Whenever I hear the opening notes of Handel’s Messiah I think of the fields where the shepherds were outside of Bethlehem on that quiet night so long ago. They are not the lush, green fields that everyone imagines however there was enough vegetation to support the flocks of sheep which would have been raised there to support the Temple’s sacrificial system. But no matter which way you envision that scene described by Luke in his Gospel (Lk. 2:8-14), the scenario itself is what is surprising. Imagine the Good News of God in the flesh being announced to lowly shepherds of all people! Why not to the rulers and leaders of the day? Why not to the priests and Levites ministering in the Temple? This is one of the great surprises in all of Scripture and so is the “proclamation” the angels bear: that the Magnificent Creator of the Universe came in the unexpected form of a baby to the least of all of us, and for all of us (Gal. 4:4-5; Phil. 2:5-8). But who would believe this, much less hear about it during the hustle and bustle of Christmas commercialism that surrounds us in the days preceding this holiday now? Yet this is the major reason Luke writes to his friend Theophilus in the first place (Lk. 1:1-4) and continues the proclamation in Acts (Acts 1:1-2). The proclamation is of utmost importance for one’s eternal destiny hinges upon how one receives it.
In Greek this announcement is called the kerygma. Its roots are in the verb kerusso (care-ru-so), a verb meaning “to preach, discharge, herald, cry out” and in simple form it is a sermon, message or proclamation. During the mid-twentieth century Bible scholars C. H. Dodd and Rudolf Bultmann presented the idea that the Gospels and the Book of Acts were a unique literary genre that combined the literary history of the early believers’ faith and the preaching of the Gospel message and named this genre after this Greek word. Dodd summarized this concept by using Peter’s sermons in the Book of Acts in this way: 1) The words of the prophets were being fulfilled in the “latter days” (Acts 2:14-21, 3:24), 2) This fulfillment took place in the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-28, 3:11-16), 3) Jesus has become the Messianic head of Israel and by virtue of His resurrection is now exalted at the right hand of God (Acts 2:29-36), 4) the Holy Spirit in the church is a sign of Christ’s presence, power and glory (Acts 5:29-32), 5) The Messianic Age will reach its consummation at Christ’s return (Acts 3:17-21), and 6) thus an appeal is made for repentance, forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit in the believer and salvation (Acts 2:38-40). This proclamation was so important when heresies threatened to weaken it in the 4th century, the Nicene Creed was formed.
Do people hear what the shepherds heard today? If they do, do they say, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see the baby” (Lk. 2:15-18)? I don’t know. The clamor of the world grows increasingly hostile and suspicious of the Gospel message, yet people still yearn to fill the emptiness inside their heart. But the question must be asked, “How will people know of this amazing event if we don’t proclaim it (Is. 52:7, 53:1)? This is the season for you to announce to the unsuspecting “shepherds” in your life that “a Child has been born for us; a Child has been given to us!” You may not be announcing it to kings. You may not be announcing it to the prestigious or prominent, but you will be announcing it to the very people who need to hear it.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com, Olivetreeann@mail.com, https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre,