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W: 12/22/19: Shepherds: The Forgotten

If you’re just joining us, we’re nearing the end of a series called, Five Christmases, where we’ve been looking at the Christmas story through the eyes of five different people who were there. This is the final weekend before Christmas but we want to invite you to join us this Tuesday night for our Christmas Eve service and the finale of our series.

For billions of people around the world, Christmas marks the celebration of the birth of Jesus and His coming into the world over 2000 years ago. For many, this isn’t just the birth of a prominent ruler, political figure, or king, but of Emmanuel — God with us. And while many of us are looking forward to a Holly Jolly Christmas, Rocking around the Christmas Tree, the very first Christmas took place in O’ little town of Bethlehem, Away in a Manger, and was a relatively Silent Night.

Speaking of anticipation and hype this time of year, there was another event that took place this past week that brought millions of people around the world together — I’m talking about Star Wars. Jalee and I went to the premier of Star Wars this past week and it was an experience. This is the epic conclusion to the Star Wars saga — over 40 years in the making. How many of you are planning to watch the new Star Wars? Well you’re in luck, because rather than spending your money to go watch it, and since I’ve already seen it, I will do you a favor and just tell you all about it. I’ll tell you what happens, I’ll give away the ending, does that sound like a good idea? Of course not! Some of you were ready to run out of here. We probably just lost some of our online viewers.

How many of you have ever been a victim to spoilers? With Netflix, HBO, Marvel, and even sports, many of us have to live in a perpetual state of caution so that we don’t have our favorite shows, movies, books and games ruined by spoilers. If you’re not caught up on the latest whatever, you avoid social media, facebook, and even certain friends and family who are notorious for spoilers — Dad.

The truth is that there are certain things in life you need to experience for yourself rather than simply hear or talk about. On the other hand, when you’ve experienced something amazing, all you want to do is talk about it! We’ve all been on both sides of the coin. “Hey did you watch the game on Sunday?” “No not yet, but I have it saved on my DVR.” “You want to know what happens?” “No, don’t tell me I want to watch it!” “Hurry up!”

Scientists actually discovered that there is a science behind spoilers. Hearing about something before experiencing it actually affects that way you experience it — the anticipation, the investment, and the sense of wonder. But how many of you have ever experienced something you just had to tell someone about?

When Jalee was pregnant with Evangeline I volunteered to plan the gender reveal party. So we had the nurse tell me the gender of the baby before anyone else and there was a whole 24-hour period where I was the only one who knew that we were having a girl. I’ll always look back on that day fondly as the day it was just my baby girl and me in the whole world. But I remember running into a friend at Pearl Ridge who I hadn’t seen in years. His name is Blake Arakawa and we go way back. I remember being so excited about that news that I told him everything.

So Blake Arakawa knew we were having a girl before Jalee because I had to tell someone the good news.

This is what Christmas is all about. God chose to reveal the greatest news of all to the most unlikely of people and what they experienced, they had to share with others. Today we’re going to look at the Christmas story through the eyes of the shepherds and what they can teach us about our own Christmas experience. There are 3 things the shepherds did when it came to the news about Christmas that should be our experience as well. Spoiler alert! If you not haven’t heard the Christmas story, I’m about to give the whole thing away but you’ve had over 2000 years, so here are 3 things the shepherds teach us about Christmas.

The Story of Christmas Must Be….

  1. HEARD.

The good news of Christmas must first be heard! Listen to the words of Braddah Paul from ‘Da Jesus Book’. If you don’t know, that’s the Pidgin Bible that our very own Pastor Earl helped to translate.

13 Cuz da Bible say, “Everybody dat aks da Boss fo help um, he goin take um outa da bad kine stuff dey doing. 14 But eh! How dey goin aks him fo help um if dey no trus him? An how dey goin trus him if dey neva hear notting bout him? An how dey goin hear bout him if nobody eva go tell um notting bout him?” (Romans 10:13-14)

In other words, believing begins with hearing. Some of you are here today taking your first steps toward God because it begins with hearing. At the first Christmas, on the night Jesus was born, there was a group of unlikely people who got to hear the good news first.

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people,” (Luke 2:8-10 NIV).

The Bible says that the very first people to receive the birth announcement of Jesus were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night. When we were in Israel we got to visit the town of Bethlehem and our guide took us to a lookout where we could see the shepherd’s fields. What’s amazing is that on certain days you can still see shepherds keeping watch over their flocks on those very same hills.

Our guide, Johnny, told us that in Jesus’ day all the best sheep came from Bethlehem. In the same way you’d go to France or Italy for wine, Switzerland for chocolate, or Japan for sushi, you go to Bethlehem for sheep. But while the sheep were prized, the shepherds were not.

Christian Theologian Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost wrote, “These were most unlikely recipients of such a revelation, for shepherds were despised as a class because they were unable to observe the customary laws of purification. They were considered unclean. They had not been schooled in the law and therefore were considered ignorant.”

So the Bible tells us that God chose to reveal the good news of Jesus’ birth to a group of people who were outcast, overlooked, unchurched, and uneducated. But not only did God communicate to the most unlikely of people; He did it in a way they could relate to.

11For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger,” (Luke 2:11-12 NKJV).

Do you remember how God told the Wisemen about Jesus? He told them to look for His star. Why? Because they were astrologers who studied the heavens. What were the shepherds told to look for? A babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. Why? Because when a baby lamb was born the shepherds would take the newborn lamb and wrap it in swaddling cloths. Where were the shepherds told to look for Jesus? In a palace? In a Church? No, in a shepherd’s cave surrounded by animals.

Contrary to the nativity scenes we’re used to seeing, Jesus was most likely born in a cave on the outskirts of Bethlehem. With many of these natural caves in the area it would be pointless for farmers or shepherds to build a man-made enclosure for their animals. And this is where the shepherds were sent — somewhere familiar, somewhere they would be welcomed, and somewhere they could encounter Jesus without fear or shame.

This is the good news of Christmas. That God came, not just for religious people (Jesus wasn’t born in a Church), not just for wealthy people (He wasn’t born in a palace), but for all people — from the greatest to the least. Jesus came for the outcast and the overlooked. He came for the brokenhearted and the hopeless. He came for those the world turns their back on. I pray that as you hear the good news today you would know that God welcomes you. This is a safe place free from judgment or condemnation. God’s heart is that all would hear the good news, no matter where they’re coming from. But hearing isn’t enough. Would you write in the second blank, “The Story of Christmas Must also be…”

2. SEEN.

15So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger,” (Luke 2:15-16 NKJV).

For the shepherds, hearing the good news wasn’t enough — they wanted to see Jesus for themselves. Once again, the shepherds reveal a powerful truth about the story of Christmas — that the good news of Jesus isn’t only meant to be heard but seen.

This is what separates Christianity from every other religion — God didn’t just drop off a book of rules and regulations to follow. Jesus didn’t come to start a religion but to invite us into a relationship. The Bible tells us that the Word of God became flesh and blood [He became one of us] and lived amongst us to reveal God’s glory to us. This is what Christmas is all about — God with us. And just like the shepherds, it begins with hearing, but eventually we reach this place in our hearts where we say, “I want to see what the Lord has made known to me.” This is when the written Word and the spoken Word becomes the living Word and we encounter Jesus face-to-face. As Job said, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

In Jeremiah 29:13 the Lord tells His people, “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else [when you seek Me with all of your heart], I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”

All of us will reach a crossroads on our faith journey. We will reach a line in the sand where we’ve heard and we’ve heard until we’ve heard it all. At that point we’ll have to make a choice. Most people never cross from hearing to seeing. Why?

Because hearing is comfortable. Hearing is safe. It doesn’t cost us anything to hear, other than perhaps our time. But deep down inside we know that once we cross that line and behold God, everything will change. We know we won’t be able to look upon Him and be the same. So sadly, most people never cross that line. They walk away and say, “Christianity is no different. It’s just another religion.” Or, just as sad, they continue on out of duty and obligation. They go through the motions but on the inside they’re just as hurt, they’re just as lost, or they’re just as bored. God is saying, “Are you ready to get serious about finding me? Do you want it more than anything else? Are you ready to seek Me with all of your heart? Because when you do, you won’t be disappointed.” Please hear my heart — We welcome you to sit and hear for as long as you need but at some point you’ll have to make a choice. Hearing is free but seeing costs everything — but in seeing you will experience the greatest love ever known, and the reason for your existence.

For the shepherds it was an easy decision. Maybe because they were already at the bottom so they didn’t have anything to lose. They quickly dropped everything to see Jesus. Sometimes God will allow us to reach the bottom so that we’ll finally reach out for Him. Or He’ll let us do a couple more laps around the track until we realize the things we thought would bring us fulfillment just aren’t cutting it — the money, the popularity, the possessions, and when we’re ready He’ll be there waiting. But I want to encourage you not to wait. Some of you have been coming faithfully, you’ve heard the good news about Jesus many times and now He is inviting you to surrender your life so that you can step into the life He has in store for you.

3. TOLD.

17Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them,” (Luke 2:17-20 NKJV).

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