Summary: Finding ourselves in the story of the shepherds and responding by worshiping God
Worship Like the Shepherds ¡V Luke 2:8-20
Steve Simala Grant ¡V Dec. 8/9, 2001
I want you to think about God. Just for a moment, concentrate on God in your mind. Use your imagination if you like, or reflect on God¡¦s characteristics, or meditate on all that God has done for you.
Now think about how much more God is than all that you have just imagined. Expand your conceptions beyond space and our universe. Outside of time. Unlimited power.
And now, take all of that and cram it into a newborn infant.
That is Christmas. God become man. The eternal, unchanging, all knowing all powerful ever present God of the universe, born as a human child just like each of us. Doesn¡¦t that sort of blow your mind? Doesn¡¦t it fill you with a sense of awe, wonder, at the incomprehensibility of the whole scenario?
What should be our response to this unthinkable truth? I¡¦ve been reflecting this week on the Christmas season, and on its place in our culture and in our faith. I¡¦ve been thinking about what our response should be to God as we celebrate the birth of our saviour. And I¡¦ve come to one conclusion: our response must be one of worship. Worship of the Christ child, yes, but more so, worship of God become flesh.
And yet it is sometimes difficult to worship at Christmas. There are the innumerable distractions ¡V of the busyness and hectic schedules, of presents and trees and parties and family gatherings and increased stresses we encounter at this time of the year. And there is the familiarity of it all ¡V most of us could probably recreate the entire story, could sing many of the Christmas carols by heart, could even get a large number of the details correct ¡V simply because we have heard it over and over and over. The familiarity can desensitize us to the wonder.
So I want to lead us to pause. At least for the length of time we spend in our services through this advent season. To simply pause and worship. We are going to re-tell the story throughout our Advent and Christmas time, with a special focus on how those in the story responded to God becoming flesh. My goal for this mini-series is that we would learn more about how to worship ¡V that as we walk through the familiar accounts, we would see ourselves in the story, we would see our journey reflected in the participants in the first Christmas, and that we would learn to worship as they did. By the end of this season, my prayer is that each of us would be able to look back and say ¡§I¡¦m like the shepherds, or like the Magi, or like Joseph,¡¨ and I want to worship my Lord like they worshipped the Christ-child. Today we focus on the shepherds: Luke 2:8-20.
1. The Shepherds: who they were.
We have an image of the shepherds as clean-cut, respectable, hard-working people just peacefully minding their own business out in the fields. That isn¡¦t entirely accurate¡K
Leon Morris: ¡§As a class shepherds had a bad reputation. The nature of their calling kept them from observing the ceremonial law which meant so much to religious people. More regrettable was their unfortunate habit of confusing ¡¥mine¡¦ with ¡¥thine¡¦ as they moved about the country. They were considered unreliable and were not allowed to give testimony in the law-courts.¡¨ (Luke, Tyndale NT Commentary, p. 93). In other words, they were generally regarded as grubby, thieving low-lifes. There wasn¡¦t a lot of money in sheep, and the nomadic nature of their occupation created opportunity for theft which apparently many of them took advantage of.
In fact, the Biblical text in Luke tells us that they were ¡§living in the fields.¡¨ They were homeless ¡V wanderers ¡V in some cases scavengers. And they were well down the social ladder. They were likely hard men, calloused, rough, certainly dirty and likely uncouth.
And yet, to them God revealed the entrance of God into humanity with the most clarity. The most fanfare. Think about it ¡V Joseph had a dream. The innkeeper was surprised. The Magi followed a simple star, and only after they show up did the theologians have a go at deciphering the location. Mary?- you could make a good case that she had more information and clarity than the shepherds: it was actually the angel Gabriel that visited her and laid out the plan. And I would grant you that point: but the shepherds got a visit from ¡§a great company of the heavenly host¡¨ ¡V they got in on the heavenly party itself! They certainly got a glimpse of the fanfare and the celebration in the heavenly realms that surrounded the birth of Jesus. And isn¡¦t that just like God? Doesn¡¦t it confirm the heart of the message of Christ¡¦s coming into the world ¡V that He came for sinners ¡V that He didn¡¦t come to the elite of humanity, but to the rest of us. In fact, He came for you and I.