Summary: For the Sunday after Christmas I asked this question..."what if no one told the story? What if we gave up? If those who came before us had given up we would not be where we are now.
“What if we give Up?
Most of us have seen this movie more times than we can count. George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart falls into some financial trouble and not knowing what to do, he suddenly wishes he had never been born. Clarence, his guardian angel decides to grant his wish. It’s just a movie of course but it brings us to an important question.... What if you and I had never been born? What if the words we have spoken all these years were never heard and what if the actions we have taken to help others never really happened? Would our lives have made any difference at all?
The shepherds may have wondered whether they were important enough to really make a difference in the world. An interesting survey was done.... Church members were asked which character in the Christmas story do you most identify with? Mary? Joseph? The shepherds? The wise men? More people gave the answer “shepherds” than any other character.
The shepherds were the first to hear the story. God gave this first announcement; one people had been waiting on for several thousand years-and who did he decide to deliver it to first??? The shepherds! Verse 8. Simply says “there were shepherds living in the fields nearby.” Beyond that we know nothing else about them. The first Shepherd in the Bible was a man named Abel. There are many others... Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Amos, David-all were shepherds. God calls himself a shepherd. And you and I are called sheep---not exactly a compliment by the way.
By the time we get to the first century A.D., shepherds were no longer in the same class of people. They had in a sense been demoted. These are a few things we know about shepherds in the first century.
• Shepherds were considered unclean. As a result they had been banned from the temple and the synagogue.
• Shepherds lived a life of isolation. They were very transient. Because their flock needed grass and fresh water they never stayed in one place for long.
• Shepherds were often not trusted. They often stole sheep. They were suspected of stealing from others and because they often were not truthful, they were not even allowed to speak in a courtroom.
So God entrusted the greatest message ever sent from heaven to a bunch of smelly, unclean, dishonest shepherds. But God has always chosen people to do things that you and I probably would never have picked.
• He chose David to be King-a man who committed murder and adultery.
• He chose Hosea who was married to a prostitute.
• He chose the apostle Paul who was also a murderer and described himself as chief of sinners.
And He also chose Mary. She was young, possibly only 14. Just really getting started in life and God said I will choose you to give birth to the son of God. Mary wrote a song? It is found in Luke chapter 1… she says that Jesus has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. The apostle Paul tells us that God has a message for sinners just like you and me. “Everyone matters to Jesus.”
The shepherds had some characteristics/qualities that are very important.
1. They were committed. Luke 2:8. They were so committed to their career they rarely left their work. They worked the first shift, the second shift; then the third. This was a 24/7 deal for them. They literally lived with the sheep. Here they were as the Bible says, keeping watch. It was often the case that different flocks would come together at night and would all come into the same fold. They were surrounded by what is known as a sheep pen, a wall of rocks with one opening and the shepherd would lie across the entrance to make sure none of the sheep could get out and that no predators could get in. For either to happen they would have to go through the shepherd.
2. They were human. There are a lot like us or we are a lot like them. The Bible says when they received this announcement they were terrified. Verse 9. Remember, for over 400 years, God has not spoken. Then suddenly out of nowhere, the heavens light up and God speaks. They were terrified. All of us would be as well. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.” Then the shepherds went, “whew”…..that’s the way it was interpreted in the Hebrew because they’re like you know I remember the time you spoke to Sodom and Gomorrah and it didn’t go so well for them. I can understand why they were afraid.