The Christmas season is known for two things. It marks the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as well as the end of a year. This year (2009) has been of great significance to our nation, politically, socially, and economically.
It was politically significant as our dear President Barrack Obama was sworn in as the first black American President. Socially speaking we saw the Bart Police shooting of Oscar Grant which resulted in protests and several hours of violence in Oakland, California. Economically speaking this year marked the worst period of the great recession that saw nearly 800,000 jobs lost.
All of these events received the worldwide media coverage that they deserved. They were noteworthy happenings in the history of our nation.
Tonight I want to talk about another noteworthy incident that happened between 6 and 4 B.C. Although globally important this particular event did not receive any media coverage at all. In fact, it was officially announced to a company of insignificant Shepherds. We know this event was none other than the birth of Christ.
There are many explanations as to why Jesus’ birth was announced only to Shepherds. I am not planning to discuss that tonight. Instead, I want to share with you three lessons we can learn from the angelic announcement and the response of the Shepherds. Let’s open our Bibles to Luke Chapter 2.
1. Christmas is a Message of Reassurance
In Luke 2:8-10 we are told the Shepherds were terrified (overwhelmed with an extreme sense of fear) by the sight of the Angel. They were about to become eyewitnesses of the most glorious event in the history of mankind. Why were they terrified then?
A possible reason would be they saw God’s glory for the first time ever. They had never seen anything like it before. They expected certain death because they had just seen the unknown.
But the Angel reassured them with these words: ‘Do not be afraid. These comforting words, however, would have been silly counsel had the Angel not told them why there was no cause for fear. The Angel continued: “There is born to you this day a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11-12) It is this Savior who will take their fears away.
Merle Haggard once sang “If we make it through December, everything is gonna be alright I know.” The song is about an unemployed father wondering how he can make Christmas special for his little daughter.
Some of us may feel utterly discouraged and despaired in fear because of the challenges and shortages we face during the Christmas season itself. Some of us may feel very anxious because the New Year that follows Christmas can be filled with uncertainties. Hence we are unable to identify with the celebratory Christmas spirit around us that somehow seems to have eluded us.
If you are feeling nervous today due to circumstances in your life at present, be encouraged to know that just like the Angel assured the Shepherds Jesus is telling you not to be afraid because He is always with you, (Matthew 1:23; Matthew 28:20).
2. Christmas demands a valid Response
Then we read in Luke 2:15-16 that the Shepherds visited the newborn Christ. Remember, they were not the only party who knew about the glorious occasion although the Angels appeared only to them. Apart from the Maggi who visited the newborn savior, there were two other parties that were not bothered even though they knew. These were the Scribes (who realized the savior’s birth through the interpretation of scripture but did not visit although Bethlehem was only six miles away) and Herod himself who believed the child is a threat. (I have written another sermon about the Magi’s encounter with Herod. Read it here).
A family celebrated Christmas each year by singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, baking a cake for Him, and setting an extra chair at the table to remind them of His presence. As Christmas Day was winding down, a friend asked the five-year-old daughter if she had gotten everything she wanted for Christmas. She paused a moment and responded, “No, but it wasn’t my birthday.”
For most people in the world, today Christmas is about themselves. Not about Jesus who was born only to suffer and die for our sin. They often respond to this glorious event by eating and drinking. It’s not wrong to enjoy (the Shepherds certainly sang and danced after hearing the news) but it’s not the most appropriate response either if you tend to forget that Jesus is the reason for the season.
Then what would be an appropriate response to what Christmas may look like? Of course, one can get involved in charitable activities. It’s good but Christmas demands a more personal response. The word Christmas has been made by putting the words Christ and Mass together, (Christ + Mass). It means the mass of Christ or that Christ died for the masses, (John 3:16).
Then there’s no better response than repenting and yielding one’s life to Christ. Some of us may have already yielded our lifestyle to His authority years ago. Still, we can take this opportunity to renew our commitment. If you still haven’t decided whether or not to surrender yourself to Jesus today is the day, now is the time because Christmas is all about Jesus and his sacrifice.
3. Christmas compels us to Proclaim
Last but not least these Shepherds were the first evangelists ever Luke 2:17-18 says they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed. They couldn’t contain the excitement. How can they not tell? After all, God had decided the Messiah’s birth will be officially announced only to them. Their lives were transformed forever. Everyone that heard the Shepherds was amazed by their story. Even if they didn’t really understand it, they realized that something important had happened.
Four years after the Titanic sunk a man by the name of Aquilla Webb gave the following testimony:
I am a survivor of the Titanic. That awful night I met Mr. John Harper while drifting alone on a spar. ‘Man,’ he said, ‘Are you saved?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I am not.’ He replied, ‘Do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ The waves bore him away; but, strange to say the waves brought him back a little later, and he said, ‘Are you saved now?’ ‘
No,’ I said, ‘I cannot honestly say that I am.’ He said again, ‘Do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,’ and shortly after he went down; and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed. I am John Harper’s last convert.“The Titanic’s Last Hero” by Moody Adams
In the Hollywood movie the Titanic, nothing was said about John Harper, but he was truly one of the great heroes of the Titanic. In the face of death and drowning, he was concerned about the souls of men.
Some of us seldom witness to others about Christ because we are no longer in awe of the Christmas Miracle. We have either become complacent or preoccupied with our own challenges. The Angel told the Shepherd, ‘I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people.’ (Luke 2:10 – Darby Bible Translation)
God has entrusted us with glad tidings of great joy. We cannot keep quiet because it’s meant for all the people. Tonight even as we celebrate another Christmas I want to encourage you to share your faith with someone you know.
Tonight as I bring this message to closing I would like to extend you an opportunity to invite Jesus Christ into your heart. At the beginning of my message, I explained that we don’t need to be afraid of the future because God is with us. However, you cannot claim that assurance unless you accept Christ as the Lord and Savior of your life. There are three things you need to do before you can invite Him into your heart.
- Admit you are a sinner and ask God for forgiveness, (Romans 5:8; 6:23; 10:13)
- Believe in the name of Jesus as your only hope of salvation, (John 3:16; 14:16)
- Become a child of God by confessing that Jesus is your Lord, (Romans 10:9; 10)
If you admit that you are a sinner and have asked God for forgiveness if you believe in the name of Jesus as your only hope of salvation and if you have confessed that Jesus is your Lord please repeat this prayer after me.
Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank you for dying on the cross for my sin. Please forgive me. Come into my life. I receive you as my Lord and Savior. Now, help me to live for you the rest of this life. In the name of Jesus, I pray.
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