Sermon for Christmas Day, Monday December 25th, 2017
Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:8-20
Topic: The Christmas Story – from Gospel to worship
Shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem, minding their own business, in their case, their sheep, were surprised by the appearance of an angel bringing good news of great joy – the birth of a Savior, Christ the Lord. These shepherds were watching over the flocks of sheep kept for the Temple sacrifices in Jerusalem. They had to drive away thieves that came to steal, or predators that would try to kill the sheep. They would take turns keeping guard through the watches of the night. The moon, the stars, the skies, the sheep and one another – the shepherds must have grown used to these quiet nights. Like the sentry on guard duty, one must be prepared for something to happen, but if it’s going to be a dangerous encounter, one would prefer it not to happen. Yet one is waiting for something to happen. Sometimes, the sentry even wishes something would happen to break the tedium of the long night.
THE GLORY OF THE LORD AT THE MESSIAH’S BIRTH
On that night for those shepherds something did happen! All of a sudden, an angel of the Lord came to them, and the dazzling light and glory of the Lord shone around them. Of course they were overwhelmed with fear. Otherwise, the angel would not have had to reassure them by saying, “Fear not.” Instead of a fearful pronouncement, the angel announced the good news of great joy for all people. This good news was the birth of a Savior, Christ the Lord, that day in Bethlehem. The sign of the truth of all this was that they would find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. How amazing this must have seemed to them – the birth of the Messiah in such humble circumstances that very night! But to confirm this announcement by the angel, there suddenly appears a multitude of angels praising God, giving Him glory and proclaiming peace on earth and good will towards men. These shepherds had been granted a vision of the heavenly host praising Almighty God, giving Him glory at the birth of the Messiah on earth, and prophesying peace and God’s good will towards mankind.
The shepherds go at once to Bethlehem to see the truth of what the angel had announced. When they find Mary and Joseph, and the Christ child lying in a manger, they make known the angel’s saying concerning the child. Then they return to their sheep, glorifying God and praising him for all that they had heard and seen.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SHEPHERDS’ EXPERIENCE
The shepherds’ experience of the Savior’s birth is very significant, in that it teaches us the Christian pattern of hearing God’s word (they heard it from the angel) about Jesus, believing God’s word, seeing it, receiving it as truth, worshiping God because of it, and testifying to it. The shepherds’ lives were forever changed by what they had heard, believed, seen and received, as well as shared with others. Before Jesus ever preached the Gospel on earth, while He was still an infant, the power of God’s word was already drawing people to believe in Him and receive Him as Christ. The shepherds went to the humble place of Jesus’ birth because of the word of God brought to them by an angel accompanied by a heavenly multitude singing God’s praises.
The pattern of the Gospel was already marked out and shown in the shepherds’ eager reception of the angel’s good news, and how they responded is a lesson to us today. How glad we ought to be because Jesus Christ the Lord and Savior was born on earth! How that good news should cause us to rejoice, no matter what sorrows and trials we face in life! These shepherds believed the good news, went to worship Jesus the Messiah, shared the word of God that had come to them through the angel, and returned, glorifying and praising God.
We Christians are called to a life of testimony and praise founded on a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Corrie Ten Boom used to tell a story about an old monk who sang a Christmas song every Christmas Eve for his brothers in the monastery, and for visitors who would come from the village for special services. His voice was very raspy, but he loved the Lord and sang from his heart. One year the superior said, “I’m sorry, Brother Don, we will not need you this Christmas. We have a new monk who has a beautiful voice.”
The man did sing beautifully, and everyone was happy. But that night an angel came to the superior and said, “Why didn’t you have a Christmas Eve song? The superior was very surprised. “We had a beautiful song,” he replied. “Didn’t you hear it?” The angel shook his head sadly. “It may have been inspiring to you, but we didn’t hear it in heaven.”
“You see,” Corrie would say, “the old monk with the raspy voice had a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, but the young monk was singing for his own benefit, not that of the Lord.”
(p. 117, Robert J. Morgan: Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007)
Today, God calls you to live a life of wholehearted love for Him and neighborly love, a life of praise, worship and testimony based on your experience of a sound relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ flowing from your repentance and faith signified by your Baptism and Confirmation.
Are you living such a life that is pleasing to the Lord?