Summary: The focus is on the Shepherds who first received the message of the Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. The lamb-keepers were the first to see the Lamb of God and experience His hope to the world.
Play video clip - Charlie Brown Christmas
How fascinating – a cartoon classic in its simplicity brings us back to the basics.
Just as, every Christmas, we intend with all our hearts to bring the message of Christ to our broader community, we often work as hard trying not to lose focus in an effort to keep the truth clear in our own hearts.
I get great amusement when Glenys gets on a role with chivalry – new love! We see an ‘older’ couple walking – no, prancing – to their car, hand in hand. He walks to the passenger side of the vehicle and opens the door for her. Glenys, observing the playful frivolity, comments, “Must be their second marriage” (as I rush around the car to get the door!)
o Novelty of Christ and Christmas can wear thin with time – dangerous place to be – our purpose and definition rests in it! Friends, we need to fall in love with Jesus all over again, as if for the first time!
(Have prayer for fresh insight and experience)
We have a wooden nativity of Mary, Joseph and Jesus that sits outside our house and at night a yellow spotlight shines directly on it. It kept blowing over from its position. As I continued trying different things to keep it in place, my mind began to think of a lesson in this annoying problem. A lot of people have chosen to let the winds of the times topple the Foundation of Salvation as an insignificant message. It is no more to them than my piece of plywood that would soon be propped against the garage wall when Christmas is over.
Then I wondered why it was so important to me and my wife and family to anchor it, to keep it in place. For me, it is more than a piece of plywood. It is a representation of my faith. Many of us have chosen to anchor our very lives and existence to the Promise (Jesus) and confident conviction, “God is with us”!
Once I knew the nativity was anchored for the Season, another question came to mind. How do I know I’m still connected? What are the checks and balances to help me gauge how deeply I am connected to God’s plan and design for me and that we are really in relationship? How do you know?
We know we are in relationship and deeply connected when the birth of Christ:
1. Determines our priorities – v. 15
We need to briefly touch down here to understand something of the shepherds’ cultural and working realities, to fully appreciate what is happening here. An unblemished lamb was offered in the temple for the morning and evening sacrifices. The flocks used for this were pastured near Bethlehem so it is likely that the shepherds were caring for these particular sheep.
This work was menial. Because the details of ceremonial cleansing were meticulous with regards to hand-washings, rules and regulations, the shepherds would most often not have been part of the sacrificial process and worship. As a result, the orthodox community would have had little to do with, or respect for, this company of shepherds.
How appropriate that Mary’s Lamb, the perfect, unblemished Son of God, was heralded to these very shepherds and they were the very first to look upon him!
It is no small consideration to think on the act of the shepherds of leaving the sheep to pasture unattended and cared for. Adding to that the possibility that these could have been the Temple flock only compounds the extent of the responsibility. To leave the sheep without a shepherd to protect them from wolves and opportunists, who would quickly steal for themselves, was the height of irresponsible and careless conduct. Only a life-altering experience would motivate a shepherd to neglect their livelihood, risk losing their jobs and likely be in debt with compensation demands due to loss of assets.
Why not stay where they were and let the Christ come to them? Surely over time they would see him and achieve the same experience. No, they knew. They knew this was no ordinary King or commonplace night. Their experience of faith was so profound that all sense of reason and orderliness was stripped away. There is only one thing any sane person can do when heaven speaks to your heart --- run after it! Cast off rational process and step out into faith. Only faith would have them run to Bethlehem as if this thing was true! Only a confident trust in the message they had heard would push them to run until their lungs hurt as they scouted up the terraced fields toward Bethlehem which sat atop the hill.
Look closely at your priorities. The things that consume your time, energy, money and investment are the things that define who you are and what is important to you.