Summary: The shepherds learn the only way to get ready for Christmas is to be open to the Christmas miracle.

Getting Ready for Christmas

Luke 2:8-16

This morning I would like to ask you how do you prepare for Christmas?

At the Cavanaugh house Christmas preparation begins with putting up the Christmas Tree and dragging down the boxes of Christmas decorations from their places of storage where they have hibernated during the last 11 months. Like the black bear, our snoring Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus snort and blink when the light hits their faces for the first time in 11 months. After the house has been transformed into a Christmas Village, comes the time for Christmas Shopping.

I really don’t like Christmas Shopping. But this week I discovered I am not alone. As of December 17, forty-six percent of shoppers had not finished their Christmas Shopping. While the majority of Americans say Christmas is their favorite holiday, only 20% like Christmas Shopping. This next week we will see retailers trying to draw us in with special tactics, including free gifts or gift cards with purchases and sweeter discounts on key items, such as consumer electronics.

But we still don’t want to face the throngs. One pub, realizing our disgust of the pushing and shoving through crowded departments stores, is offering a new service call The Personal Touch.

Seattle’s University Village invites men to watch a game at the Eleventh Hour Pub while personal shoppers help them select gifts from stores in the shopping center. Purchases are gift-wrapped and delivered to the bar. The personal shoppers are free, and there is no cover charge at the pub. "We created this program as much for the women as the men," say Sarah Canwell, marketing director at the center.

It seems like the reason for Christmas is getting lost in the price tags, pushing and personal shoppers.

But at this time of year, I would like to ask, what would the world be like if Jesus had never come. If we had not had that first Christmas.

A striking Christmas card was once published with the title “What if Christ had not come?” It was founded on Jesus’ words “If I had not come.” (John 15:22) It has a pastor falling asleep dreaming of a world without Jesus. In his dream he finds himself at home, looking through his house. It is Christmas day, there are no stockings hung by the chimney, no bells ringing in the church steeple, no wreaths or holly. And no Christ to comfort, gladden or save. There were no churches, no books in his library about Jesus. There was a knock on the door, a young man asked the preacher to come to his house. The young man’s mother was dying, would he have words of comfort for her. As he opened his Bible, he noticed it ended at Malachi. There were no promises, no gospels, no hope. All he could do was bow his head and weep. Two days later at her funeral he had no words of comfort and hope. No consolation nor hope of heaven. How easy is it to forget just how important this event is. We see in the Bible that the birth of Christ was God’s gift to all, but like gifts we must receive it in order to enjoy it.

To prepare to enjoy this gift of Christmas we need to be like the shepherds.

The Shepherds Receive a Miracle from God.

Luke 2:8-12

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ a the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

The story tells us that when the shepherds heard the angels their reaction was fear; they were terrified.

I was surprised to discover this week there are so many fears and phobias today connected with Christmas.

Have you heard of (OPD) Orderline Personality Disorder: The inability to stop calling 1-800 numbers in pursuit of last-minute holiday sales. Hopelessly devoted to low-budget, late night infomercials--and secure in the knowledge that operators are, indeed, standing by--OPD sufferers commonly exhibit two telltale symptoms of their buy-by-phone disorder: an unusually flat ear; the inability to recite numbers without also mentioning a cardholder name and expiration date.

What about the illness (HHP) Ho-Ho-Phobia: A profound fear of plump, bearded men in red suits and black boots. HHP outbreaks usually surface in late November, when sufferers begin to report frequent sightings of their most feared vision on street corners, in shop windows and on TV commercials for local car dealerships. Often referring to these men as Santa Claus, St. Nick or "little fatboy," the afflicted appear most unsettled by what they call "department store Santas," whom they insist "are constantly surrounded by cranky little men in green outfits who keep glancing at their watches."

Or how about (NPD) North-Polar Disorder: The chronic fear that someone is on the roof.

Or may be you have (BF) Blitzen Fits: Uncontrollable tantrums resulting from the belief that reindeer have soiled one’s driveway.

All humor aside, Christmas for many, like the shepherds, is a time filled with fear.

This caused someone to rewrite the words of a familiar Christmas carol:

"O little town of heartaches, how troubled we see thee lie.

Throughout thy deep & dream-tossed sleep our fears go marching by.

And in thy dark thoughts dwelleth our everlasting fright.

The dread & tears of all the years are visiting tonight."

It is into that overwhelming feeling of fear the miracle from God sounds forth.

The miracle from God to the shepherds is a word a for us. Listen.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

As a follower of Christ you are no longer prisoners to fear. The chains of dread have been shattered by the power of the cross. What a miracle.

1 John 4:16-18

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.

The Shepherds received a miracle from God

The Shepherds responded to the Miracle from God.

Luke 2:15

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.

After delivering their Message of hope, the angels leave, but so do the shepherds. There is no express command to go to the Child; the shepherds spontaneously respond and set out for the stable. Their faith takes them to the stable.

The phrase “Let’s go to Bethlehem” suggests that these men were located some distance away, but they were willing to make the trip in order to see the newborn Messiah. Certainly they arranged for others to care for their flocks while they hurried to Bethlehem. Someone has called this “the first Christmas rush,” but it was certainly different from the Christmas rush at Grand Central Mall!

Have you ever notice how important a single word can be? Mark Twain has said the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lighting and a lightingbug.

Luke understood the importance of using the right word. Look at verse 16.

The verb (a]neuri

Did you hear how the shepherds responded to the miracle from God. They seached diligently for Jesus. They left no stone unturned. They kept exploring, scouring the city until they found Jesus. How different our lives might be if we searched as diligently for Jesus.

But they not only search out Jesus, when they found him they worshiped him. Can you see the sence? These lowly shepherds bow down in prayful adoration. The air in the make-sift nursery is filled with reverence. Then uncontrollable they begin to pray and then to sing praise all at the same time. What was heard by those passing by may not have made since, to them it may have sounded garbled, but to the Heaven Father’s ears, it was the sweetest music. The shepherds, like all of Israel, had been waiting for this moment in history, this apex of all that come before it, and all that will come after it. God had become a baby and was now living among them. When they met Christ, the promised one, they exploded with praise. Because that is the only response to meeting Jesus face to face.

The Shepherds had Received a Miracle From God.

The Shepherds had Responded to the Miracle From God.

But our story of the Shepherds does not end there. Finally:

The Shepherds Reported the Miracle From God.

Luke 2:17-18

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 went into the town, praising God and making known the miracle they had seen. They reported what they had seen to everyone they met. They became the first Christian evangelists. They had been touched by the miracle of Christ, and they just could not keep quite. In fact they spread the news through out the entire district where they lived.

Though common people, the shepherds had enough faith to believe they were important to God. And they were consumed with the power and urgency of their message. They were like a scientist who has just discovered the cure for heart disease. But in this case, the disease is sin, and the cure is the sacrifice of the Redeemer, the Lamb of God.

Like the shepherds, we are Christ’s witnesses and ambassadors.

This Christmas let’s not give so caught up in the running, rushing, and rangling, that we forget the reason.

The Shepherds had it right.

Christmas is not about price tags and personal shoppers.

Christmas is about receiving a miracle from God, a miracle that cast out fear. Christmas is about responding to this miracle from God, by seeking Christ, finding him and worshiping him. And Christmas is about reporting this miracle from God to your friends and family.

That is what Christmas is all about. And you are here today because someone like the shepherds received a miracle, responded to that miracle, and reported that miracle to you. They gave you the greatest gift of all.

Go and give this same gift to others.