Summary: The Christmas touch is the touch of God that includes touches of many kinds that will help us, and other, experience God¡¦s touch on our lives.
As I began to write this morning’s message, I became very much aware of the fact that for the first time since Vietnam, we are at war during the Christmas season. I don’t remember having this same kind of awareness as a child and young teenager during that time although as I look out this morning I know many here do remember those 8 or 9 Christmas seasons that went by during that terrible and divisive conflict.
Now while we have not been at war during the holiday season for a while, others nations have been. One such nation is Israel. Israelis live under the constant threat of war as well as terrorism and this morning I share a story that has brought a new understand to our text ¡V Psalm 23.
Ron and Joke Jones are missionaries to Israel and some of the recent attacks in Jerusalem have hit close to where they live. A friend recently shared this observation that reminded the Jones’ of "God’s care for us."
"She watched a shepherd with a flock of sheep, fairly close to the area where the guns were fired. She related how every time the shots rang out, the sheep scattered and got frightened and how the shepherd touched each of them with his staff and spoke calmly to them.
She told me how each time this happened the sheep settled down immediately because they obviously trusted the shepherd. And then another shot sounded, and the same routine happened again.
Each time the sheep needed the shepherd to reorient them again to reassure them that they were safe." They concluded, "We are like those sheep, and our Shepherd is continually reaching and touching us with His staff and speaking words of calm and comfort to us."
The LORD is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.
2 _ He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4 _ Even when I walk
through the dark valley of death,„T
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 _ You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You welcome me as a guest,
anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.
Can you picture that shepherd and those sheep in that modern battle zone? Can you picture people running around in a frenzy not in the heart of Jerusalem that the Jones¡¦ speak of, but here on the streets and roads of Northeast Indiana? Running around in a frenzy because of the demands, pressures, and expectations of this holiday season? Running around in a frenzy because of the economic uncertainties of our current economic situation? Running around in a frenzy because of the emptiness and anxiety within? And like those Israeli sheep, our shepherd wants to touch us with his staff and words of comfort, but will we let him?
For the remainder of this year we are going to ponder, and I hope experience, the Christmas touch of God as we are challenged to reach out and touch others as God¡¦s people by making Christ like connections during the holidays.
We are going to spend some time visiting with several persons who are central to the Christmas story. Next week we will begin with a visit to the innkeeper. The following week we will pay a visit to those shepherds that we have a new perspective on today. After that, we will be visiting with our children and some of their friends as they lead us in worship and we might, might squeeze in a quick visit with Joseph.
Then, on the Sunday before Christmas, we will pay a visit to Mary and possibly Zechariah as well. Finally we will conclude 2001 with a visit to Simeon and, instead of celebrating communion on the first Sunday of 2002, take time to do so as we close out 2001.
But, this morning we are going back to the time of King David and ancient Israel to remind us that as the shepherd¡¦s touch is vital and necessary for the sheep, God¡¦s touch is vital to us today and in turn, others, as we reach out to touch others in Christ¡¦s name.
At Christmas time, God began to touch us in a new way by sending us Jesus Christ. He is the great shepherd and in this best-known Psalm, there are several ways that God, through Christ, touches us.
God touches us by providing for our needs because as the Psalmist says, The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.