11 “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13And 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!”
The text we have just read is the famous announcement from the angel of Yahweh to the shepherds that the Savior has been born in the city of David. The city of David is Bethlehem, and Bethlehem is near where Jacob’s wife Rachel died while giving birth to Benjamin (Gen. 35:19) as well as where Ruth returns with Naomi after God visits His people with bread (Ruth 1:6, 19). Both stories are about women in desperation, experiencing trials related to childbearing, facing death and famine. The angel announces that something wonderful has happened in the city of David, and it has to do with the birth of a child who is the Messiah. The angel also gives the shepherds a sign. Signs first appear in the Bible when God calls the sun, moon, and stars “signs,” but later the rainbow, circumcision, plagues, the Sabbath, miracles, the law, and prophecies are called “signs.” In the Bible, signs are not merely locators to show you where you are, signs are places where God speaks with authority and marks His intentions. Signs should be seen by people, and they should provoke faith and repentance and love for God. Perhaps part of what the angel means has to do with who the shepherds are themselves. Twice in our text the angel says “to you” or “for you.” That the Savior of the world should be found in a cattle stall, in a barn, would be particularly meaningful to shepherds. It was a sign for them because they would find their Savior in the very sort of place they would be likely to go. The Savior had come for them, and the proof was that He was lying in a feeding trough, as though He were food. The text says that immediately the heavenly host appeared, praising God. The heavenly host is the army of God; we call upon this army to praise God whenever we sing the Doxology. At Christmas, we sing Angels We Have Heard on High, joining our voices to that heavenly army praising God, announcing peace to shepherds in a field in the middle of the night. This text reminds us that God’s power is made perfect in weakness; the army of God sings praises and announces the birth of the Lord of heaven who has been born in a barn. God has visited His people in Bethlehem again, and He has come to be the bread of life for them.
—Pastor Toby Sumpter, Trinity Church, Moscow, Idaho
Gracious Father, we thank you that you sent your Son to break the curse of sin. We thank you that in His birth, He was the greater Obed who brings life to a dead and dying world. We ask that you would remind us again and again that the birth of Jesus is for us and for our salvation so that we might continually join our voices to Your heavenly army. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN.
Discuss with your family how the stories of Rachel, Naomi/Ruth, and Mary are similar. How is Jesus like Benjamin and Obed? Discuss how God has specifically met the needs of your family in various circumstances.