Sunday, December 23 2018

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TEXT: Luke 2:8-17

INTRODUCTION: There are countless lessons to be learned as we consider the story of Christ’s coming to the manger in Bethlehem. One of the great lessons, one that is often overlooked, revolves around the people to whom the Lord first made the announcement. He made the announcement to the shepherds. What can be learned from this? Why did God choose these people? For those answers, let’s take a closer look at Luke 2.

THE ACTIVITY OF THE SHEPHERDS

Have you ever encountered a time in your life when you simply did not know what to do? As we come to the close of another year, maybe you currently find yourself in that place. I don’t know all that was going on in the lives of these men at this time, but one thing I do know, is that they were doing what they knew they ought to be doing. In verse 8, we read    “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”

God reveals His unknown will to those who are doing His known will. In Psalms 143:8 David penned these words: “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I put my trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.” God came to a group of men with some instructions about the future.   Isn’t it interesting that it was a group of men who were doing what they knew to do in the present?

 THEIR ATTENTION TO THE STATEMENT

As verses 9-10 bring these shepherds into the story, we find an angel speaking to them. In a moment, we will take a closer look at the message, but for now, let’s focus on the fact that the shepherds actually listen to what the angel is saying.

We live in a very busy, and a very noisy society. Unless it’s on purpose, there is seldom a time in our lives when things around us are actually quiet. In the car, we turn on the radio. In the house, we turn on the television. When we are not somewhere stationary, we have our ear buds and phones, and just to make sure that nothing ever silences the noise around us, our ear buds are even wireless! Some of us can’t even go to sleep without some kind of noise finding its way into our ears.

Yet, scripture reminds us in Psalms 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God….” I wonder how many times we fail to hear what God is trying to tell us because we are never quiet enough? (We must remember that He speaks in a still, small voice.) As God speaks to us through His Word, through preaching and teaching and through His Spirit, let’s be sure that we give attention to what He is saying.

Let me challenge you, take some time this Christmas, in the quietness of your own heart, to listen to Him speak. Turn down the Christmas music, turn off the Christmas movie and separate yourself for a while from all the people that Christmas might have brought into your life. If you’ll listen, you might just hear Him speak. That little baby in that manger might just say to you, “I love you so much that I gave my Son to die on the cross in your place.”

 THEIR APPREHENSION DUE TO SIGHT

Notice the response of the shepherds when the angel appeared. In verse 9 we read, “…And they were sore afraid.” Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed? If so, you are in good company. Moses was overwhelmed when God called out to him from a burning bush. Noah was certainly overwhelmed when God told him to build a boat. When Gideon heard the words, “Thou mighty man of valor”, he was obviously overwhelmed. In the early chapter of Joshua, God kept telling Joshua not to fear because he was overwhelmed.

We oftentimes have a complete misunderstanding of boldness. We see people that are almost brazen about things, and we wonder why we don’t have that. Can I submit that sometimes, people present themselves as being bold because they are full of themselves and independent of God? They never seem to be apprehensive, but that is not always a good thing. These shepherds were very apprehensive when they heard the message from the angels.

THEIR AWE OF THE SPECTACLE

As I read different commentaries about this passage, I kept finding the mention of the word awe. These shepherds were in awe of what was transpiring in their lives. Awe is not a bad thing, as a matter of fact, Psalm 33:8 commands us to be in awe of God.  “Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.”

 Are you in awe of God today? As you consider that baby in that manger, does He still cause you to wonder? Think about the focus on that manger and the awe of those that came to see the Christ child. Fast forward just thirty-three short years, and you’ll find no one “in awe”. As a matter of fact, those who surrounded the Lamb of God hanging on the cross hated Him and wanted to kill Him.

Too often, the same is true today. The longer we have known whom Jesus is, the easier it can be to lose our awe of Him. We all face the danger of becoming so familiar with the Saviour that He’s just another person in our list of contacts, and time with Him is just another event on our calendar. As we turn our attention to Bethlehem’s manger this Christmas, let’s be amazed by the truth that God loves us enough to send His precious Son down to the earth to die in our place.

THEIR ACTIONS THAT WERE SHOWN

So what? An angel shows up in the middle of nowhere, the glory of the Lord shows all around and a Saviour is born. The shepherds make their way to Bethlehem’s manger and see the baby firsthand. Were it today, they probably would have bought a T-shirt and shot a selfie, just to prove that they were there. (Instagram doesn’t lie!)

How was this event going to impact their lives? Were they just going to return to their sheep, and over time, forget what had transpired? No, scripture tells us in Verse 17,   “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” This miraculous event so impacted the shepherds that everywhere they went, they told people about it. Their lives had been changed! They had been given a different perspective. They wanted others to know what had taken place.

In a day or so, Christmas will be over for most of us. The gifts will all be opened, the decorations will come down (much faster than they went up), the tree will be discarded, and we’ll all go back to work. In much the same way, those shepherds probably went back to their sheep, but they went back different people. What had happened in that manger had transformed them. Oh that Christmas, 2018, would change us as well!

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