Dec 16, 2019
The Christmas Story, Pt. 3
Angels, Shepherds & a Baby
By Louie Marsh 12-15-2019
Cartoon Intro – last one calander.
We left Mary and Joseph in a small cave with Mary going into labor. The exhausted young couple had their faith in God and perhaps a midwife to help them in that cold dark night.
1) God loves to start SMALL.
10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.” Zechariah 4:10 (ESV)
1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. Isaiah 42:1-3 (ESV)
Not far away there were people also near their caves and watching over their sheep. They were shepherds, nomads who followed their sheep across the grasslands of Judea. They were generally scorned and looked down upon by most towns people. They had no real roots, seldom married and when they did they would scrape the soil off a hillside and carve a cave into the soft white rock beneath. There in these little apartments these men raised their families away from the towns.
The shepherds were scattered around their flocks who were grouped together. Some would doze while others watched their flocks. As far as they knew this was just another cold dark night in Judea. There no signs of anything unusual.
Until a bright light split the sky. It was brighter than daylight almost like looking into the mid-day sun. The sleeping shepherds were jolted awake and all of them hid their eyes in fear in the folds of their robes. After a moment the light faded a bit and there before them an angel appeared standing in the sky.
2) Christmas is centered upon the GOSPEL.
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1 (ESV)
10 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. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:10-14 (ESV)
While the shepherds stared in shock, and their sheep began running in small circles the angel spoke. “Do not fear,” the angel said slowly, his words seeming to echo off both sides of the valley. “Listen, I bring you good news of great joy, which is in store for the entire nation.”
Good news? That would have made any first century Jew sit straight up. They had been taught for centuries to fear the judgement and vengeance of God coming from the skies. But now, despite all the rabbi’s warnings, good news? In both fear and hope they stared into the sky.
“A savior who is the Lord Messiah, was born to you today in the city of David. This will serve as a sign to you, you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and cradled in a manger.”
A savior? Lord Messiah? This was not just good news, it was the best possible news – Messiah had come! The hope of Israel, could this be possible?
In the blink of an eye the angel was joined in the sky by hundreds of others, who appeared brightly in the night sky. They did not sing, but as the Scripture says they said – likely chanted – their famous message. “Glory to God in the heavens above, and on earth peace to men of good will.”
While all of this was happening Mary and Joseph had finished getting through the birth. Baby Jesus was finally wrapped in swaddling as was the custom of the day. Swaddling was narrow strips of cloth which were wrapped tightly, but not too tightly, around the baby to keep them still and comfortable and quiet once they were cleaned up after birth.
They young couple stared at the child in wonder. Smiling and laughing and quietly giving thanks. Mary was exhausted but fairly glowing with joy. Joseph had never felt such gratitude to God not only for the birth of this miracle child, but for such a wife as Mary.
Meanwhile the shepherds were talking. The angels had gone as quickly and as mysteriously as they had appeared. The stunned men talked for a while, trying to make sense of what had happened and what they should do next.
They all knew what had to be done. Leaving a few unlucky souls to watch the sheep (probably the younger men) the rest of them dashed off to Bethlehem. They were all talking over each other, telling over and over again the story of what they had seen and heard. Moving through the night it didn’t take them too long to make it to town.
3) Jesus Is ESSENTIAL to real spiritual life.
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. John 6:35-38 (ESV)
They entered Bethlehem, which in Hebrew is Beth Lecham – house of bread. They didn’t know it but the child they were searching for would, in a little over three decades, confound his listeners by telling them that He was the bread of life. The house of bread would bring the bread of life to the world. And somehow these humble men were chosen to be part of it.
This ragged and somewhat malodorous band of men raced through the town. People were confounded both by their appearance, as shepherds never came to town at this time of day, but also by what they said. Some kind of wild story about angels and the Messiah and a baby. I’ll bet most of the people who saw them were pretty sure they were drunk and ought to be ashamed of themselves.
Finally someone mentioned a pregnant young woman they had seen going around back of the Inn. Off they went and finding the Inn pounded on the door asking the owner about a pregnant woman. Had she had her baby? Where was she? The angels had sent them.
The owner directed them to go around back to the cave and warned them sternly to be quiet and behave themselves as proper Jews in the face of a new born child. Smiling and nodding the shepherds quickly agreed and then hustled off to the cave.
When they saw the couple in the cave the shepherds suddenly became shy. Several moved forward and quietly introduced themselves to Joseph. He greeted them but wasn’t sure about all this. Mary overheard and told him to let them see the child.
4) One real response to the Gospel is TELLING OTHERS.
16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them…20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:16-18, 20 (ESV)
Hands clasped to their chests and heads nodding in prayer the shepherds slowly crowded around and gazed in awe at the baby. They told Mary and Joseph of the angels and what had been said. They gave thanks for being able to see the child and told them that they had come to worship him. Mary held baby Jesus up as the shepherds prayed to God and gave thanks to the child for coming to save them and the whole nation.
Mary and Joseph were amazed that so many people now knew their secret. Finally the shepherds followed the custom of unannounced visitors. They apologized for intruding speaking to Joseph since speaking directly to Mary would have been immodest. Once again they thank him for allowing them in and then slowly left, praising God and awakening anyone they found on their way telling them the long awaited Messiah had come.
Mary and Joseph talked as they watched the little Messiah sleeping in her arms. Finally they too fell asleep, exhausted by all they had seen and felt on what must have been the most amazing day of their lives. I don’t know if they dreamed, but even the wildest dream wouldn’t live up to what had happened or what was about to happen to them.
5) Another excellent Christmas idea: MEDITATE on all this.
19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19 (ESV)
15 I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. Psalm 119:15 (ESV)