Summary: God’s gift fits the needs of the Workers (shepherds) the Weary (Simeon) and the Wanderers (Wise Men). This sermon was given in 3 parts with songs in between.

Christmas - God’s Gift

to the Workers, the Weary, and the Wanderers

Luke 2 and Matthew 2 Christmas Eve 2006

PART 1: God’s Gift to the Workers – The Shepherds

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Luke 2:8 When we hear those words at Christmas, we feel a sense of anticipation --- because we know what’s coming next. But if you stop right there at verse 8, you realize that … at that point … there was nothing exciting about it to those Shepherds.

“There were shepherds keeping watch over their sheep…” You could have made that exact statement the night before --- or the week before --- or a month before --- or a year before --- or even a hundred years before that night. You see, Bethlehem was a Shepherding Community. It was what you could think of as a “Blue Collar Town.”

Most small towns today (at least the ones that survive) have some sort of Industry that supports the town and gives it a reason for existing. My in-laws recently moved from their hometown of Dalhart, Texas --- population 6,000. Dalhart survives because of Feed Lots, Dairy Farms, and a new Prison. Susan’s parents got a good price for their home because a new industry (a Cheese Factory) is about to move into town.

Bethlehem survived because of the Shepherding business. These Bethlehem Shepherds were just your average, everyday working folks. It’s likely that they were raising Passover Lambs. These Lambs would be sold as Passover Sacrifices the following Spring. The Shepherds had no way of knowing that the Lamb of God had been born right in their home town that night. When you think of it that way, it’s ironic that His coming would eventually make their job obsolete.

I don’t think these Shepherds were expecting anything momentous to happen that night. They had no idea that the God of the Universe was about to announce the greatest Gift ever given to mankind. They didn’t understand that God wanted to give this amazing, miraculous Gift to them … to plain old working folks who were just living their mundane, day-to-day lives. As it turns out, they expected too little.

Some of us make the same mistake. We don’t understand how MUCH God wants to give us. We expect too little. Which reminds me of a story I heard about the British Ambassador a few years back.

It seems that a Washington, D.C. TV reporter was working on an assignment called “The Spirit of Christmas.” He telephoned the British Embassy and asked to speak to the British ambassador.

“Ambassador,” the reporter said, “You have been very helpful to us through the year and we would like to include you in a special Christmas news segment we’re going to run. Tell me, what would you like for Christmas?”

The ambassador gave his standard reply: “I am very touched by your offer, but I must decline to accept any gift.”

The reporter replied, “Won’t you please help us out again as you have in the past --- and tell me what you would most like for Christmas?”

Again the Ambassador refused, but the Reporter persisted --- and he finally gave in. “All right then, if you insist. This Christmas I would really like the jar of mint jelly.”

Well, the Ambassador forgot all about that conversation, so he was surprised on Christmas Eve when he turned on the Evening News and heard the same reporter saying: “We recently interviewed three visiting ambassadors for our special report on “The Spirit of Christmas.” We asked each Ambassador what they would like for Christmas. These three Diplomats each gave revealing answers when they pondered what they would most like during this Christmas season of goodwill.

The German ambassador said: “I would like to see a peaceful and prosperous decade ahead for the newly liberated German people, and all citizens of the planet. May God bless us all during this historic period of change.”

The Swiss ambassador gave this wish: “May the Spirit of Christmas last throughout the year. It is my dream that our world leaders will be guided toward a common goal of peaceful coexistence during this Christmas season.”

Lastly, we spoke with the British ambassador --- who gave this request: “I would really like a jar of mint jelly.”

Are you asking too little? God has offered every one of us an amazing Gift --- the Gift of Peace and Salvation; the Gift of Complete Forgiveness and a Close Relationship with Him. But some of us are satisfied with nothing more than a jar of mint jelly.

Like the Shepherds were 2,000 years ago, we spend most of our time in our work-a-day routine. But this morning all of you have taken time away from the routine.

Christmas gives you the opportunity to look up. It’s your time to hear the Angels sing and to focus on Jesus --- the baby in a manger --- the Lamb of God --- the “Light of the World who stepped down into darkness…”

PART 2: (Communion Meditation) God’s Gift to the Weary – Simeon

In Luke 2:25 we read a part of the Christmas Story that is not as familiar as the story of the Shepherds in the Field. An old man named Simeon was waiting for the coming of the Messiah. The Holy Spirit had told Simeon that he would not die before he saw the Lord’s Christ. The Shepherds were just going about their normal jobs --- not really expecting anything from God. But that is not the case with Simeon. Simeon was waiting … he had been waiting for his whole life … he was weary with waiting --- for the promised Gift of the Messiah to finally arrive.

I think all of us find it hard to wait. If you have any children in your home, you know they have a hard time waiting for Christmas. The presents under the tree get shaken and rattled --- and the paper somehow “accidentally” gets torn because it’s just too hard to wait for a Gift! Imagine how hard it was for Simeon. The Holy Spirit told this good man he would not die before he saw the Messiah. But the years went on and on --- and Simeon got older and older.

Then, finally the moment arrived. Simeon saw the Baby --- with Mary and Joseph in the Temple. You can imagine his strong emotions when he finally saw the promised Messiah. Simeon took the little baby Jesus in his arms and praised God saying,”Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation …” Luke 2:29-32

But Simeon saw beyond the beauty of the baby. He saw the sacrifice that lay ahead for this little Lamb of God. Luke 2:34 says, Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:34-35

Those words must have come back to Mary on that terrible day when her dearly-loved Son died on the Cross. I’m sure that when that sword was thrust into His side --- she felt it pierce her own soul. We, too, feel that piercing in our souls--- because Jesus took the thrust of that sword for ALL of us.

At Christmas --- as we celebrate the Birth of Christ --- it’s appropriate that we also take time to remember His Death You see, the BIRTH of Jesus was only the beginning. It was only in the DEATH of Jesus that we see the completion of God’s Amazing Gift of Grace.


(PART 2 Continued: Offering Meditation)

Senator John McCain of Arizona was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict. He was shot down and held as a prisoner of war in Hanoi from 1967-1973. Near the end, he was finally taken out of solitary confinement where he spent much of his time.

He says, “At Christmas, I was the room chaplain, not because of my excessive virtue, but because I knew scriptures and prayers that went with a church service --- since I had been in an Episcopalian boarding school. … Four days before Christmas, I was told that I could copy from the only Bible the Vietnamese had available…

Our service consisted of a Biblical passage read by me … I talked about the birth of Christ and {we} sang, ‘Silent Night.’ I looked around the room and there were tears in those men’s eyes. They weren’t tears of anger or fright or sorrow or bitterness or even longing for home. They were tears of joy that, for the first time in seven years for some of them there was a celebration of Christmas together as Americans.” SOURCE: Homiletics Magazine 14:6.

Christmas is the time when we remember God’s Gift to those who are weary with waiting. Every person has those times in life when it seems all hope is gone. That is when Christmas means the most. It makes me think of the line from the familiar Christmas song O Holy Night: “a thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices…” Jesus came to bring hope to a weary world.



Special Music: O HOLY NIGHT

PART 3: God’s Gift to the Wanderers – The Wise Men

We picture these Wise Men from the East arriving at the Manger and worshiping along with the Shepherds. But the truth is, their journey from the East probably took at least 2 years. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “The Joy is in the Journey.” Well --- in case you haven’t noticed --- most journeys are tedious and tiring!

I remember the many times that we made the drive to Phoenix. That stretch of road between San Antonio and El Paso is the biggest stretch of nothing I’ve ever seen! But it’s nothing compared to the hardships of the journey the Wise Men took. They traveled on dangerous roads (If you’ve been in the Middle East, you know those roads weren’t any more scenic that the road between here and El Paso.) They had to carry all their supplies with them and they probably made only 20 miles a day --- on good days. They did all this so they could bring Gifts to a baby King.

I once heard a Missionary tell about how she explained Christmas to a boy in South Africa. The missionary told the boy that we give Christmas gifts to each other because God sent His Son as a gift for all of us. When Christmas day came, the boy brought the teacher a beautiful seashell. The Teacher asked, “Where did you ever find this extraordinary shell. I’ve never seen anything like it!”

The boy explained that such shells were only found in a certain bay that was several miles away. The Teacher was astounded, knowing that the boy had to walk that entire distance. She said, “This is a wonderful gift. But you shouldn’t have walked all that way just to get a gift for me.”

The boy gave a big smile and explained, “Long walk … part of gift.”

That was true of the Gifts the Wise Men brought. They traveled a long way in order to Worship and give their treasures to Jesus. And it is also true for the Gift God gave to all of us when he sent His son to earth. God came from Heaven to a Manger --- from a Manger to a Cross --- From the Cross to the Grave --- and from the Grave back to Heaven. We could ask, “Why go to all this trouble for us?” And God would answer, “Long walk … part of gift.” Celebrating a Christ-centered Christmas: by Sharon Jaynes

How will you respond to God’s Gift today? For some of you, walking up one of these aisles may seem like a Long Walk…