Merry Christmas! Christmas is just two days away now. A time to remember what happened on that first Christmas 2000 years ago. A time to reflect on what that first Christmas means to us today.
Our message series “Christmas Stories” is intended to help us remember and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas for our time. So, what is the miracle of Christmas? Babies are born all the time. What makes the birth of Jesus so special? The miracle of Christmas is that God Himself came to earth as a human baby, born on Christmas.
Matthew 1:23 (ESV) “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
This verse summarizes the miracle of Christmas. Mary, a virgin would conceive. She conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. So, the son that was born, Jesus, was fully human, from Mary, and fully divine, from the Holy Spirit. This baby would be called Immanuel, which means God with us. Jesus, being God in human flesh, came to live on this earth as one of us.
The miracle of Christmas is that Jesus came to us, He took the initiative. Jesus came to love us, to teach us, to heal us, to die for us and to save us. That is something to praise Him for this Christmas and all through the year.
Today’s message is entitled “Seize the Moment.” We’re going to be looking at the story of the shepherds in Luke 2. There are some important lessons that we’re going to learn about how God revealed Himself to them and how He reveals Himself to us. And we’re going to learn what we must do when God reveals Himself, how we are to seize the moment, the opportunities that God gives to us. So, let’s begin our story of the shepherds to see how …
God comes to ordinary people
Luke 2:8 (ESV) And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
Today, because we have heard the story of the shepherds so often, we have rather romanticized ideas of the shepherds and their sheep. However, in New Testament times, shepherds were not held in high esteem. Most young men did not grow up hoping for a career as a shepherd. Shepherding was a pretty low-class job. You were working, not with people, but with sheep. You had to work at night, protecting them from thieves and wild animals. It was a dangerous job that had the shepherds working outside in the elements, with no days off. These shepherds were guarding their flocks at night, just ordinary hard-working men, working away from their families.
Not only does God come to ordinary people, He comes in ordinary places. The announcement of Jesus’ birth that was coming, was not made in the temple in Jerusalem. It was not made to important religious leaders or to political leaders. The announcement was made in a field, where it was cold, dark and somewhat dangerous.
Luke 2:9 (ESV) And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
An angel of the Lord appeared to those ordinary shepherds, going about their ordinary jobs in the fields. The glory of the Lord is brilliant light that surrounded the angels. The shepherds had never seen anything like this before and they were very afraid of what was going to happen to them. God had come to ordinary people like you and me.
The Bible teaches us that God continues to come to ordinary people like you and me, not to many who are rich and famous. God usually comes to people in ordinary places, not in elaborate cathedrals or enormous mega churches. In fact, God often comes to people who are not in a church. They may be on their job, at their home or somewhere else.
God comes to people who have open hearts to hear His message. As we’ll see, the shepherds had open hearts to hear God and to respond to His message. God desires to come to you this morning, He wants to give you His message. Decide to open your heart to whatever He wants to communicate to you. When God comes, you will
Luke 2:10-11 (ESV) And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
The angel had a message for them, a message from God. God’s message was good news. A message of joy and not fear. The message that God gave to the shepherds was not just for them alone, but for all people in the world. And what was this message? It was a message that a miracle had happened. Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, the promised Savior, the promised Lord had been born.
Luke 2:13-14 (ESV) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
The single angel messenger was joined by a vast host of angels, singing and praising God on that lonely hillside where the shepherds were. Their song announced that this miracle birth would bring glory to God and peace on earth. This peace on earth would not be for everyone, but for those people that God is pleased with. Who is God pleased with? Those who put their faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. The shepherd’s lives would never be the same after that miracle night. And this world would never be the same after the birth of the Messiah.
Why did God communicate His message to those lowly shepherds? I believe He knew that they had open hearts to respond to His word. They were candidates for a miracle.
What about you? Are you a candidate for a miracle? Does God have a message for you? God brings His miracles into the lives of people who have open hearts and are seeking Him. God gives His messages to people who will follow His direction and carry out His purpose. This Christmas Eve, in the quietness of your own heart, tell God that you want to hear from Him, that you desire a miracle from heaven in your life. As you open up your heart to Him, He will answer your prayer. When God communicates His message to you, you must …
Luke 2:12 (ESV) And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
This statement was part of the angelic message to the shepherds. It spoke of a sign and it communicated something that the shepherds were to do. They were to search for and find this baby that the angels had announced. They would know that they had found Him when they saw Him wrapped in clothes in a manger. Not a normal place to find a newborn baby. So, the shepherds did exactly what the angel said they should do.
Luke 2:15-16 (ESV) When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.
The shepherds had experienced a miracle, but now the angels were gone. The night was dark again. Would the shepherds revert back to life as normal or would they seize the moment? The shepherds made a decision to follow up on the angel’s message and see the baby lying in a manger. They didn’t seem to have worried about their sheep, they quickly traveled to Bethlehem. Somehow they found the baby the angels had announced, along with Mary and Joseph. They seized the moment.
I believe there is a time in everyone’s life, a special moment of destiny. A moment when God speaks to you and tells you about His special gift to mankind, the gift of Jesus. When that moment comes, when you realize that God is communicating with you, you have a choice to make. Will you size the moment or put off responding to God, thinking you will have another chance at a later time? If you put off responding to God, will you have another chance to respond, to seize the moment? Maybe or maybe not. None of us knows what tomorrow will bring. The shepherds seized the moment and came to worship Jesus. If you have not responded to God’s gift of Christmas, I challenge you to seize the moment and choose to give your life in worship to Jesus Christ. We’ll give you an opportunity at the close of this message. After the shepherd’s seized their moment, they chose to …
Luke 2:17-18 (ESV) And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
The shepherds had heard about Jesus from the angels. Then they had seen Him with their own eyes and worshipped Him. Now, they told Mary and Joseph and everyone else they met the message that the angels had communicated to them. It was good news that was meant to be shared with everyone they met. It was good news of great joy for the whole world. Jesus, the Messiah, prophesied for thousands of years, had finally come to earth. Jesus had come to be Savior and Lord. The world had changed forever, history would be split between BC and AD. The shepherds spread the good news.
If you know the story of Jesus this morning and you have experienced Him in your life, then you also have good news to share. The good news is that Jesus has come, first of all to be our Savior. Jesus came to make a way for our sins to be forgiven. Our guilt and shame can be removed. Jesus came to remake us in His image. He came so that we could have a relationship with God that will last forever, eternal life.
When you’ve heard God speak to you, when your life has been changed by Him, you have good news to share. This Christmas, make sure you find a way to share that Good News in your various family gatherings. Sometimes, we’re afraid to share the good news because someone might be offended. If you share the Good News of Jesus with 5 people and four are offended and one is saved, your sharing has changed eternity. And the offended ones, may well change their minds later from the seeds of truth that you have planted in their minds. Spread the Word.
Luke 2:20 (ESV) And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
The shepherds returned to their jobs of shepherding. However, they returned changed people. They were glorifying and praising God, they were filled with joy. They had heard from God, they had experienced a miracle, they had obeyed God and their lives were forever changed. There is no reason to doubt that these shepherds had become true believers in Jesus the Messiah. They did not keep their joy to themselves, but shared it with one another and others.
The Declaration of Independence states that God, our Creator, has given each us the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, many people pursue happiness in all the wrong places. In fact, pursuing happiness or joy, in and of itself, will not lead to enduring happiness. True joy can only be found in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Joy and happiness are a result of seeking God, finding Him and following His plan for your life. The joy found in God will sustain you throughout all the hardships of life.
Christmas should be a time of joy. Joy in the miracle of the birth of Christ, joy in celebrating with our families and with our church family. Don’t let the busyness of the season steal your joy. Look for your joy, not in gifts, not in other people, but in God. Then share that joy with others.
The story of the shepherds is not just a story for children. This story teaches us important lessons about how God comes to us. God comes to everyday people in ordinary places. If you are seeking God, you can experience the miracle of His presence. Choose to seize the moment and respond to His message to you. The good news that you’ve heard and experienced will fill you with joy. Share it with all those around you this Christmas season.