I don’t know about you, but I love reading and re-reading the Christmas story. As our message series implies, the meaning of Christmas is simple if we remember who we are celebrating. Take the shepherds story as told in Luke 2:8-10: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’”
Shepherds? Shepherds were not the upwardly mobile, chic people of their day. They were considered unclean because they spent all their time with sheep and as verse 8 says, they were “living out in the fields.” This was not a 9 to 5 job. This was 24-7. They didn’t come home at night to have dinner and spend some time with the family. During the day, they led the sheep to grass and water and at night they protected the sheep from predators.
So, let’s imagine you are God for a second. You are ready to announce the birth of your only Son, Jesus Christ. A birth that will forever change the course of history. The birth of the Savior of the world. Who would you send announcements to? You would expect the birth of the Son of God to be announced to the most important people at that time; kings, governors, magistrates, priests, rabbis, military leaders, wealthy merchants. Basically men and women of distinction. But instead of telling the important people, God opted to tell and invite some lowly, probably pretty smelly shepherds to come and see His only child.
Why did God do this? I believe there is a simple explanation. And that is the beauty of the Christmas message. The simplicity of it all.
I believe God wanted to show that His love does not discriminate on the basis of class, or wealth, or social standing. He started from the bottom up. He did not hold the kings and princes, the religious rulers, any higher than these shepherds. And that remains true today. He does not value pastors above the people in the pews. God simply does not show favoritism. This is not an exclusive message. He does not give preferential treatment based on bank accounts or social standing. Jesus is the Savior of not only the politically, socially and religious elite, He is the Savior of the rest of us.
The message of Christmas is a very simple message. Yet the most powerful message that will ever be delivered in the history of mankind. Delivered to the simplest of all people; not kings or rulers but shepherds. Therein lies the beauty and the simplicity.
Luke 2, verses 14-20 completes the story of the Shepherds. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
Perhaps the message of Christmas has lost some of its meaning to you. Perhaps you feel like the shepherds, sitting out in those cold, lonely fields, with nothing but sheep to keep them company, looking at the village, seeing the lights in the homes and hearing the faint laughter and conversation coming from those homes and wish you could be a part of that.
If that is the case, there is good news for you this Christmas. God loves you and has a plan for you regardless of your circumstances. My prayer is that we don’t get lost in the activities and traditions of this holiday season, but rather focus on the simple but life-changing message of God’s love for all of us.