Summary: The antidote to insignificance is to celebrate the presence of God in the ordinary moments of life
This is a manuscript, and not a transcript of this message. The actual presentation of the message differed from the manuscript through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is possible, and even likely that there is material in this manuscript that was not included in the live presentation and that there was additional material in the live presentation that is not included in this manuscript.
In 2012 NASA created an image called the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field that was created by combining 10 years’ worth of images from the Hubble Space Telescope that covered only this small portion of the sky.
[Show Hubble eXtreme Deep Field image #1]
This represents only one thirty-two millionth of the sky.
Here is what the image that was created looks like.
[Show Hubble eXtreme Deep Field Image #2]
With the exception of a few stars in the image, every one of those points of light is a galaxy and there are about 5,500 of them in the image. Some are small galaxies that are billions of light years away and others are similar to our galaxy, the Milky Way.
As a result of that work scientists estimate that there could be as many as 2 trillion galaxies in the universe. Given that scientists estimate that there are between 100 billion and 400 billion stars just in our own Milky Way galaxy, you can see that God was right when He said that the stars in the sky are far too numerous to count.
The nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way is the Andromeda galaxy, which you can actually see with the naked eye on a clear moonless night. It is 2.5 million light years from earth and contains approximately one trillion stars.
So let’s put this in perspective. Each of us is one of about 7.5 billion people here on earth, which is one of 8 – or 9 if you count Pluto – planets in our solar system, which is one of 400 billion stars in the Milky Way, which is one of 2 trillion galaxies in the universe. Doesn’t that make you feel just a bit insignificant?
[Show graphic of our significance in the universe]
But even if we didn’t know all of that, there are other factors in our lives that can make us feel insignificant, too:
• Some of you children and teens might feel like you’re too young to be significant. And at the other end of the spectrum, some of you who are senior citizens might feel like you’re too old to be significant.
• Some of you might feel insignificant because you don’t think the job you have is important.
• Some of you might feel insignificant because of your physical limitations.
• Some of you may feel insignificant because you don’t make very much money or you don’t have much in the way of financial resources.
• And it’s even possible to feel like we’re insignificant to God, perhaps because of some sin in our life that makes us feel like we just don’t measure up.
This morning, as we continue our series titled “The Christmas Dilemma”, we’re going to focus on a group of people who had to deal with their dilemma of insignificance that first Christmas. We’ll find their story in Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus. I’m going to begin reading in verse 1 of Luke chapter 2, so that we’ll have the entire context, but we’ll focus primarily on the account of the shepherds beginning in verse 8.
[Read Luke 2:1-20]
Most of the people in the Christmas story had reasons to feel insignificant. As we’ve seen the last two weeks, there was nothing notable about Mary and Joseph. They were probably just a couple of unknown teenagers from a small town that had a bad reputation. God did not choose them because they had anything to offer to Him other than their humility and their availability.
But if there was any group in that culture that had good reason to feel insignificant, it had to be the shepherds. They were far from the clean, nicely dressed young men that have been sentimentalized on our Hallmark Christmas cards.
Although there had been a time when shepherds enjoyed a good reputation, that was no longer the case at the time of Jesus’ birth. Because they lived and worked out in the pastures, and the sheep needed constant care and protection, they couldn’t keep the Sabbath or engage in the cleansing procedures in the ceremonial law. So they were considered by the Jews to be unclean. With the exception of lepers, they were considered to be the lowest class of people. They were regarded as liars and thieves and so they were not permitted to testify in a court of law.