Let me ask you a set of three questions. What do you think of yourself? And, do you see yourself as a sinner? Is that part of how you assess who you are?

Second, what do you think about the gospel? Do you think about the gospel? Are there times in the midst of talking about football and life, and baseball and life, and basketball and life, and everything else and life, that you think about the gospel? And when you do think about the gospel, what do you think about? Are there aspects of the gospel that you find your heart gripped by, and that you enjoy rehearsing to yourself? Or perhaps you enjoy talking about them in conversation with your dearest Christian friends? What do you think about the gospel?

Third set of questions, following on that second one, what do you think about at all? What do you ponder? What do you think about when you're not thinking about anything? And while you're thinking about what you ponder, ask yourself this question: What is it that you get excited about? What do you praise? What occupies your thoughts when you're not thinking about other things, and what deeply moves you in this life?

Well, I want to suggest to you that this passage has a lot to say to us about each of those three groups of questions and issues. In this passage, Luke is pointing us to Jesus the Messiah and to the gospel, but he does it by showing us three scenes.

I. God is Gracious to Sinners

First of all, you may or may not know that shepherds were not held in the highest esteem in their culture. Shepherds were not allowed to give testimony in courts of law in Israel in this time because they were thought to be notorious liars. They were from a class of people who were generally despised. They were looked down upon, they were held in suspicion, and for these other reasons they were not highly esteemed. And yet, where does the announcement of the angel come? Not to the king; not to his court; not to the temple priests (the Sanhedrin and the Sadducees); not to the Pharisees, the very rigorous Bible-believing elders that led the local synagogue movement. To none of them does this announcement come. It comes to shepherds. And in that very announcement of the angels coming to those who are not highly esteemed by their contemporaries and those who are frankly considered amongst the sinners, to them the announcement comes. And I believe that in that very fact, by considering the people to whom this joyous announcement is first made, we learn something about our gracious God. And it's something that will be played out in the rest of the gospel.

And I want you to pause and think about this for a second, friends, because it's hugely important. Entitlement, a sense of our entitlement kills gratitude. If we think we are owed the grace of God, if we think we deserve the mercy of God, then we will never ever be grateful for it and we'll never be ready to receive it. It's only someone who knows that she needs grace who is in a position to appreciate grace offered. It's only when a person knows that he needs the mercy of God that the mercy of God is sweet. And that is so important for us to realize. If our understanding of ourselves is that we're pretty good people and that "Of course God will cut us some slack; that's His job, after all; He's here to forgive us"...then we will never ever adequately understand grace, and we may not understand the gospel at all.

Until you realize that you're a sinner, you're not ready to respond to the glorious, unexpected, lavish grace of God held out in the gospel, and we learn that from the very announcement of the angels to these shepherds who were looked down upon as sinners by their contemporaries.

II. Angels, Who Need No Forgiveness, Love the Gospel

There's a second thing I want you to see in this passage. In verses 9-14, it becomes very apparent to us that the angels love the gospel.

And I want to tell you this, my friends: these angels ought not be more excited about the gospel than you and me. Because these angels didn't need to be forgiven. They were without sin. These angels didn't need Jesus to die for them. They were without sin. These angels had never rebelled against God. You and I have. We ought never let the angels out-praise [us] for the gospel. These angels are excited about the gospel; we ought to be more excited about the gospel.

III. The Good News of the Gospel Should Cause Us to Ponder and Praise

One more thing. Look at verses 19-20. The good news shared with Mary and with the shepherds sets Mary a'pondering, and the shepherds a'praising:

"Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them."

Mary is pondering the good news. She's meditating on it. And I want to tell you, if you're meditating on the gospel there is no way that you can feel entitled. And if you're pondering and praising God for the gospel, there is no way that you can do that from an ungrateful, dimly understanding heart. Mary, no doubt was overwhelmed by all the things that she saw and was at the epicenter of, and she expresses her wonder in one way, and the shepherds express their praise and wonder in another way. But they are an example for us.

Now back to that question again. When you're not thinking about anything else, what do you think about? Is the gospel ever there? Is it ever a part of the deepest thoughts and desires of your heart? It was for Mary. It was for the shepherds. Luke gives us much to think about in this passage, my friends. We ought to be a gospel-saturated people, a people who realize that we're sinners and we didn't deserve God to reach out to us in grace. But He did anyway. And we ought not to be bored by that. We ought to be overjoyed by that. We ought to be surprised by that. And God in the gospel has given us something that angels love to sing about. We ought to love to sing about it more. And God in the gospel has given us something to ponder and to praise, and we ought to ponder, and we ought to praise God for it.