Summary: A sermon about loving Christ through loving others.
"Christmas Gifts that Won't Break: The Gift of Love"
On any given day in Chattanooga and surrounding areas such as East Ridge there are over 600 people living in tents in the woods or wherever they can set up camp.
There are over 60 locations--called "tent cities" across our area--where human beings live.
In the course of a year approximately 4,000 people live in a tent or under a bridge in the Chattanooga area.
And yet, in all societies--including Chattanooga--a social barrier as high as the Great Wall of China, separates the upper and middle classes from the poor and the homeless.
The migrant worker at a chicken plant, the single mother of two behind the counter at the local McDonalds, the inmate in prison, the person who lives under the bridge--there is, quite often, a great divide that separates the haves from the have nots.
There is not a lot of "mixing" or "intermingling" that goes on.
But Jesus--God-made-flesh--went to the poor, the homeless, the marginalized, the outcaste.
And He actually became one of them.
"Blessed are you who are poor," Jesus says in Luke 6:20, "for yours is the kingdom of God."
When the heavens opened and a multitude of angels sang out; when the skies were on fire with glory and God was announcing to the universe that the Savior of the world was laying in a feeding trough in Bethlehem:
God chose to tell shepherds--the weakest of the weak, the loneliest of the lonely, the poorest of the poor!
Shepherds owned nothing, and they were shepherds not because they had chosen this career path...
...they were shepherds because this was the only job they could get.
In Jesus' day shepherds were considered to be at the bottom of the social ladder.
And they often had a bad reputation.
No one in their right mind would ever invite them to a party, or have them over for dinner.
They were the invisible people...
They slept outside.
They lived outside.
They didn't smell good; they didn't look good.
But you know, God seems to have a special heart for folks who don't smell good or look good.
Folks on the margins are often not blocked by prestige, egos or wealth.
They are usually pretty nice people; they are often open to the eternal.
Think about the great Christian revival movements of history--they have all started among the poor:
* Saint Frances going to the poor in Italy
* John Wesley preaching to the peasants and prisoners in London is what started Methodism
* William Booth offering Christ to the poor was the start of the Salvation Army
* And God appearing to Shepherds in Bethlehem was the beginning of Christianity itself!!!
If you ever feel down and out...
...If you ever think that your life doesn't amount to much...
...if you ever feel like an outsider just remember the shepherds.
Remember that God chose to appear to them first!!!
And what did they do when they were told basically: "Your Savor is born today...He is Christ the Lord.
This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly [in a barn. He has been placed in an animal feeding trough.
His parents are young immigrants on the run.
Their stinky baby is the God of the universe]?
What did they do when they heard this?
Did they fall down laughing uncontrollably?
Some folks might.
Some folks probably did.
What did they do?
They said to each other, "Let's go right now to Bethlehem and see what's happened."
They went quickly and found 13 year old Mary and rag tag looking Joseph, and the baby lying in a nasty animal stable.
And then they "returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen."
Their world would never be the same.
The Savior of the world had entered into their lives.
Has the Savior of the world entered into your life?
If so, has it made a difference?
Many years ago, there lived in a small village a shoe repairman named Conrad.
Though he was alone and poor he always had a warm and friendly word for everyone.
Because of this, many folks felt much better after having had their shoes mended by him.
On Christmas morning, some of Conrad's neighbors, thinking about how lonely he must feel, decided to pay him a visit.
They found him sweeping away the snow in front of his home, and to their surprise his face was radiant and happy.
As they entered his house, they were amazed to see a festive place with holly and evergreen.
Christmas decorations brightened the walls and hung from the rafters.
And the table was set for two.
Obviously, Conrad was expecting a guest.
"Who is coming to visit you?" the neighbors asked.