In just under two days we celebrate the arrival of Christ in our world. It is certainly more than merely the birth of a great man. Certainly more than the beginning of the Christian faith... What we celebrate on Christmas is the fact that Love has drawn near to us... Love was made flesh and dwelt among us and continues to do so to this day.. The last people that the birth of Christ was made known to before His
birth were shepherds near Jerusalem. These shepherds if not on the bottom rung of the social ladder, they were certainly near that bottom rung and yet. God chose to send the angel to let even these poor shepherds know about the arrival of Christ. And as each of the other people in the Christmas story, these men as well, went on a journey in search of the Christ child. At first the angel appeared to these shepherds who were out in the fields watching over their sheep. These were men of lowly estate, not the high and mighty who might have expected to be the first to receive the message of the birth of the messiah. The
message was that they were to be the recipients of the
salvation that would come into the world through Jesus
Christ. The angel says “unto YOU is born”... Unto Whom? Not Herod in his palace in Jerusalem, Not Ceasar on his throne in Rome, not to the chief priests and scribes and the great ones of the earth. Rather it was to the shepherds who were out in the fields carrying out the tasks of daily existence. Christ was born to the meek, the humble, and the lowly... To those with expectant hearts. These men probably spent a great deal of their time looking up into the heavens to the stars above and contemplating the glory and grandeur of God. So it was appropriate for those who had probably spent the greatest amount of time close to God to be among the first to receive the message of the arrival of the Messiah. I doubt very much if those in power and authority had spent much time at all looking to the heavens and thinking about the things of God. Herod, Ceasar and all of the greatest men of the day were so consumed with their selfish ambitions that they probably did not take any time at all to listen to the voice of God. Even if they did, they were so surrounded by the hustle and bustle of people clambering for their attention that they probably wouldn’t even have noticed an angel appearing
to them to tell them about the birth of Christ. Furthermore, the arrival of a child in a stable in Bethlehem would have been of little concern to these men who were caught up in their pursuit of glory and power.
Then this single angel is joined by the heavenly host singing Glory to God in the highest and on earth Peace among those whom he favors. These simple men of simple ambitions and meager means were approached by the most magnificent angel choir ever to sing the praises of God. And the Scripture tells us that they were deeply moved. So moved that they took their sheep with them and made the journey to the manger to meet the newborn King.
These shepherds, along with all of Israel, had been waiting for the restoration of the glory of the time when their’s was the most powerful and respected nation on earth. When David ruled Israel, God was given priority in all areas of life and all was right with the world. Don’t we each long for that same thing today? These men had seen their nation besieged by an immoral government and the temples of worship to the God of their fathers had been desecrated and a mockery was made of all of the things that they held
dearest to their hearts. This is perhaps another reason why these men felt moved to go to Bethlehem. Since Bethlehem was the birthplace of David, it just seemed right for them to visit this most respected, albeit small, town and see the one they knew was sent by God to bring salvation to them, to all Israel, and to the entire world.
This, my friends is the paradox of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. Think about the way the words are placed together in the sentence that is so familiar to each of us... A savior, who is the Messiah... You will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger... Is that any way for God to come into the world? Most of us have heard those words since our earliest memories of the Christmas story, and yet, the initial surprise of the content of those words has long since passed for all of us. This though is precisely the message that God is speaking to these shepherds and to each of us today. God has more than come into our world, God has drawn very, very close to each of us.
To believe that God is somewhere out there above us is one thing, To believe that God is a strength sufficient for all of our needs is still another. To believe that God is not only all powerful and all sufficient, but to believe that God can be
known to us and part of the deepest parts of our lives is the greatest knowledge of God that one can have. This is the message that was heard by those shepherds for the first time in human history. God, through the angels, spoke to these shepherds and told them of a love so great that they would have the very core of their being touched by the one who had previously been thought of as too holy to be approachable. That is really what the entire story of Christmas is about. It is about Love coming to the world. Those who were deprived of Love were now to know first-hand what it means to be loved by God.
So these simple shepherds approached the stable in Bethlehem knowing that they were about to meet God face to face. All the while on their journey they were probably wondering why the angel choir had visited them... God goes to those who have time and will listen to his voice. So on this night he went to simple shepherds and as these shepherds came to the manger they looked into the face of not just a baby, but into the face of God. I guess I have spent the last several minutes outlining this story to tell you that I do not believe even for one moment that any of this stuff makes sense. I have struggled with this story for years and I still cannot make sense of it and it has only been within the last several years that I have come to realize that it doesn’t have to make sense. There is absolutely nothing rational about
God being born in a smelly stable in the midst of a dirty sheep pen to a teenage mother with no other people to welcome him into to world than a few simple shepherds. All of my life I have been taught to have respect for a holy and righteous God and I guess that I do, but lately I have decided that it is OK for me to question the holy God and see what it is that he is trying to say to me. Why did God do it? because he knew that we would not respond to a God who was far off
and distant. God does not need our adoration, God desires our communion for our own well being. That is the meaning of love. Love is that which places the needs of the object of the love above the needs of the lover. Love is the God of Creation building a bridge across the chasm between himself and the creation and then assuring us that it can be trusted.
Love is obedience to the commands of God the Father
manifesting itself in faith in Jesus Christ and proclaiming it to be true. Love is God sending his only son, Jesus Christ, so that “Whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life”... In a word, Love is Jesus! So on that night God became a baby in a manger and the news was spread by angel choirs to simple folks who were willing to give their hearts freely and completely to him. That, my
friends is the message of Christmas...The God of love came to these simple people, so that all people down through the ages would understand that Love has come in the person of Jesus Christ to transform the world and to bring us a hope that we can never have without him.