What Really Sent the Shepherds to the Manger? Finding Hope in the Christmas Story

November 29, 2018

The angel’s announcement certainly got the attention of the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. But it was something else that sent them hurrying toward a manger in Bethlehem.

The Star of Wonder guided the Magi across the miles, but it was something else that fueled their journey.

It was the same thing that compelled Anna to remain in the Temple in Jerusalem day after day, year after year to prophesy about the coming Savior (Luke 2:36-38). It was the same thing that quickened Simeon’s heart when he encountered Mary and Joseph and their infant son at the Temple (Luke 2:25-35).

It was hope.

For most of human history, hope lay nearly dormant, like a still pond, with only occasional ripples stirring its surface. The birth of Jesus was like a boulder dropped into the middle of the pond. Those in the immediate vicinity—the shepherds, the Magi and faithful servants of God like Anna and Simeon who were blessed to witness His arrival—were drenched with hope.

Not all of them fully understood the implications of His birth, but they recognized that something momentous had occurred.

The waves of hope that were created by Jesus’ arrival continue unabated to this day.  As we celebrate Advent, let us consider three aspects of hope that Jesus’ birth made possible.

We have the hope of a renewed relationship with God.

Our disobedience created a chasm between us and God, whose holiness sets Him apart from imperfection and whose justice demands a perfect sacrifice for sin. Jesus is that sacrifice. His coming made it possible for sinners to be reunited with our heavenly Father. First Peter 3:18 explains it this way: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.”

We have the hope of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ birth set the stage for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit acts as our conscience and guide. He encourages us to make God-honoring choices and prompts us to confess and ask for forgiveness when we don’t. He translates the inexpressible desires of our hearts into prayers. And according to Romans 15:13, the Holy Spirit is the wellspring of hope in our lives.

We have the hope of eternal life.

A very familiar passage of Scripture puts it this way: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” The personal relationship with God that Jesus’ arrival made possible has no end. Because Jesus came, we have the hope of heaven—of spending eternity in the glory of God’s presence.

This is the hope Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure may have had in mind when he penned these lyrics:

It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

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