Summary: The shepherds were confronted with good news, what do you do with it?
â€œThe First Christmas Rushâ€
Several weeks ago as the family and I were putting up the Christmas tree, I began wondering where did this all comes from? Why do we do all these things to celebrate the birth of Christ? There are so many things that we need to do to prepare for Christmas. Take out the advent wreath, put up the tree, put a wreath outside, decorate other parts of the house, make Christmas cookies. The list never ends. All these things not to mention, trying to go shopping in the midst of the Christmas rush. I needed to buy an ink cartridge for my computer printer the other day and had to stand in line for over twenty minutes just because of everyone who was shopping for Christmas. There are so many decisions that we have to make at this time of year, we wonder, â€œDid we do right?â€ We get so excited during the rush of Christmas. Yet now IS the time to be excited, Now IS the time for joy and praise to be on our hearts. Have you ever stopped to think everything we do on this day came from?
When Pope Julius I authorized December 25 to be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus in A.D. 353, who would have ever thought that it would become what it is today.
When Professor Charles Follen lit candles on the first Christmas tree in America in 1832, who would have ever thought that the decorations would become as elaborate as they are today.
It is a long time since 1832, longer still from 353, longer still from that dark night brightened by a special star in which Jesus the king was born. Yet, as we approach December 25 again, it gives us yet another opportunity to pause, and in the midst of all the excitement and elaborate decorations and expensive commercialization which surround Christmas today, to consider again the event of Christmas and the person whose birth we celebrate.
-- Brian L. Harbour, James W. Cox, The Minister’s Manual: 1994, San Fransico: Harper Collins, 1993, p. 254.
Situation â€“ The shepherds were confronted with good news.
Our scripture today is the story of the shepherds and their experiences. I want us to see what it meant for the shepherds that were in the field. We also see the shepherds had an important decision to make that first Christmas night. More importantly we need to understand how the shepherds responded to the news of the Saviorâ€™s birth. Max Lucado sets the scene and brings to life the shepherds story in his book The Applause of Heaven. He writes:
An ordinary night with ordinary sheep and ordinary shepherds. And were it not for a God who loves to hook an "extra" on the front of the ordinary, the night would have gone unnoticed. The sheep would have been forgotten, and the shepherds would have slept the night away. But God dances amidst the common. And that night he did a waltz.
The black sky exploded with brightness. ... Sheep that had been silent became a chorus of curiosity. One minute the shepherd was dead asleep, the next he was rubbing his eyes and staring into the face of an alien. The night was ordinary no more. The angel came in the night because that is when lights are best seen and that is when they are most needed. God comes into the common for the same reason.
-- Max Lucado in The Applause of Heaven. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 14.
The shepherds were considered the simplest of people. Yet think of all the shepherds in the Bible. Able, Adam and Eveâ€™s son was shepherd shole brought the right sacrifice to God. Other name include Abraham, the father of the Hebrew people, as well as Isaac and Jacob were shepherds. Even the greatest king, the man after God own heart, David was a shepherd in his youth. Then is any wonder that God would send this message to a group of shepherds.
The shepherds life was not an easy one. Their whole lives were spent in the pasture taking care of their sheep. In regards to society they were at the bottom. It is thought that these shepherds may even been taking care of the temple sheep that would have been kept for temple sacrifices. That however is only speculation on the account of theologians. What we know is that their job was to tend and protect the sheep from any predators. If the watch was late at night, there might have only been one or two of the shepherds awake. Luke hints that the angels spoke to more than one. They must not have had to travel too far, as they were to have arrived not long after the time of Christâ€™s birth.