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Dec 15, 2019

Heralding the Birth of Jesus

Heralding the Birth of Jesus

Speaker: James Gallaher

Category: Sunday Morning

God sent His message through angels to the most despised of people - shepherds.

Luke 2:1-7 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

God can use anything to bring forth His purpose. At this moment, God uses a secular government to bring forth His will. The census brings Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. The more we think we control what goes on in the world around us, the less we will marvel at the promises of God. The story of the birth of Jesus was a story of fulfillment from the Garden. 

If we were writing the script for how the Savior of the world was going to be brought into this world and raised, it probably wouldn't be through a broke carpenter and an approximately 15-year-old girl who was, at best, a maid in someone's home. Two unlikely characters in the greatest story ever told. Broke, low class, an insignificant couple from a no-name town in Galilee. If Joseph and Mary were of high honor society, they would have made room for them in Bethlehem. This picture of the type of people that God called helps us to recognize who God can use so that we don't disqualify ourselves as unqualified.

Luke 2:8-20 The only group that makes sense in this story are the angels; not the broke peasant parents; certainly not the shepherds. God sent His angels to herald the birth of his Son to a despised group of people - shepherds. Heralds hired to announce the birth of those with means were common at this time.

Then if you were a nomad, what do you do when God shows up in the sky? They were afraid; not expecting God to show up and declare good news to them; not to social outcasts. Imagine being who they were and seeing what they saw. 

The angel offers assurance - bringing good news of great joy for all people. Assurance that says when you encounter the presence of God that brings light, hope comes, not judgment, not condemnation. Help, freedom, healing, and wholeness comes. Hope is on the way even to us who are unworthy. 

From the depths of society came salvation for humanity. God started with the lowest of the low. Is it so different how He came to each of us? The world looks at the offer of salvation with the same fear and concern as the shepherds. Do we also question His choosing of us? Do we hide who we really are? Fear is often the first response that most have when they encounter God. Fear of judgment, of shame. The angel brings that same message to us . . . "Fear not, I bring you good tidings of great joy."

Luke 7:44-48 tells us about the woman who comes to a home where Jesus sits. She takes her hair to wash Jesus' feet. Jesus makes the point that our own perspective on our fallenness has a lot to do with our gratefulness. The Pharisee didn't see that he needed as much grace as the woman. The smallest sin that goes against God is enough to send us to hell. We tend to see our sin in relation to another but it takes the same amount of grace to forgive. We are all sinners in need of grace. If I don't see myself as needing grace, then I'll not be a very grace-filled person. Grace came down - not created within me. It's from Heaven. One of the greatest testimonies of God's grace is the grace we show to other people. 

Joseph and Mary did not know the future, but they knew that God was choosing the undesirable, the unlikely, the unhealthy. The reality is that God is choosing us. God shows up to the foolish. We have the opportunity to receive the gift of God in our life. 

The shepherds could have rejected the message or doubted the angel's words. But the shepherds became the very first evangelists. Luke 2:17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. The shepherds came and found the baby; they saw the baby; they believed what God had said; they went out to tell everyone.

In this moment of insignificance, God chose to bring forth the most significant gift we could ever receive. Too often insignificance leaves us feeling abandoned, marginalized, overlooked. But seldom do we give thought that those moments of insignificance is the very thing that God intends to bring forth His greatest gift in life. A night like any other of doing the same things. Something happened. The decisions that we make today could impact our lives 10, 20 or 100 years from now. We overlook the mundane and insignificant times, but those decisions culminate in a moment where God shows up. 

The shepherds took the encounter with God and began to tell everyone around them what had happened. They became the herald for the Newborn King. Every one of us is a shepherd - downcast, undeserving, set aside. Question: Will you be a herald? Will you take what God did and tell someone about it? The gospel says Go. The kingdom of God is about our story. 


What thoughts do you have about the unlikely characters of Luke 2?

In what way do you align with the shepherds? insignificant, downcast, a herald...

What area are there thoughts of insignificance in your life? Can you change perspective to see how God can use you?