One of our collection of as-yet unpublished Christmas resources.
This is written by LUKE TATTERSALL and first used Christmas Eve 1994
Source: Author – unpublished in Perspective
When you look at the Christmas story in the Bible there are a number of different CHARACTERS involved.
There is of course, JESUS – the main character. You also have MARY and JOSEPH who have fairly major parts.
But then there area a number of other people – perhaps not on CENTRE STAGE – but who still have an IMPORTANT PART to play in the story.
You have the WISE MEN who come from the EAST with GIFTS for Jesus. You have King HEROD who feels threatened by the birth of Jesus and tries to have him put to death.
And you also have the SHEPHERDS out in the field where the ANGELS appear to them on the night Jesus is born.
What I wanted to do tonight is have a look at their story – see what we can learn about Jesus and Christmas from what happens to these guys.
It is AMAZING how important the SHEPHERDS are to the story: – They were the FIRST ONES to be told of the birth of JESUS. – They were the FIRST ONES to see the new KING. – They were the FIRST ONES to tell others about the birth of Jesus.
But what’s even MORE AMAZING is how little we know about them: – We don’t know how many of them there were – We don’t know where they came from – We don’t even know their names
But these shepherds were REALLY IMPORTANT.
The importance of their part in the story is reflected in how often they are mentioned in the CHRISTMAS CAROLS: Of course there is: While Shepherds watch their flocks by night
But there’s also: Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn, The First Nowell, Silent Night – just to name a few all mentioning the SHEPHERDS.
So what was it that happened to the shepherds that night in the field?
OUT IN THE FIELDS * Shepherds in those days didn’t have it as easy as shepherds do today. They didn’t have FENCES like we do today so when you were looking after the sheep you actually had to spend the night in the open with them.
It was the shepherds job to keep the sheep together. It was the shepherds job to protect the sheep.
While these shepherds were in the field that night we’re told an ANGEL appeared to them. We’re also told that they were TERRIFIED.
If you have ever been out in the bush at night you’ll know how TERRIFYING it is to have someone SNEAK UP on you when you’re not expecting it.
I’m sure that’s part of the reason the SHEPHERDS were terrified.
But the reason they were TERRIFIED was MORE than that. Have another look at what happened when the angel appeared:
AN ANGEL OF THE LORD APPEARED TO THEM, AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD SHONE AROUND THEM, AND THEY WERE TERRIFIED . See it wasn’t just the ANGEL appearing that TERRIFIED them. It was the fact that the GLORY OF THE LORD SHONE AROUND THEM.
Well what is so TERRIFYING about the GLORY OF THE LORD shining on them?
The GLORY OF THE LORD was like being given a GLIMPSE of what God is like. God had sent these angels to deliver an IMPORTANT MESSAGE and God VALIDATED their message by showing a glimpse himself – by HIS GLORY SHONE AROUND.
What happened to the SHEPHERDS was MORE than just seeing an angel. These men were CONFRONTED with what GOD is like.
And when you are confronted with what GOD is like you are also forced to face up to what YOU are like – how you stand before him.
They were TERRIFIED – and so they should have been.
I want you to imagine for a moment that you have been invited to play in a CELEBRITY GOLF DAY. And your PARTNER for the day is GREG NORMAN. How would you feel as you stepped out on to the TEE to meet Greg? How would you feel knowing that he was watching you hit the golf ball? I don’t know about YOU but I’d feel TERRIFIED. Not just because he’s a BIG NAME but because I’m a HOPELESS GOLFER and here I am standing next to perhaps the greatest golfer in the world .
Well that’s similar to the kind of TERROR that the shepherds felt.
The SHEPHERDS were TERRIFIED – and so they should have been. They have been given a GLIMPSE of what God is like. And they’ve been FORCED to acknowledge what they are like in God’s eyes.
They have been confronted with the truth that EVERY ONE OF US has to face – the truth of what we are like as we stand before God – as HE SEES US.
There is a GULF between GOD and MAN. God is PERFECT – man is NOT. God is SINLESS – man is NOT without sin.. God is TRUTH, LOVE and LIGHT – man, no matter how he tries, falls short of those ideals
THE GOOD NEWS But look at what the angel said to the shepherds – he said:
DON’T BE AFRAID . And why not? Why shouldn’t they be afraid? They have been forced to face up to the GULF that exists between MAN & GOD.
But the angel went on to say this:
I BRING YOU GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY THAT WILL BE FOR ALL THE PEOPLE. TODAY IN THE TOWN OF DAVID A SAVIOUR HAS BEEN BORN TO YOU. HE IS CHRIST THE LORD . The message that the ANGELS had was indeed GOOD NEWS. They said that a SAVIOUR had been born in BETHLEHEM.
This SAVIOUR has come into the world to BRIDGE the GULF that exists between GOD and MAN. This baby in a manger would be the one to DEAL with all our SHORTCOMINGS and FAILINGS – he would be the one who could take away our SIN. He would do all that through his death on the cross.
Jesus came into the world so that man could be MADE RIGHT with God.
Now like the angel said, this is GOOD NEWS – and not just good news for SOME PEOPLE – this is GOOD NEWS for ALL PEOPLE.
If we are honest with ourselves then we have to acknowledge that there is a GULF between God and ourselves. God is PERFECT and we will never be able to reach that standard.
Our own SHORTCOMINGS, our own FAILINGS, our own SIN mean that we are LESS than worthy to stand before God.
But the GREAT NEWS of Christmas is that the SAVIOUR has come.
When we acknowledge that there is a GULF between us and God then we are also ready to acknowledge we need a SAVIOUR – someone to BRIDGE that gulf.
Christmas is the time we CELEBRATE that the saviour has come. Jesus has come.
I would like to wish each of you a MERRY CHRISTMAS and hope that you enjoy the day tomorrow as you spend it with FAMILY and FRIENDS