This is an 'All Age' shorter talk because my experience is that, on Christmas Day, folk don't want a long Biblical exposition. They are too busy thinking about their presents, meal, visitors etc!!
Year A - 25/12/04 10 a.m. Luke 2:1-14/20
I would like you to imagine that you could invite any three people you like to your Christmas lunch. Who would they be? A sports star? A movie star? An entertainer for when there's nothing decent on the television? A celebrity chef so you don't have to cook the meal? An important or rich person?
Just think for a few moments, then I will ask you who you would invite...
If a Jew was throwing a party around 6 B.C. you could be sure that the there were three groups of people he would not want to invite. The first would be one of the Romans who occupied their country. The second would be tax collectors who worked for the Romans and made their money by overcharging their own countrymen. The third group were shepherds. Shepherds were looked down upon. They had a reputation for being untrustworthy and, because of this, their evidence was not admitted in court. They were not allowed to worship in the Temple either because their job made them ceremonially unclean. They were social and religious outcasts. Other than Romans and tax collectors you could not imagine anyone less likely to be invited to visit a new born King ! Yet it was to them that God chose to reveal his plan to save everyone. Not to the religious leaders of the day, not to the rulers and governors of the Roman Empire, but outcasts. This tells us that no-one is ever too far away from God. No-one is unimportant to God. Not even shepherds. Something struck me as I thought about the shepherds. The first people to meet the baby Jesus were the shepherds whose testimony was not valid in a law court. The first people to meet the risen Lord Jesus were women, whose testimony was not valid in a law court either. This is a further indication that God isn't concerned with proving himself to the world. He is more interested in revealing himself to those who are considered inferior by the world.
Jesus was born in a an unhygienic, draughty, stable. The lowly place of his birth and those who were first invited to visit him, showed the type of ministry that Jesus was to have. One that did not reflect the grandeur of his heavenly origins, but that showed his humility, his desire to identify with people. He mixed with the despised, the shepherds, the tax collectors, the irreligious people branded "sinners", Samaritans, and women. He came to reveal God to people by getting alongside us. Not by speaking from on high. That humbleness was to lead to the humiliation, the shame, the public spectacle of being killed on a cross.
"Jesus Christ, the condescension of divinity, and the exaltation of humanity." Phillips Brooks 1835-1893, American Minister, Poet, composer of "O little town"
Have you ever been in complete darkness? I can remember that from my camping days finding myself in the pitch dark, looking for something. . It was probably similar for the shepherds. They acted on the message given to them by the angels. Even though it would have been difficult, even dangerous, they left their sheep and hurried to Bethlehem. Unable to see in the pitch dark. They arrived at the stable, saw the baby Jesus, told others of the good news and returned glorifying and praising God. Even though they were irreligious they recognised that something special had been revealed to them and they responded with joy, praise and obedience.
As those who have also met the Lord Jesus we are called to follow God's leading, to rejoice and to tell others about the good news.