Summary: #4 in Christmas series on fear. What were the shepherds afraid of? God’s presence.
Luke 2:8-20 – Fear of God
I found a website called Funny Historical Accounts. It tells the unfortunate story of 24-year-old Danny Simpson of Ottawa, Ontario. In 1990 Mr. Simpson was given six years of imprisonment for robbing a bank of $6000. In the robbery, he used an old Colt .45 pistol. He was arrested and the gun was impounded by the police.
What’s funny is that the police recognized the gun as an extremely rare collectors’ item. It was made under license by the Ross Rifle Company in Quebec City during WW1, one of only 100 Colt .45’s ever made there. The gun was worth between $12,000 and $100,000. Mr. Simpson could have walked into any gun shop and sold the pistol for at least twice as much, and likely much more, from his raid without breaking the law.
If he had just known what he carried in his hand, he wouldn’t have robbed the bank. In other words, Danny already had what he needed.
After reading this, I thought, “I wonder if that’s how we are, too.” I wonder if most of us, any of us, have any clue to what we are entitled to. I wonder if the majority of us live way below God’s abundance for us. I wonder how differently we would live if we were aware of God’s presence in our lives. Let me use the story of the shepherds to explain. Let’s read Luke 2:8-20.
Now, we are wrapping up our series on fear. Three weeks ago we looked at Zechariah, a saintly old man who had lived his life with unanswered prayers. He saw an angel, and the good news was that God had heard his prayers. So don’t be afraid of your doubts and struggles.
Two weeks ago, we looked at Mary. The angel told her not to be afraid of God changing her plans for her life. At times they would be scary and unsafe, but they would still be good. After all, Jesus coming into the world was good for us all. So don’t be afraid of God changing your plans.
Last week we looked at Joseph. He was told in a dream not to be afraid of how things looked. Things sometimes look pretty bleak and grim, but God knows more than we do about everything. So don’t be afraid of appearances.
Today we are looking at the shepherds, the unlikely spectators to a wonderful event – the arrival of the Son of God. Now, let’s look at these guys and what their role in this story is. They were keeping watch over the flocks of sheep by night. Now, some scholars feel that the sheep were usually brought under cover from November to March; as well, they were not normally in the field at night. But there is no hard evidence for this. In fact, early Jewish sources suggest that the sheep around Bethlehem were outside year-round. Which all means that this could have happened in December, but maybe not.
Further, these guys had an important job, but it seems they were not exactly the upper level of society. I mean, they weren’t looking after ordinary sheep. The sheep these guys took care of were sacrificial sheep. These sheep would end up in the spring as sacrifices for Passover, the day set aside to remember God sparing His people from death while in Egypt. It was an important day with tremendous meaning, a sacred and holy day.
But, despite their importance, shepherds weren’t the most influential people of the day. As a matter of fact, they were among the lower class of the day. What they did was not a career that many people desired – it was just kind of one you were stuck with.
Most were immigrants, who ate and slept with the animals, and no doubt smelled like them too. The sophisticated peoples rolled their eyes and kept their distance whenever they came walking down the road.
Despite their importance, they were not treated importantly. But suppose this happened. Suppose Prime Minister Paul Martin went on vacation. Maybe some of you think he’s always on vacation. Anyway, suppose that he went to Jamaica for a month. Honestly, do you think we’d notice too badly? Do you think there would be much of a difference around here?
But then suppose that Joe’s Garbage Pickup went on strike for a month. Suppose there was no-one to pick up your trash for a month. Do you think you’d notice that? Would you notice the smell of turkey carcass? Would you notice the smell of empty milk cartons? Would you notice the smell of uneaten leftovers? Of course you would. Sometimes what the world deems as significant and important isn’t always that. And sometimes what the world deems as insignificant and unimportant isn’t that, either.