Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Gospel to Shepherds

It's Wednesday, Day 25 of Advent.  This is from the Gospel of Luke and it is something that I've thought about often.  How we as ordinary "nobodies"... not known outside our family, community, friends... How we fit into God's great plans to "be" the Gospel to others.  It struck me as I read this account taht shares about the Gospel to the Shepherds.

Luke 2:7-20
7  ...she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
9  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
10  But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
11  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
12  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
13  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14  "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
15  When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
16  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
17  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,
18  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
19  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
20  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Giving gifts, receiving gifts, sending gifts, buying gifts...we use the phrases at this time of the year often.  We sent our gifts through the mail, ordered them on Amazon, had them shipped to our house, sent overseas, across the country...gifts moving seems very normal at this time of the year.

That first Christmas, the gift of God came without fanfare.  Jesus was born to Mary in a manger stall...and no one but Joseph witnessed the birth - until God decided sent His angel chorus into the nighttime skies to a group of nobodies.  Think about it:
  • ·         Tell the news to Herod's court?
  • ·         Send an Angel to the Pharisees and High Priest?
  • ·         Tell Bethlehem’s mayor so he can tell the town?
  • ·         Well, at least the Innkeeper and his wife can see?

No, it's to ordinary laborers...shepherds...the minimum wage earners of the first century that God tells first.
Shepherds who had the least "witness believability" of anyone in that society.  Anyone else...a governing authority, a priest, a religious leader, a shop owner, or tradesman...would have had a hearing among the people of the area...but not Shepherds.
Nobodies...We might as well hear the voice through the drive up loud speaker saying, "Do you want fries with that?"  You hear the words, but you don't think, “gee I’d like to meet that person, they must be important”.  

Shepherds...REALLY?  WHY THEM?

It hits me that two significant things are related by Luke.  First, even though they were  startled, even afraid,  what they saw amazed them and they were willing to go and seek out the news for themselves.

Luke 2:15  When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." 

Their response was more than just a curiosity - startled by the angelic host praising God, their night turned from the hum-drum to the amazing.  Yet they didn’t settle for a visitation, they decided they need to seek and become visitors to this news.  It’s one thing to hear the words of God, it’s quite another to go after what God’s word says and own it for ourselves.

Secondly, and perhaps even more important, they returned to their work...changed...willing to share the good news...and thus entered into Heaven's hall of fame as the first human beings to declare “Immanuel” - God is with us.

Luke 2:17  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child... The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

We don't need to have a PhD, be a Pastor, get a Seminary degree, have a Masters on the wall...or, if I might say so boldly, even graduate from High School...to be a person God can shows things to, and ask to tell these things of God to the world around us. We share with others what we are convinced we know...and we know what we experience.  It’s those experiences that can never be taken away from us.   We may be nobodies, but God delights in showing His greatness through weakness.  

That's the key, there are no insignificant people in the world...not them, not you, not me.  We are all known by God and we are all cared for by Him.  This is the Gospel, good news that began with Shepherds.  
This was God’s gift to them – and to us – that first night.  It wasn’t the elite that got it, it was the nobodies!  The power is in the Gospel, God's word, not in us.


Peace

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