The First Christmas Carols: Go Tell it on the Mountain

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Luke 2:8–11, 16–18 ESV

“And in 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 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.”

You already know what we want to tell you today; that you are to go and tell the good news of God’s saving grace to the world. We have this message that runs against the grain of almost all logic; that no matter what you’ve done you are forgiven, and that through that forgiveness you can go and live a life of victory over a sin-filled past and present.

That just doesn’t add up for most people. But then there are those who have that reality living inside them. They have experienced it, in their minds and in their hearts, and they want to see other people experience this grace, too. But in order to do that, we have to go and tell the world of Jesus and His love.

For the shepherds who heard the angel’s announcement, they were frightened. For a Jewish person, the appearance of an angel meant Divine judgment. But instead, this angel brings peace, not fear. He brings good news and joy, rather than a verdict and a sentence. On this night, it is all about mercy, all about hope. Something different was happening, a new thing that had new consequences and new outcomes.

The challenge for us today is whether or not this Christmas will be just like other Christmases we’ve had. Will it be about cookies, gifts, and lights? Or will it be about Jesus, about the worship of God and the forgiveness of sins, for you and for the world?

The shepherds left to go see this thing that had happened (v15) and the text says they left in a hurry. They didn’t wait, they didn’t trifle; they made a beeline for Bethlehem, to find the Child, the Savior. For them, it was worth following through in order to have their own faith confirmed.

When they got there and saw it all to be true, they told their story and it amazed those who heard it. I want you to think for a minute about the good that happened through the sharing of their experience, through their going and telling; how it affected those around them and how it impacted Mary and Joseph.

Everyone likes good news. We long for either something that takes our mind off our troubles or something that fills in the empty places in our hearts. For those around Mary and Joseph that night, they longed to hear of a Savior, who would bring hope to the world they were living in. They longed for change of both circumstances and surroundings. Talk of a new king, a new reality that was better than their current one was music to their ears. They were primed and ready for such news. This is good news.

Now think of Mary and Joseph, about what they needed to hear. These shepherds, in one fell swoop took away the anxiety and fear that they had been operating under all this time. Mary, visited by an angel, now with child supernaturally. Joseph, given dreams and visions, while caring for a child that is not actually his. This couple, they needed this news. They need their hope confirmed. They were waiting for some kind of affirmation after having gone the distance and come to his place. And now the child is here, people have gathered, others are bearing witness to His identity, angels are announcing His coming. This is real. This is happening.

They further embraced their lives because the shepherds accepted the call to go and tell. They traveled, they shared, and the world was better because of it. All because they received the message given to them and they were bold enough to tell their story. Some of you are catching on, seeing how this applies to you. But I’ll ask you, is this real, for you? Is this happening, in you?

God has come to be with His people, to save them from their sins…their sins. Our sins. Your sins and my sins. And then, when we have welcomed Christ into our hearts, when we’ve let grace overpower our selfish wills and let God transform our desires, oh, do we have a story to tell! Because, you see, the story continues.

The story that you and I have to tell this world around us is deeper than what they shepherds heard. We are living on the other side of Jesus’ nativity. We are living on the other side of Jesus’ crucifixion. We are living on the other side of Jesus’ resurrection. We live—now, today—on the advent of an even greater coming, an even more exciting announcement. That, Jesus has ransomed us from our sins, His work is done, and He is coming for us.

And so, we go and tell it, over the hills and everywhere. Tell the world that Jesus has come and is coming. Tell your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends. Pray for the boldness to tell the stranger, the enemy, the helpless and hopeless. Jesus Christ is born. Amen.

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