.

Luke 2: 8

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.”

To understand the significance of how this announcement was given, it’s important to note a few things about the setting:


  • Lowly, despised group.  Near the bottom of the social ladder.
  • Because tending sheep was a 24/7 job, they were unable to keep man-made Sabbath laws and were considered ceremonially unclean.

…living out in the fields

  • Bethlehem is 5.5 miles south of Jerusalem.
  • Shepherds Fields is about 2 miles from birthplace of Jesus

– Fields of Ruth & Boaz (Ruth 1:16)

– Where David tended sheep & was anointed by Samuel to be the next King of Israel.

…keeping watch over their flock by night

  • The shepherds were watching some very special sheep.  Sheep that would eventually be

offered as sacrifices in Jerusalem’s Temple.

Angel Message:

Luke 2:9-14

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

  • Birth Announcements  (Ill. Hobby Lobby)
  • Savior, Messiah, Lord
  • Good news / bad news for shepherds
    • Good News: “Savior has been born to you”  The Messiah has come
    • Bad news:  “you will be out of business”

Shepherd’s Response:

In light of the Good News, (“…a Savior has been born to you.” -vs. 11) three things became obvious to the Shepherds:

  1. It’s obvious they needed to respond immediately.

Luke 2:15

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

  • “Let’s go”  (“let us now go”, “let us go straight”)
  • They did not want to miss what God was doing now.
  • The Religious leaders in Jerusalem missed Jesus by 5 miles.

– They knew the prophecy

– They heard he had been born  (Herod consulted them about the news)

– While they made the idea of Messiah a big deal, they failed to make the person of

Jesus the biggest deal.

They knew so much, were so near, but made such little effort to know Jesus.

Much the same, so many today know a lot about Jesus, they are so near, yet they fail to run to

him.  Running to Jesus is exactly what the shepherds did.

Luke 2:16

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

2. It’s obvious they could leave their objects of religion behind.

  • They left their objects of religion to see Jesus face to face.

To understand the significance of this, we must realize the significance of the OT sacrificial system.

God’s solution to the problem of sin is sacrifice.

(Jesus’ death on the cross is a part of a larger story of sin and sacrifice that develops throughout the OT.  In understanding the OT sacrifices we can see how the OT & NT perfectly come together to tell one beautiful story.)

Sacrifice is seen throughout the OT.

– Adam & Eve

(As soon as sin entered the world, God made a way to deal with that sin through sacrifice.)

– The sacrificial method isn’t fully developed or explained until we get to the book of Leviticus,

but when God gave the Law to Moses animal sacrifices became an essential part of the life

of Israel.

God required animal sacrifices to provide a temporary covering of sins and to foreshadow the

perfect and complete sacrifice of Jesus. Animal sacrifice is an important theme found

throughout Scripture because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” of sins.

– There were some basic requirements of OT sacrifices:

  1. The animal had to be spotless.
  2. The person offering the sacrifice had to identify with the animal.
  3. The person offering the sacrifice had to inflict death on it.

As this was done in faith, it offered a temporary covering of sin.

Some may say, “Those animals did nothing wrong!”  Exactly.  They died in the place of the one

who did do wrong.

– If you want to better understand the OT practice of sacrifice, read Leviticus 16.

(Day of Atonement / Yom Kippur, still celebrated by Jews today)

– That word, atonement, is significant theologically.

(at-one-ment)  “reconciling, making amends”

Atonement allowed people who were distant from God to be “at one” with Him.

– Description of Atonement sacrifices (forgiveness of sin / removal of sin “scapegoat”)

*The problem of animal sacrifices – (It was a placeholder, demonstrated severity of sin, cost of

rebellion, the death that sin brings, & a representation of the perfect sacrifice of Christ that

would later come to the world.  It was a placeholder.)

(Further reading: Hebrews 9:11 – 10:22)

Hebrews 9:11-14

So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. 12 With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. 13 Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. 14 Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

Hebrews 10:11-12

11 Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. 12 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time.

Remember the requirements? (Spotless, identify with the one offering, inflicted death)  Jesus perfectly met these as no animal or other person could.(1 Peter 1:19 “sinless, spotless Lamb of God”)

So as the shepherds left their sheep, they were walking from imperfect objects of religion to the perfect Lamb of God.  From that which was the placeholder to that which was the fulfillment of all that God had promised.  From that which would temporarily cover their sin, to the one who would save them from their sin!

  • Religion in itself is not bad.  (A system of faith and worship)

– Malachi – The sacrificial system had become a mindless & heartless ritual.

  • Savior: “save His people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21)

– Jesus didn’t come to give us better marriages, help us with our psychological issues…

– While all of those are byproducts of a relationship with Jesus, he came to save us from

our sins.

And as they ran and experienced the Christ, something else became obvious…

Luke 2:17-20

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

3. It’s obvious their perspective of everyday life was changed by Christ.

  • They “returned, glorifying and praising God…”
  • Their lives were marked by a newfound attitude of praise and worship.

The 140 (Main Idea)

“It’s obvious the arrival (advent) of CHRISTmas changed & changes everything!”

Just as the arrival of Jesus was the turning point in history, so responding to him today can be a turning point in your life.


The Shepherd’s illustrate to us the salvation process.  They heard the Good News (Gospel), then they accepted his invitation to come to him.  As they did, they moved from

…expectation to the realization,

from hoping to knowing,

from seeking him to experiencing him,

from an object of religion to a personal relationship.

You are invited to experience that same wonder today. Would you respond to Jesus with that same urgency that the shepherds had when they heard the wonderful news that Christmas had come?