Sunday, December 22, 2013

The 4th Sunday of Advent: We are just like the shepherds

 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, 
keeping watch over their flock by night.  
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, 
and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, 
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  
And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in 
swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude 
of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 
“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, 
which the Lord has made known to us.”  
And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  
And when they saw it, they made known the saying 
that had been told them concerning this child.  
And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising 
God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
- Luke 2:8-20

This week I listened to a sermon by Matt Chandler (The Village Church). He focused on this passage, and opened by saying, "The only group that makes any sense in this narrative are the angels. It's not Mary and Joseph (broke peasants from Gaililee), and definitely not the dirty, nomadic shepherds. 

As far as heralds go, Mary and Joseph were not even in their home town, among family and friends to announce their new baby. God had to be their herald. And He "heralded" just as you would expect him to, by lighting up the sky with a choir of heavenly Angels. But his audience:  a gang of outcasts. The shepherds are the lowest of the low, most likely thieves and addicts, living on the outskirts of Bethlehem. This is the last thing they would ever expect to see. But the sky explodes and God shouts, "GOOD NEWS--for all people! And I'm going to start by telling you guys."

Chandler reminds us that "God brings glory to himself by being the power, authority and the presence by which all things happen. He calls among the weak and the lowly so that He is most glorified." The people God calls often don't make any sense to us, in human terms. We are bitter, liars, full of pride and contempt. But God does this as his way of saying, "Without me, you don't have a chance. Allow me to redeem and rescue. I will not go back on my promises, no matter how small."

And so the shepherds become the first to hear the GOOD NEWS. And the first to respond. After recovering from the biggest shock of their lives, they go and see this little baby, who the angels told them is CHRIST the LORD. They did not deserve this honor, not by any earthly standards. But the Lord of all Heaven is the One who chooses  who and what will bring Him glory.

Not a single one of us deserves to hear the Angels sing, "Good News of Great Joy!" We are just like the shepherds. Let us not keep our ears closed or our eyes to the ground. 


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