Christmas Hope: Hope for the World

Good Morning.  Merry Christmas everyone.  My Name is Phil Humana and I’m one of the pastors here at Journey.  This morning we are going to read one of the most famous stories that we read at Christmas – for many it’s their vary favorite part of the Christmas story – it’s about the Shepherd who were tending their flocks by night when they were suddenly visited by angels announcing to them the birth of Jesus.

I will read the passage today from Luke 2.  And since it’s a passage you are most likely familiar with instead of putting the words on the screen we’re putting paintings of the events as painted by various painters and most of them are from the 15, 16 hundreds.  And we thought it would be a good way to root us in our history.

What we are celebrating today and tomorrow and Tuesday, has been celebrated every year for two thousand years.  It’s the stunning declaration that God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.

 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,

  10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

 13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

  15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

 16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 

17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 

   19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.

 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Did any of these pictures match the images in your head of what it must have been like to be a Shepherd in the field that glorious night?

For two thousand years people have imagined what it must have felt like to be there!  And preachers and teachers throughout that time have looked at what we are looking at today – Luke chapter 2 – and it doesn’t matter which year – or what country – we find in these Shepherds things worth emulating in their words and actions.

Today we will look at the Shepherds to answer the question,:  How do we respond to Christmas?  And today we’ll see – we can respond to Christmas just like the Shepherds did!

We fear not.

We tell others

We praise God

First – we fear not.

Just about every time an angel shows up – or God shows up – the human reaction is fear.   Ever wonder where this reaction comes from?

It started in the Garden of Eden.  Adam and Eve are tempted by the evil one to rebel against God’s authority and leadership- to take control of their own lives!  And as soon as they eat the fruit – they cover up – because they realize they are naked – and so theirs shame – they hide from God out of fear – and they blame one another and the serpent when they get busted.

We were never created to be afraid of God.  We were created to walk with him.  As a son or daughter walks with a loving parent.  And yet sin has so broken and stained us that we cower in fear at the presence of God.

Why?  Well, imagine for a moment you this scenario – One day you were at your favorite coffee shop and you see a police officer in front of you ordering a cup of coffee and the Barista says – it’s on the house officer…  You see this and since you are going to a Dave Ramsey class on getting out of debt – you think to yourself – I may have just discovered a way to say $4 a day.

So you go and buy yourself a police officers costume and start wearing it around to see what happens… and low and behold – it works.  People believe you, even though you know you ain’t really a police office.

You might fool some people, but what happens the day you walk out of the coffee shop and you see two real police officers walking toward you?  You know that you cannot perpetrate the fraud with them, right?

You might fool the coffee barista into getting a free cup of coffee, but when you face the real policeman, you are terrified, right?

Well, when we come into the presence of God we know that the gig is up.  We might walk around like we’re the king of our castle, the master of our own destiny – but deep inside we know we are just pretending.

And the day we run into God is the day we know the gig is up.

Adam and Eve were afraid of God.  And ever since then – there is a deep nagging sense of being afraid to meet God.  But the Angels show up to announce the good news.

Christmas means that the time of being afraid of God is over.  The Angels announce that God has made a way for us to come home again.  To be able to walk with him again, day-to-day, like a like a parent might take a walk with their child to the playground.

Jesus goes even further to suggest we might walk with God as two friends walk together.   John 15:15 – Jesus says – I haven’t come to gather servants.  I’ve come to call you my friend.  That’s powerful!

I think one of the reasons that God became flesh -and a baby – was to help us get over our fear of him.  What do you feel when you see a baby? Don’t you want to pinch cheeks and talk baby talk?

Fear not, says the angels.  A savior has been born.  Peace on earth awaits all who will place their faith in Him.

I came across an interesting article this week talking about fears.  There were plenty of articles that talked about the specific things we are afraid of – things like –

THIS (Spider)  Arachnophobia

or maybe you are afraid of

THIS (Heights)- (Acrophobia)  or even

THIS!  (Cute puppy Dog) (Cyno Phobia.)

There’s plenty to be afraid of and some might be afraid of this but not that….  but then I came across and interesting article entitled five fears that we all share.  by a Dr. Karl Albrecht

Quickly – here they are –

  1. Fear of death.
  2. Fear of injury illness, disease.
  3. Fear of being abandoned or rejected.
  4. Fear of being humiliated or shamed

Now, when we come to the point of faith, doesn’t placing our faith in Jesus alleviate us of all of these universal fears?  If you are familiar with the bible – you will recognize that some of the most meaningful portions of scripture deal directly with these issues?

Death?  Where is thy victory?  Where is thy sting?  Ours is the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Injury?  We don’t fear what happens to us – God knows what he is doing and so even when we walk through the valley of he shadow of disease or hardship we fear nothing.  Why?

Because Thou art with us.  Jesus’ last words to us?  I will be with you always.  Nothing can separate us from the Love of God.  I will never leave you nor abandon you.

And in Christ – there is now no condemnation for those who have placed their faith in Jesus. Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.  Romans 10:11

Let me ask you – what are you afraid of?  Deep inside – do you have any fears?  Will you drag those fears to the Lord – bring them into the presence of Jesus and ask yourself – do your fears  – do they want to be brought  into the presence of the Lord?  No – they know they will be unmasked as powerless.  As fraudulent bullies in light of the grace and love of God.

This is what awaits the follower of Jesus.  A fearless life.  It is available to all whoa re able to overcome the last – the fifth universal fear…

But – you might wonder – what was the fifth universal fear?  Ahh…  here’s the rub.  The fifth universal fear is the fear of losing autonomy.  The fear of losing control

It’s this fear that really is the line in the sand.  It’s the line of faith.  Because what Jesus asks of us is that we die to ourselves – right here.  That we willingly surrender our right to be in charge of our own lives.

That’s not a small thing Jesus is asking of us.  He wants us to think highly enough of Him to trust him with our lives. And in case you are questioning whether God can be trusted with such a precious gift – remember who he chose to be the first hearers of the good news.  Regular, hard working, blue collar, people – making ends meet by protecting a bunch of sheep from danger.  And remember that Jesus would one day grow up to call himself the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.  And we remember that he actually did that very thing, in order to provide for us a life free of fear.

And when we face our fear of not being in control – and turn it over to Jesus – all of these other universal fears fade away to mist…

Christmas is a declaration of the end of fear.  The Shepherds heard it first on that Christmas morning.  Fear not – for a savior is born.

What do they do next?  Well after their time with Jesus, it says they told others!

17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 

How did you hear about the news about Jesus?  My guess is that someone told you.  And my guess is it wasn’t an angel.

See – I think we’d all like to meet an angel – wouldn’t you?  Apparently it’s a terrifying experience but it would sure be memorable!  Not that anyone would believe you, right?  But you’d know.

But here’s the truth of it all.  The Shepherds got the angel.  Everybody else got the Shepherds.  It was the Shepherds who began speaking to others about what they had experienced.  These regular human beings – They were the first to share the good news about Jesus with others.

Guess what?  You have friends that God has been working on in sights unseen – preparing your friends in the secret chambers of their heart, to be open to hear from regular human beings.  God is always at work in the hearts of everyone we see.  And we never know what God is up to.

And here’s the deal.  They will not be visited by an angel.  The shepherds got the angel – your friends get you.

So don’t ever underestimate the power of letting people know that you are a follower of Jesus.  Don’t ever under estimate the power even of something as simple as sharing with people that you attend a church like Journey.

You never know.  Your network of friends on social media see a post about the fact that you found a church you enjoy might read that YOU attend CHURCH?  What kind of Church would let you in?  No – that sounds insulting.  Let me try that again.

I never would have guessed YOU’RE THE kind of person that attends church.  I mean you’re so…  regular.  You’re so normal.  You aren’t some kind of religious freak.

The bottom line is this, – you have a bunch of people in your life who, for some crazy reason, think you’re normal.   And for you to share – as the shepherds did – that you have discovered that God is alive and better than you expected?  Like the people in the Shepherd’s world, they might be astonished.  And that’s exactly what they might in order to be able to imagine God involved in their life.

The Shepherds got the Angel.  Everybody in your world gets you.

I’m here today because of a guy named Steve Volstad.  I started going to church when I was in middle school but I stopped going to church entirely in my freshman year.  And Every Monday at school Steve Volstad would find me and say – “Phil, sorry you couldn’t come to youth group last night – we really miss you when you aren’t there.  The youth group is better when you are there.”

See the shepherds got the Angel – I got Steve Volstad.

You know, we started Journey almost ten years ago -and almost every week we’ve had first time attenders.  Only a handful of times in ten years where we hadn’t had a guest visit with us.

When we ask people how they heard about Journey church, it’s almost always a combination of things – but one thing that is almost universal is -“ I heard good things about Journey from a friend.”

Never under estimate what God is doing in the heart of people all around you.  And how he is using you to encourage those people to seek Him.

Maybe in 2019 one of the goals you can set out for yourself is to regularly pray for those people in your life that you want to see begin their faith journey with Jesus.  They aren’t followers now – but you’d love to see them be introduced to the real Jesus.  What could you do to remember to regularly pray for them?

The Shepherds Fear not, they tell others and lastly, they praise God.  And glorify Him.

Check out verse 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

The Shepherds went back to work!  But they went back changed.  From the inside – at the deepest level they were changed to the point of naturally and easily glorifying God – they couldn’t help but praise him.

They became worshippers of God.  What is worship?  Worship means ascribing greatness and goodness and glory to God.  There’s a lot of different ways to worship God – it isn’t just singing.  It could be through writing or reading or quiet contemplation.  It could be through a nature walk or prayer or fasting or serving or giving or encouraging or a dozen other spiritual exercises.

But one thing must be common about any expression of worship.  It’s got to come from the heart.  From the deeper places within.  One time Jesus was teaching and he said, “These people, they honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

So worship comes from the deep places within us.

And here’s how we get to the point where we can go back to work praising and glorifying.

It begins with a right understanding of what God is like.  It’s hard to worship a God we see as mean or petty or irritated or distant.  It’s impossible to worship that God from the heart – and that’s because we know people better than that.  A wrong view of God makes true worship impossible.

But what does the Christmas story teach us?  It teaches us that God is humble.  That God is approachable.  That God is for us.  That God will go to any length in order to bring us home.  He became a baby, grew up to be a man who lived and taught and died and rose again from the dead – and he would it if you were the only person who ever believed it…

And once we understand just how loving and good and near and dependable this God is?  We can worship God with all we’ve God.  We can put all of us into it.

We can sing and we can pray and we can worship.

Come let us adore Him.  For He alone is worthy.  Christ the Lord.