Small Group Curriculum

A Message to the Shepherds

12.23.18 | Angels

PREPARATION

STUDY | Spend the week studying Luke 2:8–14. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.

DETERMINE | Which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.

PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.

LANDING POINT | I can have deep joy and inner peace when I put my hope in Jesus.

Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion

  1. Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
  2. No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
  3. No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
  4. Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group. 

INTRODUCTION

As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

There’s something special about being home for Christmas. We want to be near the ones we love, with everyone gathered together under one roof. Christmas is a time of celebration. It’s a time for family, friends and gift-giving. It’s a time for lots of food, laughter and merriment.

Home is where you are loved, valued and accepted. We all long for a place to call home. When we’re truly home, we experience joy and peace. Home is where we feel content and at rest.

As we wrap up this series, your group will look at the final message angels delivered to a group of lowly shepherds out in the field. The “good news of great joy” they declared was that Jesus had arrived. He had come into the world to make His home with us. He also came to save us and bring us back to our true home with God.

Q: How would you describe “home” in your own words? What images come to mind?

Q: Share why the Christmas story is “good news of great joy” to you.


LEARN

Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.

GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY

In the same region where Jesus was born, a group of shepherds were out in the field tending their flock in the dead of night. Suddenly, a great light appeared, radiant and spectacular! The glory of the Lord shone all around them. Great fear seized the shepherds. They had no idea what was going on. Maybe they were dreaming. “Is this really happening?” they wondered. Then the angel of the Lord spoke to them. “Don’t be afraid. Today I come to you with good news of great joy. Jesus, the Savior and promised Christ (Messiah), has been born in Bethlehem! When you go to Him, you’ll find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

Read: Luke 2:8–14. Split into pairs and retell the story in your own words.

Q: Recall the last time you received good news that filled you with joy.

GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST

Then the shepherds looked up into the night sky to see a multitude of angels singing. Their voices of the angels melted the shepherd’s hearts as they heard the angels giving glory and praise to God. “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth for all with whom He is pleased!” The Savior had arrived and He brought joy and peace with Him.

Then the angels disappeared. The shepherds shouted in joyful celebration and made their way to Bethlehem to meet this Child of Promise who had come to make His home with us.

Q: What does it mean to give God glory and praise?

Q: What’s one thing you can do this week to offer God glory and praise?

ABOUT ANGELS

How many angels are there? There is no specific number given as to how many angels exist. They are often referred to in large numbers (“ten thousands of holy ones” in Deuteronomy 33:2; “twelve legions” in Matthew 26:53; “myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” in Revelation 5:11).

Do we worship angels? No. Like us, angels exist to worship and glorify God, not themselves. Angels are special and powerful, but they aren’t all-powerful like God. The author of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus is higher and greater than the angels (1:3–4). When Christ returns, we will be raised to a position higher than the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3).


LIVE

Select 2-3 questions from this section to answer.

GOD’S MESSAGE

The angels declared, “Glory to God!” and “Peace on earth!” Jesus had come and His arrival is “good news of great joy” for all of us. In Jesus, we have peace with God. But God’s plan to send Jesus into the world wasn’t just for our salvation. Jesus did something even more for us. He brought us home.

Home is where you are loved, valued and accepted. The gospel is “good news of great joy” because it’s the story of how Jesus left His home to bring us back to our true home, which is in a loving relationship with God the Father. Jesus lived, died and rose from the grave so that you could become a child of God in His family.

Q: How does seeing yourself as a child of God change the way you see God? Yourself?

Q: Do you want something more in your relationship with God? If so, what?

LIVING THE GOOD NEWS: PEACE

The Bible says Jesus justified us before God through His death and resurrection. He made peace with God for us and became our peace. Because of Jesus, you have peace with God. Biblical peace isn’t just the absence of conflict. It’s something more. Peace is a state of wholeness in a loving and loyal relationship. In Jesus, you are no longer God’s enemy and your relationship with Him has been totally restored to a state of wholeness.1

As you look forward to a new year, consider where God is calling you to bring His peace into your relationships and restore those that have been broken.

Q: What does a relationship restored to a state of wholeness look like?

LIVING THE GOOD NEWS: JOY

Joy goes deeper than happiness or gladness. It’s more a state of being than an emotion. Biblically, joy is an attitude that comes not from good circumstances, but from who we know God to be. Joy makes you look at your present struggles with a view to the future and our full and future redemption in Christ. Joy doesn’t make you ignore the hardships of life or adopt a naïve attitude. Joy is a choice to live by faith in Jesus’s life-changing character and story.2

As you look forward to a new year, consider where God is calling you to choose joy and live by faith in Jesus.

Q: Why is joy a choice? What makes that choice difficult sometimes?


LEAD

Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.

ADVENT: JOY AND PEACE

The message of the angels gave hopeful expectation to Zacharias, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds. God revealed His love by sending His only Son to us, as one of us, in order to save us. Jesus, the Child of Promise, came into the world, bringing joy and peace.

True joy and peace come from true hope in the character of God. God’s character doesn’t change with the circumstances. He is faithful and trustworthy in all seasons. Because of this, there’s no circumstance in your life that would ever cause God to act outside of His goodness, love and care towards you. Even in the hardest and darkest times, you can look to God with a hope that gives you deep joy and inner peace.

Q: Is there a situation or relationship where you need true hope this Christmas? If so, what is it?

Q: Where would you like more joy and peace in the coming year?


PRAY

Spend time glorifying God. You can even sing to God like that choir of angels when you give your praise. Acknowledge Him and His loving, saving character. Thank God the Father for His Son Jesus, in whom we find our true home.


FOLLOW UP

Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:

  • Read Luke 15 and consider how each of Jesus’s three parables reflects the idea that home is where you are loved, valued and accepted.
  • Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.

COMMENTARY

The Shepherds

We often romanticize the shepherds and their work. After all, David refers to God as his shepherd (Ps. 23) and Jesus refers to Himself as the good shepherd (John 10:11). In reality, though, shepherds were looked upon as unclean according to Jewish law and dishonest. It’s fitting that they were the recipients of the angel’s message, because Jesus came for sinners and outcasts like them.3 God often speaks to and uses those we deem lowly and unworthy in the eyes of others.

The Angel of the Lord

The “angel of the Lord” is also called the “angel of God” or the “angel of His presence” (Isa. 63:9). Sometimes the angel of the Lord is distinguished from God, but other times they are the same. Examples of God appearing as the angel of the Lord in His divine nature and power include Gen. 16:7–13; 21:17–20; 22:11–18; 32:24–30; Exod. 3:2–6. At other times the angel of the Lord does not appear as a manifestation of God’s presence, but as a created being sent as God’s agent. Examples include Num. 22:22; Josh. 5:13–14; 2 Sam. 24:16; 1 Kings 19:6–7; 2 Kings 19:35; Dan. 6:22.4

God’s Glory

God’s glory is “the manifestation of God’s power and majesty (vv. 9, 32; 9:26, 32; 24:26; Acts 7:2, 55; cf. Acts 22:11) The proper way to respond to witnessing God’s power is to give him praise (17:18; cf. Acts 12:23).”5

Away in a Manger 

 “We tend to think of the birthplace of Jesus as perhaps being a stable with a crib made of wood. However, some of the earliest traditions indicate that the manger was in a cave.”6 Whatever it looked like, the location of Jesus’s birth was certainly harsher than the idyllic manger scene many imagine it was. 


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ENDNOTES:
1. “Advent Word Study Series,” The Bible Project, accessed December 11, 2018, https://thebibleproject.com/explore/the-advent-series/.
2. Ibid.

3. Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 108.
4. Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 56.
5. D. A. Carson, “The Gospels and Acts,” in NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 2071.
6. R. C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1999), 31–32.