Summary: Freedom from the tyranny of evil came to us in the Person of Jesus Christ! God did not save us when Jesus died on the cross. He saved us when Jesus was born.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt made an important speech before Congress on January 6, 1941. After the war was over, he shared his vision of all people enjoying four basic freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Warren Wiersbe, conference speaker, author and pastor, adds a fifth freedom that he is convinced the world needs: freedom from self. We need to be free from our sinful nature and the tyranny of evil.
Freedom from the tyranny of evil came to us in the Person of Jesus Christ! God did not save us when Jesus died on the cross. He saved us when Jesus was born. The familiar words of our Lord who said, “It is finished” in his last moments of the infamous crucifixion spoke not only of Calvary’s moment, but echoed through time that redemptive plan that was at work the day of his birth. He reached even further back than that, as his heart spoke of the redemption of God that has been at work from the dawn of creation, in preparation for the moment when the parents of humanity, Adam and Eve, would fall from God’s favor through a disobedient act.
The presence of Freedom is to speak of the presence of God in Jesus. Freedom was wrapped in a blanket, lying in a manger. Freedom walked among the afflicted, the poor, and the dying. Freedom hung on a cross and on the third day declared, “Death will have no dominion over Me or you”. Freedom challenged Death to a dual – and Freedom won! Freedom is the unfailing, ever-present Christ in one’s life.
Freedom calls to us in the reality of our lives that things do not have to be the way they are; that God is the Master planner and we’re part of it!
We will look at this message through the lives of the lowly shepherds of today’s reading. Angels appearing to lowly shepherds sets the stage for three important messages about the Presence of Freedom.
1. FREEDOM comes through simple humility
Luke 2:15 – “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing which has happened, which the Lord has told us about”
(Slide) Bill Wilson is founder and Senior Pastor of Metro Ministries based out of New York City, ministering to the five boroughs of New York, with expanding ministry around the world. When Bill Wilson was a boy, he was walking with his mom one day and they sat on a culvert to rest. His mom then got up and told Bill to stay there until she came back. A man who was walking that way found Bill where his mom had left him sitting three days earlier. She had committed suicide. I remember Bill telling his story at a Salvation Army conference in Newark, NJ, how when he was 11 he went to a summer camp. The preacher invited anyone who wanted to know Jesus personally to kneel at the bench-altar they had set up in the front. Bill was overwhelmed with God’s presence and so he knelt at the front because he wanted to know Jesus. He said that when he knelt everyone else moved away from him. None of the counselors wanted to speak to this stinky, smelly kid with torn clothes but they spoke to all the other kids. They knelt and prayed with all the other children, but not with this Wilson kid. Bill decided that day that he would be a friend to those who had no friends. Over time Bill touched the lives of the marginalized and destitute. These would be his parish and he would be their pastor and friend. He lived in the same slum conditions of his parishioners. His home was an abandoned warehouse and his bed was a bug-infested mattress on the floor. The rats were regular companions of his nightly turn-in. Yet, Bill founded the biggest children’s ministry in the world. Quoting from his website we read that “Metro’s largest program by far is its Sunday School currently reaching over 20,000 children at 151 sites in the US, over 16,000 at 54 sites in the Philippines, and many others in various nations.” (BS)
What happened to Bill Wilson is what happened to the shepherds to whom the angels first declared that Messiah, Freedom, was born. Here were men who, by virtue of their trade, were not subject to status or honor. Singer/Songwriter Michael Card writes of “shepherds with sheep dung on their shoes’. These were despised by the orthodox community, meaning those who had an understanding of what constituted normal behaviour and acceptable beliefs, attitudes or conduct. What matters the pathetic opinion or heart of a shepherd? These would be the “street rats” of the children’s Disney Classic “Aladdin”.
The angels’ announcement “A Savior has been born to you” changed the way they looked at themselves so they could say with hope, “Let us go and see”. They saw the value that God saw in them, as did Bill Wilson when the “orthodox” community didn’t include him in their counsel and care. This picture of the shepherds is one of a people who held no pride near their hearts and in their dung-covered shoes they went to see the King!