Summary: I think the shepherds set us a great example, and there are 3 things we ought to notice about what they did.
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
CENTRAL CHRISTIAN, BROWNSVILLE, TX
A. If you were to choose a character in the Christmas story that you would like to be, which one would you pick? Joseph? Mary? One of the shepherds? A wise man? Or, maybe an angel?
I think I’d like to have been the angel who told the shepherds about the birth of Jesus. What a privilege that would have been - to make that announcement, & then to be surrounded by a heavenly host saying "Glory to God in the highest, & peace on earth, good will toward men."
B. Or maybe a shepherd? Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have been one of those shepherds that night? Here you are, on the hillside, everything is quiet & peaceful. Suddenly, the sky is aglow with heavenly light, & you hear the news that the world has been waiting for for a thousand years.
How would you have reacted if you’d been there? Luke tells us that the shepherds at first responded with fear. They were afraid. I imagine that we would have been afraid, too.
Then it was over. The angels were gone. Listen to what Luke says happened next: "When the angels had left them & gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, `Let’s go to Bethlehem & see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’
"So they hurried off & found Mary & Joseph, & the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, & all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
"But Mary treasured up all these things & pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying & praising God for all the things they had heard & seen, which were just as they had been told" [Luke 2:15-20].
PROP. Now with this fresh in our minds, let’s consider this question, "What do you do when the angels are gone? What do you do when there is no more heavenly host? What do you do when Christmas is over?" I think the shepherds set us a great example, for there are 3 things to notice in this scripture.
I. THEY INVESTIGATED THE EVIDENCE
A. First of all, they investigated the evidence. Listen again to vs. 15. It says, "When the angels had left them & gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, `Let’s go to Bethlehem & see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’" They decided to check it out.
APPL. I think that one of the great weaknesses in the church today is that there are so few who are really checking things out. We just kind of believe whatever we’re told, without bothering to check the evidence.
But if the church is going to stand strong for the Lord until He comes, there will have to be Christians who know why they believe what they believe. It is not enough just to be told the story from the pulpit or hear it in a Sunday School class.
SUM. You need to check the evidence. You need to be able to give a defense for the faith that is in your heart. If you don’t, then you’re in danger of falling by the wayside.
B. ILL. Did you read the featured article on the Religion page in yesterday’s "Brownsville Herald?" In big headlines it proclaimed, "Scholars Debate the Virginity of Jesus’ Mother." Listen as I read part of that article to you.
"Some academics, theologians, clergy & churchgoers say the New Testament accounts of Mary’s virgin motherhood are myths, allegories, vestiges of an ancient pagan belief..." "And the Episcopal bishop...John Shelby Spong Jr., suggests that Mary was `a sexually violated teen-age girl.’ Insistence on her virginity, he says, is a sexist ploy by early church leaders to repress women."
It reports, "Some groups - such as the Jesus Seminar, a controversial collection of about 70 liberal Biblical scholars... - have made headlines lately with their denials of the Virgin Birth, the visit of the Three Wise Men, the flight of the holy family into Egypt." It goes on, "Still, (Bishop) Spong displays a nativity scene outside his church. `You don’t destroy symbols because they’re not literally, historically true,’ he says.
SUM. Now what is that article telling us? Well, that the Christmas story is not true. It quite plainly says that Biblical scholars reject what the Bible says about the birth of Jesus - that they consider it all a myth, an adaptation of some ancient pagan belief.
APPL. Now folks, most of us don’t really consider ourselves Biblical scholars, do we? We’re just Christians, trying to follow Jesus. We’ve always believed that the Bible is the Word of God, & what it says is true.