A sermon developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett that is based on Luke 2:8-18 and preached at Faith Community Church, Barre, Vermont, on December 19, 2010.
Verse 8 - In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock.
To fully understand the JOY of this story, we need to understand who shepherds were. The following information about shepherds is adapted from: http://www.americanbible.org/brcpages/shepherds
Shepherds led sheep to pasture and water.
Shepherds guarded their flocks at night from wild animals and robbers.
Shepherds kept count of the sheep.
Shepherds carried weak lambs in their arms.
Because shepherds spent most of their time outside in the elements, their life was often hard.
Shepherds seldom owned the flocks they watched over and their pay was so small that it was unlikely they would ever own their flock.
Shepherds seldom owned the fields in which their flocks grazed, and it was unlikely they would ever own their own land.
Shepherds often became victims of robbers or wild animals, their life expectancy was short.
Because shepherds spent so much time away from the village watching the sheep, they seldom were able to complete their education.
Being a shepherd was mainly the occupation of younger sons and slaves.
There was not a lot of “upward mobility” for shepherds.
A shepherd’s life was quiet and simple but it was also full of hardship and poverty.
It was a life with little joy or excitement. No real prospect for recognition. Little hope of long term survival. Little anticipation that anything great would ever happen.
Yet it was to these men that the Joy of the World was first announced!
God chose to reveal to these ordinary people the extraordinary news that the Joy of the World had arrived.
God still speaks to ordinary people.
Very few of the rich and famous follow Jesus. It is tempting to wait for some “super Christian” to come solve all the problems in our community.
But very few “super Christians” really exist.
Mostly it is just ordinary people like us who follow the Lord.
God wants to use us ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
Are we willing to be used by God to do something great for Him?
Verse 9 - Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
Angels are special messengers from God who give us direction in life.
Sometimes God uses actual angels to give us messages from Him.
Sometimes God uses people or circumstances or special situations to give us an “angelic” message that provide directions for life.
When God begins to give us directions for our lives, sometimes it scares us.
Verse 10 - But the angel said to them, "Don't be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:
The angel told the shepherds not to be afraid.
We do not need to be afraid of what God is says to us, because God only wants our good.
When we listen to God, we find JOY in life.
Too often we lose our joy because we KNOW what God wants us to do, but we ignore it.
Verse 11 - today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.
The angel proclaimed that the Savior was born.
We call Christ the Savior because He literally SAVES us from the eternal consequences of our sin, which is an eternity in hell.
Christ also helps us learn how to live better so that we might be SAVED from making the same mistakes over and over again. Therefore life is better with Christ than without Him.
This message of Jesus as our Savior is the most important message we will ever hear.
We will NEVER have JOY in our lives until we accept this message of Jesus as Savior.
If we have not yet accepted Jesus as our Savior, we should do that right now and give ourselves to Jesus as a Christmas gift.
A Prayer of Acceptance:
Dear Jesus, I realize I am a sinner and have messed up a lot of things in my life. I believe that You came to earth to rescue me from a life of sin and from the eternal consequences of my sin. Right now I turn from my sin and place my faith in You as the Lord and Savior of my life. Help me to follow You and live my life the way You want me to. Amen.
Verse 12 - This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a manger.”
The angel told the shepherds they would know that the Messiah had really been born when they found a baby wrapped up in cloth and lying in a manger.
We have gotten so used to hearing this part of the Christmas story that it sounds “sweet” to find a baby in these circumstances.
But to the shepherds, this sounded crazy.
A manger was a feeding trough that food for animals was put in. Then animals came and slobbered all over it while they ate.
In today’s world I can’t imagine a manger ever being cleaned up enough for a baby to lie in. In that era without any anti-bacterial cleaning supplies, it had to be NASTY!
The shepherds, who fed animals for a living, knew this was crazy. No mother would put her new born baby in such a gross place.
When we give our lives to Christ, He comes to us in the grossness of our sin and dwells with us.
He knows all about the ugliness of our sin and loves us anyway. That should make us joyful!
Verse 13 - Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
After the angel announced the unusual nature of Christ’s birth, he was joined by a host of angels praising God together.
The proper response for us to have when we realize Christ’s love for us in the midst of the ugliness of our sin is to praise God.
Verse 14 - Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!
The glory of the Christmas story was NOT in the shepherds, or Mary, or Joseph or even the angels who sang so wonderfully.
The glory of the Christmas story was God!
Whenever we get our eyes on ourselves, we lose our JOY.
When we get our eyes on Jesus, JOY comes!
Verse 15 - When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let's go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
After the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds immediately decided to go check out what the angel had said.
The shepherds had a tremendous spiritual experience and realized this experience had the potential to change their lives.
The shepherds realized they could have real JOY if they found Jesus.
It is important to note that the shepherds recognized this JOY was something the Lord was showing them. It was not their personal will power.
Real JOY has no other source but Jesus.
We will be disappointed if we think we can conjure up JOY without a deep and meaningful faith in Jesus Christ.
So the shepherds immediately left what they were doing, risking everything to find Jesus.
When we sense something spiritual going on in our lives, we should reorder our priorities and press in close to the Savior so that we do not miss out on the JOY God wants us to have.
Just imagine if the shepherds had said they were too busy, or too poor, or just disinterested in finding the baby the angel told them about.
Verse 16 - They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough.
The shepherds hurried to find what the angel had told them about.
It is interesting how we are in a such a hurry to finish school, find a job, make money, get married, buy a car, shop with credit cards, etc, etc, but when it comes to spiritual things, we suddenly slow down and put off making the commitments we know we should make.
Though we should not “rush” into spiritual commitments that we have not yet thought through, we need to make time to think through what God is saying to us so we can have JOY.
If God wants to start having a daily quiet time, or to start tithing, or to join the church or be baptized or start serving in some way, we will NOT find JOY until we HURRY to obey!!!
We should make a list of things God is calling us to do in our lives.
Then we should make a list of things we can let go of so we will have time/energy/money to do what God is calling us to do in our lives.
What we must NOT cut out is our commitment to the Jesus Christ because He is our pathway to JOY.
Verse 17 - After seeing them, they reported the message they were told . . .
Once the shepherds found the JOY they were looking for, they could not help but tell others what they had experienced.
When we finally discover the JOY that comes from a wonderful relationship with the Lord, we will have to tell others.
Verse 18 - and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said . . .
Even though the shepherds may not have been considered “great” or “influential” under normal circumstances, the story they told was so fantastic that everyone listened.
We may think that our lives are too simple and do not count for much, but when we share with others what God is doing in our lives; they will listen and find the same JOY we have.
Conclusion - To find JOY in our lives we must:
Realize that most often God uses ordinary people to His extraordinary work.
When God tells us how to follow Him more completely, it might scare us at first.
But to find JOY we must overcome our fear, trust the Lord and HURRY to obey Him.
When God begins to do extraordinary things in our lives, we must share the JOY He gives us with others who need it.