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Summary: Celebrate a Shepherd’s Christmas by listening to the angels’ message.

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Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? How about your stockings – do you get to check those every day or just on Christmas morning? Is your tree artificial or natural? Do you decorate the outside of your house as well as the inside? Christmas customs – every family has them and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without them, or so we think. While Christmas customs are meant to get us in the holiday spirit they can easily become Christmas chores – just another list of things we need to do. If that’s happened it’s time to set aside the customs and get back to the basics. Getting back to the Christmas basics is simple. Celebrate your Christmas as the shepherds did; just listen.

The night of that first Christmas must have seemed like any other night to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem. All the sheep had been gathered in and there was nothing left to do except to keep watch, visit with one another, and stay warm. That quiet routine, however, was shattered when an angel of the Lord burst onto the scene with the bright light of God’s glory. Unasked and unexpected, that’s how the angel arrived just as God continues to enter into hearts today.

How did the shepherds react to this heavenly invasion? They were terrified! That’s not surprising is it? What’s your first reaction when the phone rings in the middle of the night? You fear the worst don’t you? It could be a friend calling to tell you that your son or daughter was in an accident, or Grandma to say that Grandpa isn’t doing so well. In the same way the shepherds must have feared the worst when they saw God’s messenger standing before them. Had he come to announce that it was Judgment Day? If so, were they ready to be judged by the righteous God?

But that’s not why the angel had come. “Do not be afraid.” The angel said. “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 the Lord” (Lk. 2:10, 11).

Just by listening to this message the attitude of the shepherds changed. Their fear was replaced with joy. The Saviour had been born in Bethlehem just as the Old Testament prophets said he would be. By listening and taking to heart this message the shepherds learned that the Bible could be trusted. They also learned that this child was not just human; he was God as he was called “the Lord.” But most of all the shepherds were overjoyed because this Saviour had not just come to save a select group of people. The angel said that this news was for “all people.” No, there had been no tree, no treats, and no turkey but the shepherds were happy. What made that first Christmas such a merry one? Listening to the angel’s message.

In the same way our Christmas will be merry if we celebrate as the shepherds did – by listening and taking to heart the angel’s message. Jesus has come to bring peace to all. He did that by dying on the cross and forgiving all of our sins - sins of unfaithfulness, selfishness, laziness, anything we do, think, or say to show that we care about ourselves more than we care about God and others.

God’s forgiveness plan is like no other. Just this last week the government unveiled a plan to forgive the debts of developing countries but only if the indebted countries will first enact and bring to completion political and business reform. Thank goodness that’s not how our God deals with us. God does not forgive only after we have reformed ourselves. Unasked and unexpected God intervened in history to forgive us and give us the promise of eternal life in heaven through faith in Jesus: God’s forgiveness gives us the reason to change our life.

But the shepherds weren’t just content to hear the message were they? They wanted to learn more about this Saviour and so without delay they went to Bethlehem. It’s interesting isn’t it? They didn’t debate whether or not they had time to go, or whether it was convenient for them. They didn’t even worry about who would watch the sheep. They rushed to find out more about their Saviour.

Friends, we too should not be content just to hear about the Saviour but to hurry to Bethlehem and see the Christ-child. Don’t be satisfied just to make note of Jesus once a year in the Christmas carols or in the Christmas Eve service but come and learn about him often. God’s plan of salvation is awesome and has many facets to it. The more you listen to it and learn about it the more joy it brings into your life and will prepare you to face any kind of difficulty you may have to face.

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