That Jesus came to redeem common people is central to the message of Dr. Luke. Some have reasoned that Luke was the evangelist to the rich. Perhaps his education and community standing ranked him among the privileged people of the Greco/Roman world. But, his recitation of the parables and narratives about the teaching and earthly ministry of Jesus provide ample evidence of his leaning toward the fringe elements of that ancient society. Jesus is pictured with sinners, tax collectors, women of ill repute, children, and the least of these in many of his personal interactions. In Luke's Gospel being with "the people", that is, the regular, normal people of their day, was a spiritual error that offended and angered the Jewish legalists and spiritual insiders. Surely the joys and blessings of redemption were not reserved for them!
Interestingly, Dr. Luke identified "the people" at least thirty-two times in writing his orderly account of Jesus' life. Several of them are interesting side-notes in the birth narratives. Notice what "the people" were about as the mystery and miracle of Christ's birth was announced and recorded---
And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.
Luke 1:10, ESV
...and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the
fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for
the Lord a people prepared.
Luke 1:17, ESV
And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the
Luke 1: 21, ESV
Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my
reproach among people.
Luke 1: 25, ESV
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.
Luke 1:68, ESV
...to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins
Luke 1: 77, ESV
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
Luke 2: 10, ESV
In these texts "the people" seems a little obscure. If Dr. Luke's use of the Greek word "laos", translated "people", is according to most common usage, he was referencing the normal people who lived at that time. They would have been the common, everyday Jewish people of that environment...prayerful at the time of Zechariah's burning incense in the temple, wondering at Zechariah's delay in presenting the incense as prescribed by Jewish law and tradition, rejoicing at the message of God's redemption of his people. They would have been expectant, anticipating their promised Messiah, watchful of the times. But, they would not have been counted among the spiritual elite of their era, the Pharisees and upper level religious people who governed their spiritual lives. One verse, Luke 1:25, identified Elizabeth's response that God had removed her reproach among the people for being barren and childless. The religious insiders viewed barrenness as a sign of God's disfavor, evidence of some wrong element in their service to God. In this way "the people" judged Zechariah and Elizabeth as living outside the blessings of God's redemptive plan.
The final verse mentioned is the glorious words the angels brought to the shepherds who were abiding their flocks by night. It is Dr. Luke's emphasis on the declaration from heaven, that this Savior and Lord, Messiah, would be for "...all the people". The angels burst and expanded the boundaries of God's Kingdom past the religious practitioners of Jewish legalism. The angelic proclamation brought Gentiles like Dr. Luke into the family of faith. "All the people" encompassed everyone, including Gentile Luke.
Hello, Christmas friends 2019! That would be me and you, and all of us beyond the scope of first century Jewish exclusivism. Sadly, the modern church has taken on many of the Spiritual perquisites of ancient Judaism, viewing ourselves as God's chosen, holy people, closed to the people outside of our faith and practice. Luke's emphasis of "the people" and the centrality of Christ's birth for "all the people" brings us to the truth that God's redemptive plan moves beyond our refined, educated sub-set to every person on this planet. Which is perhaps the reason we give boldly and generously to mission causes during the Christmas season. This year the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention is seeking to raise $165,000,000 in the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. This offering insures that Christ's missionaries are deployed to "...all the people" so they can hear the Good News of Christ.
The message for me? Christ came to redeem everyone, regardless of their standing in our highly classified culture. Our proper response is to hear what the angels said those thousands of years ago, and to heed them right now. Thank you Dr. Luke, for reminding us that the birth of Christ is "....good news of great joy for all the people...". Glory.