Summary: A sermon for Christmas Eve.
“God Stole The Show”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN
Jesus’ birth announcement was proclaimed to humble shepherds whose status was only slightly higher than that of prostitutes and tax collectors!
God is so different than we…
God does not judge persons as we judge persons.
Luke tells us:
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’”
“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in a manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
…the lowly disrespected shepherds…
…those outcastes who were despised by the orthodox “good people” of the day…
…those “supposed” freaks of society…
…they were the very first human beings to hear about Christ’s birth and the first to spread the Good News!!!
And people responded to their message!
They had been loved, and so they loved God right back!!!
Most of us have either seen a Christmas pageant or Cantata or been in one.
Each time the scene is basically the same—isn’t it?
You’ve got the manger in the middle, Joseph and Mary nearby, and the shepherds, Wise Men, angels, and animals in the back of the scene.
In all the depictions I have seen, whether it be a pageant, a play, or a nativity scene…
…I have never seen one that captures the whole story.
Because, you see, I have never seen a card, a painting, or a stage that is big enough to depict the whole story of Christ’s birth.
You would have to have an incredibly large stage in order to make the nativity scene look so small.
Luke tells the story for us, and he does a nice job of setting the stage—the whole stage—for the story.
He starts with the headline of the day: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.”
If there had been newspapers or the internet in the ancient Mediterranean world, this would have been headline story on every one of them.
In Athens, Ephesus, Damascus, Alexandria, and Jerusalem alike; the big news was this decree from the Roman emperor.
The “talking heads” on the “news channels” would have been having a field day!
It set people in motion all over the Empire, including a certain couple from Nazareth who were pledged to be married.
And Rome…not a manger, is at the center of the stage.
The Roman Emperor, not a baby, is the star of the show—or at least the character with the top billing at the start.
And the prospect of some Empire-wide tax, not some anonymous birth, is the headline.
Luke goes on to tell how the decree from Caesar Augustus prompted Joseph to travel from Nazareth, where he lived, to Bethlehem, which was where he grew up.
A traditional nativity scene puts the manger in Bethlehem in the middle.
Luke’s account reminds us, however, that Bethlehem was not only far from the center of the world’s stage, it wasn’t even at the center of Joseph’s stage.
His home was Nazareth, and going to Bethlehem was going out of his way.
Next, Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem, only to find that there is no room for them at the inn.
“I’m sorry, the motel is full…
but you’re welcome to stay in the parking garage!”
This couple and this birth were not even a big fish in the small pond of Bethlehem.
They were pushed off to the side of a town that was itself off to the side of a province that was off to the side of the Empire.
The truth is that God came into the world backstage.
God came practically unnoticed by the world.
God came to an unknown and unimportant place, and God came to unknown and “seemingly” unimportant people.
It blows your mind to think of how God could have made God’s entrance onto this world’s stage: the irresistible spectacle, the unmistakable glory, and the unfathomable power.
That is how Jesus will make His return some day in the future, but that’s not how He chose to make His entrance some 2,000 years ago.
The truth is that God came into the world backstage…
…wouldn’t you know it: God stole the show!
Philips Brooks, in his cherished Christmas carol, expresses the quiet, unassuming way that God worked into Bethlehem, and how He continues to work in hearts today: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given; so God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven. No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him, still dear Christ enters in.”