Summary: We live in times with a lot of bad news. This is a positive sermon centered around Christmas’ great announcement of the angels to the shepherds.
December 8, 2002
You can do this just about any day. Pick up the newspaper, or flip on CNN. Of the six prominent lead stories on the front page of the paper, five will have the following words:
It doesn’t get much better on the inside sections. We live with bad news these days. What’s worse is that we seem to be accepting that as the "way things are," or despairing that we have gone too far to ever change it.
I must confess that I began to ask myself recently, "Is there any GOOD news?" As soon as the words entered my head, I knew the answer....Of Course!!!! There is not only good news, there is GREAT news! And we have it. Today we study the first announcement to shepherds of the GREATEST NEWS EVER....
The shepherd of Jesus’ day was not what you’d call an "up and outer." Shepherds were despised by most society; especially the religious class. Those who cared for sheep had to do so 24 hours each day, 7 days each week. They had little time for observing all the rites and rituals of a good Jew. They didn’t wash often, nor did they observe the Sabbath. It was a hard life, with little financial reward, or prosperous outlook. Their children and children’s children would follow in the same path, often living with three to four generations under the same hut.
No doubt shepherds daydreamed. There was always lots of peace and quiet to spend on thinking. They dreamed of being clean, wearing fine clothing, and perhaps, going to the temple to worship and see people.
The night the angels came to them, they were probably engaged in the mundane tasks, chasing strays, keeping warm around the fire, telling jokes, and removing thorns from small hooves.
Suddenly there is a man standing before them; he glows!
And there is a strange message: GOOD NEWS!
Can you imagine the first thoughts, "Good news - here? Give me a break. Nothing ever changes. Nothing beyond dust, cold winters, endless bleating of these sheep, and death. What do you mean, good news?"
Just for emphasis chorales of angelic voices join the brilliant light; the hills really are ¡§alive with the sound of music." The shepherds look at one another, and immediately set-out to find the babe in a manger. Later, they’re back out in the hills, rejoicing over GOOD NEWS!
What caused the change? Consider the SIGHTS the shepherds saw that cold Judean night....
8In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10But the angel said to them, ¡§Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is „TChrist the Lord. 12¡§This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.¡¨ 13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 ¡§Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men „Twith whom He is pleased.¡¨
Luke 2.8-14 (NASB)
The angel PROCLAIMED the message.
There is a reality here, that God never plays "hide and seek" with us. He was willing to disclose Himself to the small band of shepherds, the most commonplace, ordinary people of that day; He wants to be real to you today. Too many people express their concept of God as being "far off" and mysterious. Rather, the scriptures indicate He wants a close relationship with His children.
The angel proclaimed a POWERFUL message. To bring such light of hope into a world of incredibly great darkness, it would have to be a powerful beacon! I have always wanted one of those "zillion-watt" flashlights - the kind that lights the whole garage when my wife sends me out there late at night. (I’m not afraid of spiders and snakes, really!) I have wanted one of those lights ever since the first time I stubbed my bare toe in the darkness.
The power in the message was that people who walked, and stumbled-around in darkness would now be walking in a great light. Jesus would bring the forgiveness of sin, and a new birth of eternal life and joy. That is great light that dispels the darkness!
Besides proclamation and power, the message was PERSONAL. The angel said, "For unto YOU..." The question is always, "Has He been born in YOU." We sing the old spiritual, "It’s not my brother, nor my sister, but it’s ME, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer!"