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Here at the home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico, we take turns giving the devotional every morning. Our Pastor passes out a calendar at the beginning of every month with everyone’s name on it, the day they are to share and what passage of the Bible they are to talk about. This month, naturally, all the passages were connected with the birth of Jesus. The passage I ended up with was Luke 2:13,14, where the great company of the heavenly host appeared and proclaimed to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

As I pondered this marvelous event, it struck me that a grand gathering of angels glorifying God on earth had never occurred before nor since. And what a sight it must have been to behold for those shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night. As I looked at these verses in their context of Luke two, I began to realize that it was incredibly significant on many levels. And this is what I decided to share with the staff and children here at the home.

In verse 9, one angel appears to the shepherds and announces the birth of a Savior, the Messiah and the Lord. Wow! If anything deserves an angelic choir filling the night sky with glorious song, that does! Not just one divine gift to humanity, but three!

Think about it. First a Savior is born. I imagine the shepherds knew a little bit about the necessity of a Savior. They, like David, probably saved their sheep on more than one occasion from predators seeking a tasty meal. They had also been under the thumb of Roman Emperors for lo these many years. Emperors who imposed their taxes and their will on the Jewish people. They longed for a Savior to set them free from the foreigners oppressive grip as a sheep longs to be saved from the jaws of a wolf.

Second, the Messiah was born! The Messiah that God had promised Israel through the prophets in ages past. The Messiah that would lead his people to freedom, power and glory. A leader in the mold of King David and King Solomon, conquering neighboring enemy nations and bringing renown to Israel once again. It had been over 400 years since the last prophet spoke of the promised Messiah and many of the Jews had given up hope, but here he was at last, the Christ child, the Messiah, had been born in Bethlehem.

It would have been enough to just have a Savior. It was splendid that not only a Savior was born, but also the Messiah had come. And it was incredible, that not only was this newborn baby Savior and Messiah, but also the Lord as well.

When the shepherds heard the word Lord, they undoubtedly thought of God in all his dignity, glory and majesty as described by their holy scriptures. Perhaps they thought that the Lord of glory had forgotten about his people since it seemed such a long time ago that he had shown his glory and power to his chosen ones. And now, with the sky teeming with angelic hosts, the keepers of the sheep were assured that not only had God not forgotten about his people, but had come to live as one of them.

It was an amazing night for the shepherds, and for all the people of Israel, who desperately needed a Savior, Messiah and Lord.

We are a lot like those shepherds. We too, desperately need a Savior, Messiah and Lord.

We need to be saved from our sins. The angel Gabriel told Joseph to name the baby boy Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Mt. 1:21) All the pain and problems, shame and suffering, trials and tribulations that we encounter in this world come because of sin. Sometimes we suffer because of other peoples sin; most often because of our own sin. But we rejoice in Jesus the Savior who knew no sin, yet became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21).

We also need a Messiah, a leader, someone we can trust and follow. Someone who always tells the truth. Someone who cares about us and will take away our burdens, give us rest and lead us in the kingdom of God. Jesus is that leader, and all he asks of us is to give up everything and follow him. (Luke 14:33)

And finally, we really, really need God in our lives. A personal God who knows our struggles and dreams, our pain and our desires. Again, we find this God in Jesus, the babe in the manger. John writes in chapter one that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. .. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…(vs 1,14) The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is God (chapter 1) and that he is able to empathize with our weaknesses and has been tempted in every way that we are tempted, but did not sin.” (4:15) He identifies with us, leads us and empowers us to overcome sin, and forgives us when we fail.

I concluded my devotional by inviting everyone this Christmas, to remember the angel’s message to the shepherds, and not focus so much on Jesus, the baby in the stable, but on Jesus the Savior, Messiah and Lord. Only by looking to him and living for him can we enjoy the peace and joy that the angels promised (Luke 2:10,14) and that God freely gives to all who trust him.

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Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11

The Jews who lived at the time when Jesus was born were waiting for a savior. They had been oppressed and subject to foreign rule for over 400 years. The prophets who lived back in the day, back in the glory years, told of a time when the rebellious nation of Israel and the kingdom of Judah would fall to other rulers as punishment for their disobedience to God’s law. But they also told of a Savior who would come and rescue them one day.

So they waited and waited and endured the pagans who ruled over them, mistreated them, and taxed them heavily. But no true Savior appeared to deliver them. To save them. A few wannabe saviors rose up and led the people for short periods of time, but it always came to nothing. And while some of the Jews surely gave up on the idea of a Savior, others kept holding on to the dream; hoping and waiting.

One day an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. We all know the story. Joseph felt himself in need of a savior, because he was in a real pickle. His fiance, Mary, was pregnant, and the child inside her wasn’t from him.

“What to do? What to do?” Joseph must have been thinking and I imagine it took awhile until he fell into a fitful sleep that night.

The angle told him to take Mary as his wife because what was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit. He was told to give the baby boy the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means The Lord Saves.

Well, this isn’t exactly the kind of saving that Joseph was hoping for. As a matter of fact, this wasn’t the kind of saving that the Jews were looking for either. According to the angel, this “savior” would not liberate Israel from foreign oppression and restore it to its former glory, but would “save his people from their sins.”

What kind of savior is that? They already had forgiveness of sins through sacrifices of animals in the temple. Isn’t that enough?

Not really. While they had forgiveness of sins, they weren’t saved from their sins. A greater power was oppressing them than Caesar Augustus. An unrelenting tyrant called Sin had enslaved them; not since the days of the Babylonian Exile from Israel, but since the Exile from Eden.

Because of the Savior growing in Mary’s womb- the Savior that would be laid in a manger in Bethlehem- the Savior who would die on a cross- and the Savior that would rise from the dead and walk out of a tomb, all of God’s people would be saved from a fate worse than physical death – that would be spiritual death.

Paul writes in Ephesians 2:

As for you, you were dead in in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (verses 1 and 2)

Sounds pretty grave and hopeless, but then the Savior came!

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sins – it is by grace you have been saved. (verse 4)

This Christmas let us rejoice in the Savior who has saved us from Sin and raises up with Christ in the heavenly realms!

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