Summary: Originally delivered at a high school convocation in 1995, another pastor recently asked me for these notes. Just as there was a lot of commotion surrounding the birth of God’s Son, we need to make a lot of noise about him today.
The Night was Not Silent!
As we approach the celebration of the birth of Christ, the beautiful scenes depicted on countless Christmas cards swirl in our heads: A quiet winter’s night; a celestial spotlight from a star shining down on a lowly stable; a reverent birth; livestock in awe; shepherds in humble worship; a drummer boy drumming; angels hovering nearby; and three kings on camels traveling from afar bearing expensive gifts. One of the best loved carols solidifies this picture of the beauty of Christmas: "Silent night, holy night, all is calm ...sleep in heavenly peace."
I want to tell you that the night of Jesus’ birth was far from silent. And more than 2000 years later, we need to make some noise about Him now!
1. It was not silent in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7)
A Roman census and taxing forced the town to burst at its seams. Neither the locals nor the visitors would have been very happy about the decree. Tempers were short, words were spoken in anger, people were taken advantage of, and rooms were at a premium. Mary was obviously in labor when she and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. But there was no hospital. There was no birthing center. There were no vacancies anywhere in town. There was just a stable, full of the other travelers’ sweaty, tired animals. Joseph had to be completely frustrated at the circumstances. Was this any way to celebrate the first Christmas?
Ever have Christmases like that? Too many expectations, too little time, too few dollars, too many hurt feelings. Despite our best efforts to hit the artificially high goal of a perfect Christmas, we always seem to miss the mark. Any number of things spoils our preconceived notions of the holiday:
Not enough money;
Ruined relationships; or
The illness or death of a loved one.
Another Christmas winds up being scuttled. But it does not have to be that way! Let’s take our eyes and emotions off all the trappings of a secular holiday and return to the holy day where we not only remember a manger, but we remember a cross, a tomb, and a resurrection.
Let’s not be afraid or ashamed to make some noise about the wonder and blessing of the coming of God in the flesh! Let’s celebrate Bethlehem!
2. It was not silent in the Judean hills (Luke 2:8-12, 16-20)
Shepherds were despised as thieves unfit for more respectable occupations.
Because they did not fit into society, shepherds were shunned by the mainstream population. It’s sad that the very ones who raised and cared for some of the lambs that would be offered as sacrifices in Jerusalem were considered misfits and outcasts.
But not by God. The shepherds were the first to hear the Gospel message. They were the first to lay eyes on their Messiah. After receiving the angelic birth announcement of the Savior, they had to find him.
Most people want to celebrate with others when there is good news in the community. What do people do when a war ends? They gather together to celebrate. What do they do when their favorite sports team wins the championship game? They gather together to celebrate. What did the shepherds do? They had to find this baby!
They were first people to share the good news of Jesus’ arrival. After leaving the stable, they could not be quiet. They broadcast their experiences to anyone and everyone who would listen.
Are we as excited as those despised shepherds about Jesus? Are we telling others of the King who came, conquered, and will return? They proclaimed Christ to their community. Let’s make some noise about Jesus where we live.
3. It was not silent in realms of heaven (Luke 2:13-14)
Have you ever been told something so thrilling that you could not be quiet? There had to be a party going on in heaven!
Angels by their nature worship, serve, and represent God. Now the promise of the ages to all mankind had come.
They could not shut up about it! The celebration overflowed, spilling out from the eternal heaven to the very place where their Master entered time and space and became one of us. Not only did the shepherds receive a birth announcement, they were treated to a celestial concert never before performed.
When we watch the story of Jesus’ birth, there are always a few angels showing up at this part. But we really cannot grasp the picture of what the shepherds experienced. The angelic appearance was sudden and unexpected. They came as “a great company of the heavenly host.” Godet wrote, “The troop of angels issues forth from the depths of that invisible world which surrounds us on every side.” Many Old Testament passages note the enormity of the multitude of heavenly beings. On that first Christmas night there were not just a few angels making their appearance to the shepherds. No, the sky would have been filled with praise from horizon to horizon!