Summary: Jesus wants you to be the herald of His presence and shepherd only those who have experienced the grace Jesus offers can. As a result of his birth, death and resurrection, the power of the Holy Spirit will sustain you as you go to do His bidding in the places you live, work and play!
Four weeks ago, we began a new series entitled: Batteries Not Included. There is nothing more frustrating than wanting play with your new toys and finding out the package had this hidden line - batteries not included.
We started this series by talking about the Hope, given in the understanding we are all created in God’s image and therefore worthy of his love, peace and joy so when your batteries run low this season, remember Jesus in breaking into our reality was the beginning of hope for us all. Then we talked about peace and shalom. The big idea was peace is not possible without an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The third week, we talked about joy and more directly, the idea joy comes as a fruit of the spirit and is not possible without first acknowledging what God has done for each of us through the sending of his Spirit to guide us all and last week we talked about love. Not romantic movie love or rose colored glasses or even hormone induced love, but unconditional love of God for all of us.
It’s been quite a ride this Advent season. Nothing could be more soothing for Christian than the reminder of Jesus' promise to return again. It makes this year’s celebration of the 6lb 8oz Jesus even more real.
The scriptures tonight tell the story of the birth but they need a little context.
In the beginning, the angels praised God at the time of creation (Job 38:7) and now they were praising Him at the beginning of a new creation. The plan of salvation was unfolding to give “God the glory.” In the past, the glory dwelt in the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34) and then in the temple (2 Chron 7:1-3) only to depart because of the nation's sin. Now, His glory was returning to earth in the person of Jesus. The lowly manger had become the Holy of Holies because Jesus was there. An event that began the first Christmas rush with shepherds getting family members to watch the flocks and Kings dragging their entourages to view the greatest gift in history.
The verb found in Luke 2:16 means “found after a search” which means the shepherds knew what to look for. When they found him, they marveled at the goodness, the miracle of Jesus and the stunning grace God was demonstrating to the world.
The shepherds were really no different than us. They had a role to play in life. They were working class stiffs who some looked down on because of what they did for a living. They lived with a stigma of not being caring. “In ancient Israel, shepherds were generally considered “unclean” in the community of God’s people because of the work they did. They were in daily contact with dirty, smelly sheep, their manure, their blood from cuts and scrapes, and the insects that buzzed around them. All of this meant that shepherds were almost never clean enough to worship with God’s people in God’s presence. So they were generally treated as outsiders.
But when the Angels showed up, they responded with immediate obedience. An act we can’t gloss over because in many ways it’s every Christ followers story. Jesus rarely calls the qualified, he calls the available. It began this way and continued throughout his ministry.
Jesus specialized in welcoming people who were disregarded as unclean and unwelcome outsiders. He healed lepers. He ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. People who may have been ignored or ostracized by the community were now welcome in the presence of the Savior. In fact, not only was there room for shepherds in the presence of the Lord, they were the ones invited to come and see the Savior first.
They are good examples for us to emulate today. They didn’t have any religious training. They didn’t hang out with other Jews often and yet, when called or sent to see the messiah, they responded in obedience. No debates. No “why us” conversations. They came exactly as they were. They didn’t throw on a fresh set of clothes. They didn’t wipe the smells and grime of the sheep off of themselves. Luke says they went with haste. They ran to the manger. They ran to the manger as poor men, as outcasts, as unclean, they ran to the manger as shepherds.
Do you realize that in this country we spend over 93.5 billion dollars a year on cosmetics (dealsonhelath.net)? We are obsessed with how we look, how people perceive us. Elective plastic surgery in our country takes in over 16.5 billion dollars a year. We are working so hard to present a version of us to the world that is beautiful, that we are perfect. We spend endless amounts of time getting that perfect Instagram or Facebook post, or that perfect selfie. We are so fearful that if people really knew us they would not love us and yet the opposite is true with Jesus. He is not looking to meet your Instagram or Facebook faux self, he spent his blood on the cross to meet you face to face with all your warts and imperfections.