Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sermon for Christmas Day

In the region where Mary gave birth to Jesus were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 

We are here to celebrate the birth of Jesus,
yet we hear all about a bunch of shepherds and angels, away in a field.
Not much about the birth of God’s Son.
What’s so special about shepherds?

Now we can all agree that the appearance of angels make this birth something spectacular,
God’s own messengers are sent to proclaim the birth of his son.

But the fact that they are sent to Shepherds is perhaps even more significant.

The first clue is that the shepherds are living in the fields.
Not just working, but living.

These were men who were on the outside.
They were not in the town, they were not with families, they were not rich. They were quite alone, other than with each other.

Shepherds were not highly regarded at this time.
In fact, they were not regarded at all.
They were thought of as pretty low in society.

Shepherds were thought of as criminals, due to their habit of grazing their flock on others peoples paddocks.

So, they were thought of as criminals,
and because of that, it was job that also attracted criminals.
These were guys who society had no time for.

Furthermore, due to the hours of their work,
they could not take part in the religious goings on.
They couldn’t go to the temple or the synagogue.
They couldn’t hear God’s word, or pray with everyone.
So in Jewish understanding at the time, they were outside of God’s realm.

They were both outside of society, and outside of God.

So the fact that an angel appears to them must have been quite a shock.

It would be shock to anyone, angels are always saying ‘Do not be afraid.’

These men who believed they were outside of God were being brought in.

God’s very own messengers were telling them what was going on.

The angels didn’t go to the King, the Emperor, the leaders of the Temple, or the wealthy merchants.
They went to these lowly men.

I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
who is the Messiah, the Lord.

God chose to tell the shepherds.

The first thing that happens after Jesus is born is a great expansion of who God regards as having his favour.

The circle that had some in and some out was being expanded to include anyone who wanted to be with God.

Being with God was no longer dependent on race, status, or class.
All this moments after Jesus was born.

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the child lying in the manger.

This morning we join with the shepherds.
In many ways, we take the place of the shepherds.
Gods all embracing love that was expanded to include shepherds 2000 years ago is now so expanded it includes us.

So while the actual birth was rather normal,
the ripples of God’s love that went out from the manger,
out to the field with the shepherds, out of Bethlehem,
out through the middle East, over Europe, all over the world,
and to here in Branxton.

Somewhere along the way, we have heard the story of Jesus being born,
and today we are gathered around the stable to celebrate the moment when God became truly with us,
in his Son, Jesus Christ.

We remember where God has been with us in our lives,
we think about those who may not know of God’s love for them.

Now we are the shepherds, kneeling before God’s  Son.
We are loved with all our failings.
We may feel at times that we are outside,
but the shepherds remind us that we too are loved by God.
The shepherds remind us that even though we may get it wrong, God still loves us. He forgives us.

After the shepherds had visited Mary, Joseph and Jesus,
they returned glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen,
as it had been told them.

We are to be the shepherds now, going back home,
telling everyone about the wonder of the birth of God’s Son.
The story that comes from that manger has reached us,
and we are to continue it, to pass it on.
The Good news of Jesus birth is good news for everyone.
It is the story of God’s love.

The birth of his Son is the revealing of his love,
in his desire to be with us,
his desire to be with us through all the messiness of life.

God loved the world so much that he gave his only son,
so that anyone who believes in him will never die,
but have eternal life.

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