The Real Jesus: Shepherds

Good morning and welcome to Journey church.  We are now only FIVE days away from the big day – and some of you are excited that it’s coming and some of you are excited that it will be over.  And it’s not that you don’t like Christmas but it’s a lot of work.  Let’s face it, Christmas can be a complicated time.

Everything is more complicated at Christmas.  I mean, any other time of year I could bake some chocolate chip cookies and walk over to my neighbor and give them a plate of cookies – they would be thrilled.  But not at Christmas.

Don’t teen try bringing your regular cookies to my door.  What’s this?  Cookies.  Regular cookies?  Take these things home and do them right.  This is Christmas cookie season man – make it complicated!

But it’s a risk making complicated cookies.  For instance – you might run across a recipe with a picture of this cookie and you think – my friends will be so impressed.  And so you try it – what are the chances that your cookie is going to look like this?  I’m guessing it will end up like this.  Will I eat that cookie?  Yes.  Will I make fun of you after you leave?  Also yes.

Even the stuff that looks easy can be complicated.  I tried to make reindeer cookies?  What can go wrong?  Three m&m’s a  couple of pretzels. Well – plenty can go wrong.  Look at this cookie.  Looks like Grandma got her revenge – grandma ran over the reindeer.

Maybe you think – I’ll skip the cookie and go the easier route.  This looks to be a cutely decorated marshmallow.  Only at Christmas can you get away with bringing a marshmallow to your neighbors house.  Imagine if I knocked on your door in June – ding dong – How nice – Phil gave us a plate of Marshmallows?  Weirdos.

But even marshmallows can get complicated.  And I’d say it’s 50/50 that your marshmallow cookie will end up looking like this:  The Tammy Faye Baker comes to Christmas cookie.

Lastly – now this is the kind of cookie that frankly – even when you nail it, is still kind of creepy.  However now nearly as creepy as if you were to try to make this on your own.   It’s the Nightmare before Christmas Cookie! Horrific!

Christmas is complicated man!  But the Message of Christmas shouldn’t be complicated.  It really isn’t a complicated message.  Christmas is complicated.  The message isn’t.  And this morning we are going to take a look at the simplicity of the Christmas message.  The beautiful, simple, uncomplicated message of Christmas.

Now – we’re going to read from the book of Luke today and every Sunday between now and Easter – as we study the Real Jesus.  His life and teachings, his actions and interactions.  And today we will read a familiar passage in Luke 2.

Luke is one of four books in the bible that detail the life and teachings of Jesus.  Matthew, Mark and John are the other books – we call these four books the Gospels.  And it’s interesting that only two of the four gospels talk about the birth of Jesus.  Matthew and Luke.

So let’s read Luke’s account and we can talk about what’s important to Luke.

Luke 2 NLT

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.”

Now on Christmas Eve services this Thursday we will read the rest of the story, as well as pull in details from Matthews account – and our services at 3pm and 4:30pm here in the gym.  We will put up as many chairs as we can put up while maintaining adequate spacing – and you can always tune in at 4:30 on Facebook and Youtube as well.

But I want to stop here this morning.  Because I believe that Luke has presented to us the uncomplicated message of Christmas in one fantastic sentence. We find it in the announcement of the Angel –

“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 2:10

First – let’s talk about this idea that the announcement the angels bring is Good news, that brings great joy, for all people.

The angel appears in the field and he has one overriding announcement – and the announcement is – “I bring you good news.”

The Christmas message -according to this angel – is good news.  It’s 100% good news.  The simple, uncomplicated, message of Christmas is a message that is 100% good news.

I’m so glad we are ending 2020 with good news.  It’s been a tough year for good news.  But the message of Christianity is 100% good news.  Do you believe that?

My guess is that there might be someone here or listening to this who rolled your eyes when you heard me say that the message of Christianity is 100% good news.

Perhaps you have tasted the bitter form of Christian religion, or a form of moralism – that left you feeling like this is anything BUT good news.   And if you have learned of nothing other than a religion it wouldn’t surprise me if you roll your eyes when you hear this, religion is not good news.  Jesus didn’t come to establish religion.  He came to save us.

The angel didn’t say, Good news!  It’s time to get religious!  Good news – it’s time to shape us! Time to get your act together!   Good news!  You have to go to church!  Isn’t that great news!  Oh boy!

And so – if the message that you have heard about Jesus is anything other than good news, If the message brings you something other than great joy – then it’s fair to ask – what went wrong?   Who got it wrong?  Were the angels misinformed?  Or have I experienced something other than the real Jesus.

The angels were very clear – this is good news that will result in great joy.

In order for something to be good news, it has to be something that positively affects my life right now.  For instance – good news – you are getting a raise!  Yes!  That’s good news.

Good news, we are cancelling that debt you owe – you don’t have to pay that bill anymore – we’re forgiving it!  Good news!  Good news – this is the doctor calling and the tests came back and you are healthy!  You’re not sick anymore!  Good news!

If we can all agree that it hearing your debts are cancelled would be good news – that would cause great joy for all people – then what could the angels mean when they said it?

What exactly is good about the good news?  What is good about the news?

For one thing is, we don’t have to be afraid of God anymore.

It seems that just about every time in scripture that an angel shows up – the automatic response from the people they show themselves to is – fear.

It’s why the angels first words,  time and again are – Don’t be afraid.  The angel appears to Zechariah – fear not.  The angel appears to Jeseph – do not be afraid.  To Mary – Don’t be afraid.  And here – The angel shows up to the shepherds and say – don’t be afraid!

One of the most destructive results of sin upon mankind – is the introduction of fear.  In fact – in Genesis chapter 3 – immediately after Adam and Eve take a bite out of the forbidden fruit – and God shows up they hide – and they tell God in 3:10 – we hid because we were afraid.

Fear simultaneously imprisons and devours a soul.  And like Adam and Eve – there are some people in here, some people in your life – there are people who think that God is someone to be afraid of.

This is, by the way, the prevailing of God.  Every religion other than Christianity has a view of a God who is generally an angry God.  No one ever ran from Jesus in fear.  They flocked to him!

How serious is God in helping us see him as approachable?  He was born – he was placed in a manger.  He was wrapped up in snugly clothes.  Who is afraid of a baby wrapped in snugly clothes?

Guys!  Did you see that word is in the Bible?  Jesus, the Savior of the world –  was wrapped in snugly clothes?  C’Mon.  Jesus showed up as a snugly baby.

We don’t have to live our lives afraid of God.  The news is good news.  Are you afraid of dying?  You don’t have to be.  Place your faith in Jesus and experience peace with God – experience the great joy of receiving the good news – a Savior has been born.

Good news – a Savior has been born and through the work of this savior, we no longer need to be afraid of God.  We no longer need to be afraid of death.  We no longer need to be afraid of life!  We fear nothing – because Immanuel, God with us.

Furthermore there is great joy for all who will receive this good news.  Great joy!  There is joy in knowing that our sins have been forgiven – joy in knowing that our debt has been paid.  There is joy in knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of the savior.

That word Joy is an important word to a Christian.  The bible says that the person who decides to believe in Jesus – is filled with joy – not just joy – the Bible uses words like, glorious joy, wonderful joy, abundant joy, confident joy, overflowing joy, inexpressible joy, but the most widely used term that accompanies the word joy in the Bible is great joy.

Twenty times the NT couples the word Joy with Great – Great joy awaits all who will trust in Him.

The person who follows Jesus will be marked as being a person filled with Joy.  Which different than happiness – joy runs deeper than that- it tunes the soul and shapes our responses to trying times.  Happiness is a thermometer – it can only read the external temperature of life’s circumstances.  So when we are going through difficulty it’s only natural to be unhappy.  And when things are peachy, and the world is right, happiness bubbles over.  Happiness is a thermometer – it reads and responds to life.

But Joy is more of a thermostat – it sets the internal temperature of a person.  It calibrates how we respond to difficult and trying circumstance.  Joy is much more than an emotional response, it is an acknowledgement that we are trusting the God who is able to connect the dots in our life and make sense out of things that don’t immediately make sense to us.

Don’t fear!  The simple, uncomplicated message of the angels on the night of Jesus’ birth?  Don’t fear – there’s good news that brings great joy for all people.

I mentioned earlier that Matthew and Luke are the only two books that describe the birth of Jesus.  What’s even more interesting is the differences between the two accounts.

For instance – Matthew is going to talk about the wisemen that come from the East to worship the child Jesus, some time after Jesus was born.  Luke doesn’t mention them.

Why does Matthew talk about wisemen from another country?

Well Matthew was written for a primarily Jewish Audience – and one of Matthews goals is to help the Jewish people understand that – not only is Jesus the promised Jewish Messiah – but he is also the savior of the whole world.

Matthew wants to help his Jewish readers understand that Jesus is bursting beyond the boundaries of Judaism.  And so Matthew makes sure to include the fact that the first people in his account to worship the baby are non-jewish people.

It’s also why Matthew ends his gospel with the words – Go therefore to all nations – baptizing and teaching all people about Jesus.  So the Magi helps Matthew develop the motif of his account of Jesus life – Jesus is Immanuel, God with us – he is the Savior of the world.

Why does Luke then be sure to include the arrival of the Shepherds on the night of Jesus birth?

Well, sometimes we romanticize the idea of shepherds – but imagine if you were reading the gospel for the first time in today’s language and it said there were some employees at the meat rendering plant taking a lunch break – when suddenly an angel appeared.

And there surrounding Jesus were all the truckers at the Flying J.  Good, hard working people.  Perhaps known for being a little rough around the edges.

These are the folks that Jesus invites to his first birthday party?

Yes, because time and again – especially in Luke – we are going to see these kinds of people – the overlooked, the oppressed, the poor, the diseased, the marginalized.  People with poor reputations.  People with a sordid past – the notoriously sinful, all flocking to Jesus.

Why?  They know good news when they hear it.

I remember one time I was talking to a friend – she wasn’t making the best choices at that point in her life and was a little lost, okay?  Kind of wondering.  And I said, why don’t you come to church with me tomorrow?  And she said – let me get my life straightened out a little first.  I’m not ready yet – I need to get my life in order.

And you know – that made me sad because – whatever she was hearing – or expected to hear from the church people – was anything but good news.

Good news!  If you get your life straightened out, you can come here?  In what world is that good news?  Whatever news she was expecting to hear wasn’t good news to her.  It wasn’t the news the angels delivered to the shepherds 2000 plus years ago – they brought good news – news that brings great joy to all people.

You are blessable.  You are loved.  You are cherished.  You are respected.  You are worth something to God – no – you are worth everything to God.

This is the simple, uncomplicated Christmas message.  Good news that brings great joy to all people.  Jesus, our Savior is born.