Summary: The shepherds learn the only way to get ready for Christmas is to be open to the Christmas miracle.

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Getting Ready for Christmas

Luke 2:8-16

This morning I would like to ask you how do you prepare for Christmas?

At the Cavanaugh house Christmas preparation begins with putting up the Christmas Tree and dragging down the boxes of Christmas decorations from their places of storage where they have hibernated during the last 11 months. Like the black bear, our snoring Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus snort and blink when the light hits their faces for the first time in 11 months. After the house has been transformed into a Christmas Village, comes the time for Christmas Shopping.

I really don’t like Christmas Shopping. But this week I discovered I am not alone. As of December 17, forty-six percent of shoppers had not finished their Christmas Shopping. While the majority of Americans say Christmas is their favorite holiday, only 20% like Christmas Shopping. This next week we will see retailers trying to draw us in with special tactics, including free gifts or gift cards with purchases and sweeter discounts on key items, such as consumer electronics.

But we still don’t want to face the throngs. One pub, realizing our disgust of the pushing and shoving through crowded departments stores, is offering a new service call The Personal Touch.

Seattle’s University Village invites men to watch a game at the Eleventh Hour Pub while personal shoppers help them select gifts from stores in the shopping center. Purchases are gift-wrapped and delivered to the bar. The personal shoppers are free, and there is no cover charge at the pub. "We created this program as much for the women as the men," say Sarah Canwell, marketing director at the center.

It seems like the reason for Christmas is getting lost in the price tags, pushing and personal shoppers.

But at this time of year, I would like to ask, what would the world be like if Jesus had never come. If we had not had that first Christmas.

A striking Christmas card was once published with the title “What if Christ had not come?” It was founded on Jesus’ words “If I had not come.” (John 15:22) It has a pastor falling asleep dreaming of a world without Jesus. In his dream he finds himself at home, looking through his house. It is Christmas day, there are no stockings hung by the chimney, no bells ringing in the church steeple, no wreaths or holly. And no Christ to comfort, gladden or save. There were no churches, no books in his library about Jesus. There was a knock on the door, a young man asked the preacher to come to his house. The young man’s mother was dying, would he have words of comfort for her. As he opened his Bible, he noticed it ended at Malachi. There were no promises, no gospels, no hope. All he could do was bow his head and weep. Two days later at her funeral he had no words of comfort and hope. No consolation nor hope of heaven. How easy is it to forget just how important this event is. We see in the Bible that the birth of Christ was God’s gift to all, but like gifts we must receive it in order to enjoy it.

To prepare to enjoy this gift of Christmas we need to be like the shepherds.

The Shepherds Receive a Miracle from God.

Luke 2:8-12

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. 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 a the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

The story tells us that when the shepherds heard the angels their reaction was fear; they were terrified.

I was surprised to discover this week there are so many fears and phobias today connected with Christmas.

Have you heard of (OPD) Orderline Personality Disorder: The inability to stop calling 1-800 numbers in pursuit of last-minute holiday sales. Hopelessly devoted to low-budget, late night infomercials--and secure in the knowledge that operators are, indeed, standing by--OPD sufferers commonly exhibit two telltale symptoms of their buy-by-phone disorder: an unusually flat ear; the inability to recite numbers without also mentioning a cardholder name and expiration date.

What about the illness (HHP) Ho-Ho-Phobia: A profound fear of plump, bearded men in red suits and black boots. HHP outbreaks usually surface in late November, when sufferers begin to report frequent sightings of their most feared vision on street corners, in shop windows and on TV commercials for local car dealerships. Often referring to these men as Santa Claus, St. Nick or "little fatboy," the afflicted appear most unsettled by what they call "department store Santas," whom they insist "are constantly surrounded by cranky little men in green outfits who keep glancing at their watches."

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