The impact of the birth of Jesus has changed the course of history so much so that throughout the entire civilized world even time is reckoned from his birthday, upon a B.C. and A.D. basis. Yet, from one standpoint, the most extraordinary thing arising out of the birth of Jesus is the fact that up until now, practically nothing in connection with the high hopes of peace and joy and life which have been centered in him have as yet been realized. Despite this, however, the whole world continues to commemorate the birth of the “Prince of Peace.”—Isa. 9:6

It is nearly two thousand years since the angel said to those shepherds on the Judean hills, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10) Almost twenty centuries have come and gone since that heavenly choir sang the refrain: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Under ordinary circumstances, had claims of this sort failed of fruition for as many as fifty years, they would have been forgotten, but the angelic message of peace and goodwill is sung with as great enthusiasm today as ever.

The song of the angels is by no means forgotten. Two global wars in one generation have not silenced it; nor has the din of battle by the ever-warring factions of Christ’s professed followers caused the world to forget the angels’ song. And it is well that this is so, for the song has not lost its meaning, nor does the long-seeming delay in its fulfillment indicate that the divine purpose in the birth of Jesus has failed.

Christ Is Born

ABOUT OCTOBER 1ST, nearly two thousand years ago, an angelic announcement to a group of shepherds watching their flocks by night signaled an outstanding step forward in the outworking of the divine plan of salvation. We read that “the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”—Luke 2:9-14

Previous to this, the coming of the Messiah was in the realm of promises, so one of the very important aspects of this message of good news is the fact the Messiah was born that day. The word Gospel means good news, and Paul informs us that the Gospel was preached before to Abraham when God promised this ancient friend that through his “seed” all the families of the earth would be blessed. (Gal. 3:8; Gen. 22:18) Paul identifies Jesus in this connection as the promised “seed.” (Gal. 3:16) It was good news to Abraham that his progeny would be the channel of blessing to all mankind. However, this was good news which was based merely upon a promise. Later this promise was confirmed by God’s oath, but it was still only a promise.

Later this promise was confirmed to Isaac, and to Jacob, but it was still only a promise. Shortly before his death, when pronouncing blessings upon his twelve sons, Jacob prophesied that out of the loins of Judah there would come one who would be called Shiloh, a peaceful one, and that unto him would the gathering of the people be. (Gen. 49:9,10) This was another promise of the coming of a Messiah, one to whom the people would be gathered, and through whom they would receive the blessings of peace.

Moses, in his day, clung to these wonderful promises that the God of Israel would send a great one, a messiah, to bring deliverance to his people, and a blessing to all mankind. Evidently the mother of Moses, while caring for him in the court of Pharaoh, told her child of the promise to father Abraham, and what it implied, for we read that when he was come to years he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of [Margin, ‘for’] Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”—Heb. 11:24-26

Christ is the New Testament name for Messiah, and Moses evidently understood God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob to mean that he would send a Messiah, and he gladly cast in his lot with the people of God to whom these promises had been made. Later, after the Law had been given to Israel at the hand of Moses, he was instructed to say to this people that the Lord would raise up unto them a prophet like unto himself, and that all would be called upon to hear and obey that prophet. (Deut. 18:18,19) In the New Testament this is applied to Jesus during the period of his second presence.—Acts 3:22,23


Isaiah prophesied that “a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son,” and that his name would be called Immanuel. (Isa. 7:14) Another of Isaiah’s prophecies reads, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”—Isa. 9:6,7

Again Isaiah prophesied concerning the coming Messiah: “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove [Margin, ‘argue’] with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.”—Isa. 11:1-5

In Daniel 9:25 there is another assurance of the coming of the Messiah. In this prophecy a time measurement is given, indicating when he would come. The prophecy reads, “Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks.” At the time Jesus did appear as the Messiah, many were in expectation of him—and this expectation might well have been based, in part at least, upon this prophecy recorded by Daniel.—Luke 3:15

In Micah 5:2 there is a prophecy which identifies the place where the promised one would be born. The text reads, “Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting [Margin, Hebrew: ‘the days of eternity’].”

And then in Malachi 4:2 we read, “Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings.”

These and other promises and prophecies relative to the coming Messiah served as a great inspiration to the devout of Israel. The people did not realize that they would not all be fulfilled at once. They failed completely to grasp the meaning of certain prophecies which told of the Messiah’s suffering and death as the Redeemer of Israel and of the world. They did not know that he would be raised from the dead and return to heaven, and revisit mankind at the end of the Gospel Age. They simply had in mind the many assurances of Jehovah that a messiah would come, that Israel would be exalted, and all the families of the earth blessed.

Yes, the ‘Israelites indeed’ were well aware that God had promised to send a messiah. Many names and titles of this great one were mentioned in the prophecies. He was to be the ‘seed’. He was to be ‘Shiloh’. He was to be ‘a prophet greater than Moses’. He was to be called ‘Immanuel’, ‘Wonderful’, ‘Counselor’, ‘The mighty God’, ‘The everlasting Father’, ‘The Prince of Peace’. The Messiah was also to be a ‘root out of the stem of Jesse’, and a ‘Branch’ was to grow out of his roots. He was to be the ‘Sun of Righteousness with healing in his wings’.

Throughout all the long centuries of Israel’s waiting, the Messianic feature of the divine plan remained in the realm of promises, but at last the time came for those promises to begin to be translated into reality, so the angel announced, “Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ [Messiah] the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Now these promises began to take on substance—the Messiah was born.

Nine months earlier, Mary had been given the assurance that she was to be the mother of the one who would become the great Messiah and Deliverer of Israel and the world: “The angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”—Luke 1:30-33

In this announcement by the angel we are reminded of Isaiah’s prophecy in which he foretold that the Messiah would sit “upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even for ever.” (Isa. 9:7) The typical kingdom of David had fallen in B.C. 606. Because David was so greatly beloved by Jehovah, he arranged that the future Messianic Kingdom should be looked upon as the rebuilt kingdom of this man after God’s own heart. (I Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22) Jesus is the antitypical David, and, through his mother, was an actual descendant of David.


From the announcement made to her by the angel, Gabriel, Mary would know that she was to be the mother of the promised one, and possibly wondered why God permitted those circumstances to arise which led to the birth of Jesus in a stable. However, even a stable must have seemed like a palace to Mary, a king’s palace, since God had permitted her holy child to be born there. But while Jesus’ birthplace’ was humble, and his mother a comparatively unknown person in Israel, his birth was announced by the angels. This was appropriate. The Lord had used angels on many occasions to convey to the ancients his plan to send the Messiah, and now that the time had come to fulfill those promises, it was fitting that both the conception and birth of this great one would also be announced by angels.

The birth of Jesus was a turning point in the outworking of the divine plan, for it meant that God’s plan had moved out of the ‘promise stage’, and into the era of performance. True, through his New Testament servants the Lord continued to make promises, but now the central figure both of the Old and New Testament promises had come, and his birth in Bethlehem had been announced by the angels.

The shepherds to whom this announcement was made must have been awed, and at the same time made glad. To them the first thought was to go to Bethlehem and verify what they had heard. We read, “It came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”—Luke 2:15,16

The shepherds were thoroughly convinced. We read, “When they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” (vss. 17,18) The shepherds’ desire to tell as many as they could about the good news which had been given to them was natural and praiseworthy. We should have the same desire today. At this time the Lord’s people are privileged to understand the divine plan more fully than did the shepherds. The good tidings of the birth of Jesus, and all that it means in connection with the divine plan as a whole, should impel us to do all we can to tell out this message far and wide, and by every means at our disposal.


The birth of Jesus was truly important as an advance step in the plan of God, but actually as a babe he was not the Messiah. The word messiah means ‘anointed’, or ‘the anointed one’. The significance of the word derives from the custom in Israel of anointing kings and priests to office with special anointing oil. It pointed forward to the anointing of the Holy Spirit which came upon Jesus at the time of his baptism, and upon the church at Pentecost.

At the time of Jesus’ baptism he heard his Heavenly Father speaking to him from heaven, saying, “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22) Jesus’ birth was announced by the angels, but as a baby he would not know about or appreciate this. At the age of twelve he was found in the Temple with doctors of the Law, endeavoring to learn what he could about his mission. But not until he, at Jordan, dedicated himself to the doing of his Father’s will, did he receive the blessed assurance of his sonship, and learn that his Heavenly Father was well pleased with him.

Now, as the Messiah of promise, he entered into the public phase of his ministry. This was thirty years after Jesus’ birth. Perhaps the shepherds to whom his birth had been announced had passed away. Certainly many to whom they had conveyed the good news had died. Whatever the reason, the fact is that no mention is made of the angelic announcement after Jesus began his ministry. It could well be that the Lord wanted to emphasize that the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the important considerations. True, Jesus’ birth was necessary as the means to an end, but the Lord does not want us particularly to adore the babe Jesus, but to take up our cross and follow the anointed Jesus in his steps of suffering and death.


The promises pertaining to the coming of the Messiah emphasized that he would be one sent by God. This thought is carried over into the New Testament, and in John 3:16 Jesus is referred to as God’s gift. “God so loved the world,” we read, “that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Paul speaks of Jesus as God’s “unspeakable gift.” (II Cor. 9:15) Words are wholly inadequate to describe this gracious and costly gift which our Heavenly Father made to us, and to the whole world of mankind.

And since the first evidence of this gift was manifested in the birth of Jesus, it is appropriate that this feature of the divine plan should beget in us the desire unselfishly to give for the blessing of others. First of all, when we come to know of God’s great gift of love for us, we should willingly give our all to him. He had invited us to give him our hearts, and when we respond to this invitation, it means that everything which we have and are is really surrendered to him, with the understanding that he can use it in whatever way may be pleasing to him. This is consecration. This is presenting our bodies a living sacrifice as mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1.


When the angel announced to the shepherds that the Messiah was born he referred to him as the ‘Savior’. To the shepherds this possibly meant no more than being saved from the Roman yoke of bondage under which the nation of Israel was living at the time. But to us it means much more. It means that through his death as man’s Redeemer, Jesus would provide an opportunity of salvation from death for all mankind. The Heavenly Father knew that in giving his Son for the salvation of mankind it meant giving him up to suffer and to die. What a costly gift this was, and if we are to emulate the Father’s love in giving we must be willing to suffer and to die even as Jesus did.

After the one angel announced the birth of Jesus, “suddenly there was … a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:13,14) Surely all who love the Lord, and rejoice in his great plan of salvation, will likewise give glory to God, and praise him for the gift of his Son.

We know that the birth of Jesus will yet lead to peace on earth. True, nearly two thousand years have passed since this glory song of the angels was heard, and still there is no peace on earth. But this does not mean that the divine plan has failed. It simply means that a further preparatory feature of God’s great plan has been in the course of development, which is the calling out from the world of those who are invited to follow in the footsteps of Jesus—suffering and dying with him that they might live and reign with him. There is every reason now to believe that this work is about complete, which means that soon Messiah’s kingdom will bring peace to the nations, and that Jesus will be recognized by the people of all nations as truly the Prince of Peace.

Jesus will also then serve as peacemaker between God and the estranged human race. After all, there can be no lasting peace between the nations unless the people are at peace with God. Our first parents decided to take a course contrary to God’s law, and brought upon themselves the sentence of death. By heredity their entire progeny has been born in sin and misshapen in iniquity. The whole unbelieving world is thus alienated from God, and under condemnation to death. Jesus gave himself in death as a substitute for Adam and his race, and this opens the way for a return from death, and a reinstatement of the human race into the favor of God. This glorious provision will become effective during the thousand years of the Messianic Kingdom through the arrangement of the New Covenant promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34.

It will be then that Jesus will be the everlasting Father, the father, that is, who will give everlasting life to all those who, through belief and obedience, prove worthy of it. And how glorious is this prospect! It will mean the end of sickness and pain and death. How true was the angel’s announcement that the son born to Mary would be the Savior! As we contemplate the birth of Jesus, we should not overlook this glorious outcome of the divine plan of salvation.


In the glory song of the angels they used the expression, ‘good will toward men’. Many who do not know the plan of God for human salvation think of this as meaning goodwill ‘among’ men. This viewpoint places a great strain upon their faith because they know that there has been no more goodwill among men since Jesus was born than there was before. They have thought that God wanted them to convert the world to Christ and his teachings and thus bring about a state of goodwill among men. We rejoice to realize that in God’s due time, which will be during the thousand years of the Messianic Kingdom, the world will be converted. Then the Lord’s Spirit will be poured out upon all flesh, and under its enlightening influence the people will be led away from selfishness, and will learn to love and serve one another.

An incorrect understanding of this text is revealed in other translations. The Revised Version reads, “peace among men in whom he is well pleased.” Others render it “peace among men of good will.” But there is no basis in the Greek text for these translations. They are simply attempts to harmonize the angelic message with what the translators, in their limited understanding of God’s plan, suppose the angels meant.

But how beautiful is the text when taken as it properly reads in our Common Version Translation. It is goodwill “toward” men, and the reference is to God’s goodwill as it was even then being expressed through the birth of his Son whom he had sent into the world to be the Redeemer and Savior of mankind. God’s goodwill was thus expressed toward men because he loved them. Even though the human race was alienated from God through wicked works, he still loved the people—loved them so much that he gave his Son to serve as Redeemer and Mediator to restore them to life and to harmony with him.

Jesus’ death and resurrection were further evidences of God’s goodwill toward men. The selection of the little flock—Jesus’ footstep followers—to share in the kingdom rule with Jesus is also an evidence of God’s goodwill toward the Adamic race. The return of Christ to establish his kingdom also manifests God’s goodwill toward the people. Indeed, God’s goodwill is expressed in every detail of his loving plan for the blessing of all the families of the earth. In view of this, how appropriate that we join with the angels in singing, “Glory to God in the highest”!

It was a marvelous experience for the shepherds to be told by angels that the great one whom the God of Israel had been promising for so long had at last been born. It is even more wonderful to be living now, and to have the assurance that Christ’s second visit to earth is a reality; that he is now present, preparing to establish his kingdom through which peace and health and life will be assured to all people.

To the unbelieving world it seems incredible that we are living at the threshold of such a ‘Golden Age’ of peace, security, health, and life. Probably many disbelieved the report of the shepherds concerning the birth of the Messiah, and the people for the most part will ignore our message today. But it is our privilege to proclaim the good tidings, and in doing so, to show our joy and enthusiasm for the message of the angels to the shepherds in Bethlehem nearly two thousand years ago.

May this glorious message never become commonplace in our lives!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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