Summary: The Alpha and Omega came to my neighborhood, he came to my block. He came from the marbled halls of Heaven to live with man, to live in me!
Blah! Blah! Blah! How many of our messages are just words? How many just reflect our church view or our own worldview? How often is it just taken from a lexicon, a commentary a footnote from somewhere?
No! When we preach, we must hear from God! We must hear from the book! And we must be transparent, see-though, so that God shows through!
This section of scripture is very familiar to Catholics. It’s very familiar to Baptists, and everyone in between. The story is familiar to young and old. It’s the Christmas story.
First let’s consider the impact on the shepherds. These people were despised in their world. The Jewish Talmud said to avoid these dirty, filthy creatures. They spread disease and they are wholly unclean. From the hallowed halls of Heaven, Jesus came to the land of the shepherds. The manger was their workshop. This is where they worked and slept and ate. It was smelly, it was damp, it was a literal hole in the wall. Humble isn’t the word. I remember a place I had to spend a week at in South America. There were fleas, and mosquitoes, and mice. It was damp and clammy and dirty. I had a hard time bunking down there. I remembered the shephards and the manger and Jesus on the straw. No real place to lay his head. I was able to sleep. The shephards were the common man, the crowd, the forgotten. That’s what Jesus came to save: The lowest and the least. The impact of the shephards is that anyone can come to, can approach God, because of the shepherds, because of Jesus. The Bible says that "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that which are mighty; and the base things of the world, and the things which are dispised, hath God chosen, yea and the things which are not, to bring to nought the things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." I Cor. 1: 27-31.
2. The second thing that the shepherds show us is they were 24/7, and hard working. A shepherd is responsible for his sheep. He’s there every day to make sure they are accounted for, that they are fed, that they are not sick, and that even the weakest and newborn are tended just like the rest. The shepherd is tireless, and sleeps with the sheep, lives with the sheep and gives his very life for the sheep. The shephards were committed. We have a tendency in our world to dismiss such folk. We disregard those that work with their hands, and come in dirty or are of humble means. This recession makes me realize the slim margin that lies between life and death. Riches and poverty. High and lifted up and lowly and down trodden. The other day, I stopped in McDonalds. I found an old gift certificate in an old book and I wanted to see if it was still good. You can get a double hamburger for that gift certificate. And yes, even though it was three years old, they took it. While I was waiting for my food, I looked at the fellows ahead of me in line. they were covered in mud. Their shoes were caked with greasy, black mud. I asked the fellow where he had been working. He said, the junkyard. They guy behind me heard the conversation and said to me. "Working in the cold like that takes a toll on your legs and knees. They will have a hard time walking in five years." The shepherds were like that. Hard working, humble, dirty, but good folks whom God decided should hear the great words: "I bring you good tidings f great joy, which shall be to all people..." Here in 2009, let’s be like the shepherds, hard working, committed, and working for the Lord in small ways and big ways.
Lastly, let’s see that the shepherds were fearful. This was a big deal. The shepherds saw the angel of the Lord and the glory of the Lord. This was outside what they knew or could learn. This was scary stuff. We are entering a future that is uncertain. We are entering into unknown times. We face things we never knew before, and trials we never faced before. We are like the shephard, afraid. But this book is full of fear nots. It tells us how to walk and how to face the future. But in those lonely nights, in the wee hours, we fear. We think, we reason, we stumble, we fall, we get up, and then we go to the Lord. Isn’t it all wrong? Isn’t there a God who visits us? While we are abiding and keeping watch over our stuff? Get a copy of the Free Press this week. It tells about how the auto industry here in Detroit came back from the brink of disaster. It’s a story of defeat and dispair, of fear and failure. But it is also a story of us, and how we have to come back. Isn’t there a God who loved us so that he sent Jesus for the lowest and the least? Wasn’t Jesus willing to face fear and suffering and pain? We all put on our britches one leg at a time. We all are in this together. But God is there, as he was on that first Christmas. To dispel the fear in the hearts of shepherds, and fear in our hearts. To give us the good news and the great joy. We can carry on, we can walk with victory. We can find peace and grace to carry us through this day and every day. This year and every year to come. Let’s pray.