Summary: Declaring that Christ the Lord has come, the angels did it. Now we are to declare the good news that is for all the people.
Last year I spoke about the passage in Luke’s gospel where the shepherds are out in the fields doing the thing shepherds do best, out living in the fields looking after the sheep as they did in the day. When something strange happened and beyond all of their imaging happened, remember these shepherds had no books, had never heard a radio or seen television and the most amazing thing they could have imagined would have been about as startling as a cheese sandwich. Then all at once an angel appeared to them, then a host of angels and all the good news about the coming of Christ the Lord. The sign of which will be a baby lying in a manger.
Mind bogglingly strange events if you were one of a few blokes who was enjoying a quiet night out under the stars, prehaps wondering if there was likely to be a sheep get into a bit of trouble or maybe a wolf might upset the flock, probably something that had not occurred for quite some time. The wolves knew that it was not safe to mess with domesticated sheep that had not wandered from the flock.
So that’s the shepherds but do we ever think about the Christmas story from an angel’s perspective.
Imagine that you’re an angel going about the usual sort of every day angel activities such polishing harps, tuning harps, making sure the pearly gates are all nice and clean and that the hinges are oiled, making sure the other heavenly creatures are not playing up, waging spiritual warfare, ensuring that the heavenly hymns are all sung in the right key, and that the cloud you are hanging out on does not turn into part of a cold front over a tropical location that washes away someone’s crop of beans.
So here you are all angelic like (please note: this has taken a little imagination and is not - unless I have fluked it a true depiction of an angel), all nine foot tall of you in your majestic beauty, wing span at full stretch eleven foot three inches, a powerful heavenly being with massive shoulders, they need to be for flying - going about your normal work day. Here you are out there doing that all important angel stuff when the news comes in, it’s been in the pipeline now for just under nine months going off the Earth calendar, and way longer in the eternal scheme of things. Not only has it come to be, but the news needs to be delivered and The Mighty One the Lord of all creation has asked you to be part of the choir delivering the news, well with a voice like yours who wouldn’t ask you? That’s right you sing like an angel!
So where does the God of all creation, the marker of the universe want this news delivered? Perhaps to the overall leader of the mightiest nation on the planet, Rome, Caesar Augustus himself, but no? Maybe to Herod the king of Judea; for the great event has happened in that region, no? This is where things get a little confusing, not to that religious leaders at the temple of the Holy of Holies, the King of heaven isn’t too worried about the high priest hearing the news either he’ll find out soon enough? So where are we to declare this news?
The side of a hill, a place with a view, that sounds promising. But to who? Shepherds? The ritually unclean, despised among their fellow Jews, shepherds these men who smell as bad as the animals they protect, who are keeping watch over their flocks, sleeping on the ground, in the gate of the sheep pens.
Then your mind is illuminated with understanding, SHEPHERDS! – Ideal, for mankind are the flocks of the Lords pasture, like the sheep the Lord watches over them. Who better to bring the news of the birth of the Good Shepherd who will give his life for this race, the birth of the Good Shepherd who will give his life for these sheep, this race of Mankind.
As a congregation as a denomination our challenge is to be messengers, our challenge this Christmas is to be angels, for the word means “A typically benevolent celestial being that acts as an intermediary between heaven and earth” or “Messenger for God.” But also our challenge is to be shepherds to those who have wandered far from our Lord.
We like the angels are asked by the Mighty one of heaven to sing it out:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace to men on
Whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2:14)
For as the angel said, this is “good news of great joy that will be for all the people”. Good News is what we have to bring, to sing it out and declare it loud, for it is for all people. But like the shepherds also we are to bring this good news in our actions, in our caring for, our nurturing of those who have wandered from the Lord, bringing them into the fold, bringing them to a place where they will be able to relate to God the most high, through their encountering the child / the Servant King Jesus who was born in a town not far from where a few shepherds got the fright of their lives, as they encountered angels.