Summary: This sermon uses a life-sized nativity on stage and strips away all of the non-essentials to find the real reason for the season... Jesus
The Reason for the Season
This sermon was instigated by things I have heard this past week on T.V., on t radio, and in listening to others talking.
I feel that there are some misunderstandings that MUST be addressed. This week I have heard personalities in media who have said things like...
"Helping the poor and needy is what the season is all about."
"Spending time with friends and family is what Christmas is about."
"Christmas is for children."
"This is the season for giving."
The world has grabbed onto these externals and have made them the reason Christmas.
But in doing so the true reason for the season, what Christmas truly is " about"... has either been overshadowed by the externals or pushed to the background or abandoned all together.
As your pastor and as a Christian; I feel that it is my responsibility to something. I want to say it with a visual... a children's message?
Here I have a nativity scene... or manger scene.
It includes the Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, and animals.
They are all parts of this scene but they are not all... what the season is about.
They are symbolic and meaningful… but not the reason for the season.
The manger scene just isn't complete without them... Is it? But they are not stars... not what the scene is all about.
They are only important because they remind us where they were...a ban place where animals were kept... primitive, stinky, dirty, and humble.
They teach us about Jesus' humble birth.
They are only important because of their relationship to the baby.
We don't know which ones or how many.
Maybe donkey because beast of burden and probably carried Mary.
How about a horse? A cow?
We are pretty sure there were not any pigs.
We also think of camels because the Wise men rode them.
But were there any animals? The scripture does not mention even one.
What if there were no cows… would the message change?
What if no sheep… or camels… or any animals at all? Would the message be lost?
They are not necessary. They are good... but not necessary.
They represent the “externals” of Christmas.
Modern day equivalents might be... Christmas parties, Christmas break from school... even nativity sets...
They are the peripherals... good, add a lot, make it special... BUT NOT THE REASON FOR THE SEASON.
Again, we can't imagine a manger scene without them.
They were the first to hear the proclamation of the birth. The first to hear a Christmas carol
Let me tell you a bit about shepherds. They were a ragtag collection uneducated, smelly, low-class, social and religious outcasts, a bunch shepherds. First of all, they were religious outcasts. According to Jewish religious law, these men were unclean. Their line of work prevented them from participating in the feasts and holy days that made up the Jewish religious calendar. Why? Well, somebody had to watch the sheep. When everyone else was making the trip to Jerusalem to make sacrifices at the temple, or participate in one of the annual feasts, they were out in the fields, watching over the sheep.
Not only that, but shepherds were borderline social outcasts. Since they were constantly on the move to find new pasture for their flocks, they were looked with suspicion. Kind of the way people today might look at gypsies, or carnival workers. They were often accused of being thieves. If something came missing - it must have been those shepherds. They were not permitted give testimony in a legal proceeding, because their word wasn't considered trustworthy. And on top of all that, they really didn't have much contact with other people. Most of the time, they were "living out in the fields" (v. 8). It was not a 40-hour a week job. They didn't come home at night. They were with the sheep 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
They are important... but only because of their relationship to the baby.
They are there to teach us that God sent his Son to the common man.
Shepherds were as common and lowly as a person could be.
God did not come to the Blue-Bloods, the royals, the upper-class.
Jesus did not start out with or aspire to be with the cream of society.
Instead he chose to spend his life among the salt of the earth.
The shepherds are YOU AND ME… Jesus does not come to us because we are worthy or special… he comes to us INSPITE of who we are… SINNERS!
Still, while the shepherds teach a great truth… they are not the reason for the season.
If you take away the shepherds, or swap them for farmers, or merchants, or beggars… the message does not change… the message of Christmas is not lost.