The Shepherd’s Challenge
The Christmas story from Luke 2 is often more recognizable to children as being from Charlie Brown than from the Bible. That is better than the little boy who saw a picture of one of my friends speaking to a senior adult group and asked what he was doing. When I told him he was telling those people about Jesus and asked him if he knew Who Jesus was he replied “No….” I said, “Jesus – baby Jesus – Christmas???” He said, “I know what Christmas is – but I don’t know who Jesus is…”
Sadly, that may be the state of most of the people we run into. Christmas is now a multi-BILLION dollar industry. Many businesses only survive if they do well on Black Friday whose name is derived from getting out of the red for the year on that day. How do we as believers of a different kind of Christmas deal with this material and spiritual challenge? I would suggest we look to the first Christmas for answers. Charlie Brown struggled with the same questions decades ago. Linus helped him out by reciting
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
In these verses we see the adversity Mary and Joseph faced. We also see God revealing Himself and sending a message. This divine approach through an angel bringing the “Good News” to “shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night” still speaks to us and challenges us 2,000 years later.
The Gospel (Good News) is not only for the special, the rich or the fortunate among us. It is first revealed to the lowly shepherd who has to stand the night watch. It is “great joy for all the people.” This is a glorious moment! The first Noel!
With our ability to flip a switch and have light on demand, we do not understand how much Jesus being the light of the world meant 2,000 years ago. All the bad stuff happened in the dark. The wolves came out; the lambs got picked off; the bad guys did their thing; evil abounded. But at that moment, an angel lit up the sky with the good news of Jesus Christ. Are we angels of light? Do we take the Good News of Jesus to the lowly or reserve just for us, our friends and family or someone who is important enough to deserve our attention?
The shepherds realized how glorious a thing this really was. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” This happens right after the angel tells them how to find Jesus. Why doesn’t that happen today?
Maybe people aren’t being told how to find Jesus anymore. When was the last time anyone was told about the Savior of the world outside of a formal church service? If we don’t realize what a glorious thing Christmas is, why should anyone else?
The Shepherds confirmed the story. “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. Here we are challenged to prove what is said to be true. They understood this was from God.
Just as Paul tells us to “work out our own salvation”, the shepherds wanted to see for themselves and verify what they thought they had heard. If we seek out God in our lives, He will make Himself known and His presence will be real to us. “Seek and ye shall find…”
Here we see our final challenge from the shepherds. They told. To be more accurate, they could not contain themselves. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. … The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Imagine that. It was just as God had told them. He is the way, the truth and the life! We have an amazing story that should come bursting forth from an overwhelmed heart that cannot contain it. We are challenged by these “lowly shepherds” to glorify, praise and spread the Word concerning what has been told us about this child.
Who gets amazed by what we say when they engage us in conversation today? Why do we keep this Good News to ourselves? It’s easy to sing praises to God in a church service or glorify Him in a Sunday School class, but what message do we send when we leave the church and enter the world? What does our body language say? Are we joyful? Are people amazed? Do we communicate the glorious event that has taken place in our life? Have you encountered Christ? Does anyone know, or are you able to contain yourself?