Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ordinary Shepherds, Extraordinary God


Luke 2:8-20


Do we have a class system in Canada? Are there jobs in our city, in our life that we consider below ourselves? People are working all around us. When we go to a mall there are tons of retail personnel, there are cleaners of the floors, the garbage cans, the windows, the bathrooms and the food court; there are security guards. When you buy a product it is surrounded by people – people who mined the materials in parts of Africa or Asia, or grew animals from which the material was sourced, people who refined those products, people who then assembled and packaged them, others who shipped it and drove the truck or worked on the ship; even those who received it in a warehouse, then shipped it to another, and then put it on a shelf for you or I to buy. Which job is worth more? They all had a place, a part in the process, but we often look down on some of those people as the consumer. Because we are paying money, we are worth perhaps a little bit more. That gives us the right, we think, to think we are superior in attitude, if not in voice or action. But we are no more special in God’s eyes.


The shepherds in the New Testament times lived lonely lives. Much of the year they had their sheep out in the countryside, and they were not regarded very highly. There was a predisposition to their status in society, and it was pretty low. So where does God first take the message of the incarnation, of Emmanuel, God with us? It goes to the shepherds. Who would God send it to first if it was today? God sends the message to all – a message of Good News. Did the angels ask or command the shepherds to do anything except to not be frightened? No. But these uneducated men shared their experience of God, and many listened. Take this to heart, we are all pilgrims in this journey. We need to be bringing whoever is near us along, encouraging and helping them in their own walk with Jesus.


So, we have looked at Elizabeth and Zacharias, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. Other characters in this story are the magi. What is one common denominator for all these people? They all experienced a visit by an angel. Two of them had dreams where the angel(s) spoke to them, the rest were visited in person. I want us to leave today with a few thoughts –


First, Seek God – wise men still seek Him. I saw a video online this past week called the Story of Stuff. It is a very sobering look at how our world operates. It is a call to action to change what we are doing with our world. As important as that is, sometimes there is a place for the call to action to change what we are doing with Jesus. We need Christ in us. Our consumer driven society tries to tell us differently. The problems in our life try to give truth to the lie that there is no God, or that God is not concerned with where I am at. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The tragic fires causing death, the accidents on the roadways, the sickness, both physical and mental and social that affect us, our families, and our world are the result of sin and selfishness going back to the Garden of Eden of which we were all a part. God hurts to see His creation subjected to this stuff, but that was the price of free will, the ability for you and I to choose who will sit on the throne of our lives. I am here to tell you Jesus needs to sit there, if you want peace and love and grace in your life. Whether you have been a Christian for a week or for 4 decades, know the truth that wise men still seek Him.


Second, God is doing things that may cause us fear – but there is nothing to be afraid of. Most of these nativity people were afraid, and they were told to not be afraid. Here we are some 2012 years and 3 months later and God has said to us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear (or timidity), but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7) God is at work redeeming people to Himself. He is using us and calling us to be involved, and he says, “Do not be afraid.” This truth is connected to God’s promise of presence and the faith we have in God to fulfill that promise. In the Great Commission God says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Hear that promise? I am with you always. What is there to fear if God, the lover of your soul, is with you?


Third, Know the Good News – God wants you to share it. This is the basic call of the one who follows Jesus, the one who calls themselves a Christian. You have to know it personally. For the shepherds it was an announcement, but not fully understood until that little baby they saw in the manger was resurrected from the grave for the forgiveness of our sins. Do you remember Peter? He was the man that rejected Jesus 3 times, who was always putting his foot in his mouth, trying his best to be all that Jesus wanted. It wasn’t until he was walking in the power of the Holy Spirit that his life became energized, alive. It wasn’t until then that he fully understood the Good News and began to share it in earnest, because he experienced it. This uneducated fisherman preached a sermon that would put any preacher to shame in Acts 2, and listen to what happened: “37 Now when they (the people assembled) heard this (Peter’s sermon), they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." The angels came and told the Good News, make sure you know it in your heart. Is there joy there? Happiness? I pray so, but if there is pain and sadness because you are far from God, and you need a touch from God, take the time right now to talk to Him, to ask forgiveness and ask for Him to come into your life as Lord. Don’t put it off.

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