The Angels have appeared to the Shepherds! As Sue spoke to us about last week, as the Shepherds watched their flocks by night the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were brought good news of great joy for all the people! Today a Saviour is born! A baby is lying in a manger, who would save humanity from the death sentence caused by their sin, who would break the chains of their transgressions! The Lord was here!
And then, as we start our reading today, we read that as “the angels had left them and gone into heaven.” Well, the shepherds are left stood alone in a field, just them and the sheep. Let’s try to put ourselves into the minds of the shepherds – imagine this scenario, you’re going about your usual business and suddenly this great vision of angels appear. It’s both wonderful and terrifying at the same time. They bring the good news that the saviour is coming and then…and then, you’re back where you were, alone with only your colleagues around you and they all look as confused as you feel. What do you do? What do you think? I’d be thinking I need to go for a lie down, I’ve been hallucinating. But the thing is, everybody who was there saw the same thing happen, everybody that was there heard this good news. Could it be that it was real? Surely not. But maybe it was. Maybe this is something worth exploring. But then again there’s a flock to tend to, after that I need to do some food shopping. Oh and Corrie starts at 7 and I can’t miss that and I need to get an early night. I will get around to looking into this saviour thing at some point, but not quite yet. Of course that wasn’t the reaction of the shepherds, we read in verse 15… the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
I think we’re not dissimilar from the shepherds in this story. OK most of us haven’t seen this vision of angels, but we’ve received the same message – in fact, we hear it every year – we hear it in Christmas Carols and Nativity plays – we hear this message of good news that God has sent a saviour in the form of this small vulnerable baby. And we have the same choice to make, we can either just think “well, it’s a lovely story but I’ll put it to one side and maybe I’ll look into it further next year.” Or we can do what the shepherds did, and think perhaps this story is real. Perhaps it’s worth looking into. Perhaps it’s worth trying to find out if this story, this baby, is as life changing as it claims to be. This Christmas we all have the choice whether to just let it be a story or to find out – could it be real?
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. (v16)…it turned out it was true, it was real – how amazing! It wasn’t a hallucination or a figment of their imagination, it was true. And the thing about good news, is that its made to be shared. I think back to when my wife Ash was pregnant with our daughters, we didn’t want to keep this to ourselves, we wanted to tell people about it. We didn’t wait for people to notice that she was getting a bit round, we told people about our excitement, And that’s the thing – this news is not just good news, it’s THE good news, it’s the best news. It’s not just a baby, it’s the saviour of humanity. And so, how could we keep that to ourselves? When we’ve come to realise that this is real, how could we not tell people about this? We read here that When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (vv 17 + 18)They spread the word, they shared this good news with other people. Christmas is called a time of giving and if we’ve come to the conclusion that Jesus is real and life saving, what better gift could we give people than to share this news with them?
So the Shepherds shared the angels message and Mary, well we read in verse 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. I keep saying it – this is good news, really good news and so for Mary, she may not have completely understood what the meant but she knew it was a wonderful thing, a gift, a blessing and she treasured it. In 2020 its easy to see the negatives, the bad things, it’s easy to focus on the darkness but there is something we can treasure and its Jesus. He gives us hope, he brings us life and he’s something that we can hold on to in our hearts and know that God loves us. Whatever is going on in the word, we know that God loves us because of this baby Jesus and that is something to treasure and hold on to.
And then, it was time to go home, v20, The shepherds returned. They went home, they went back to their flocks. Do we think they went back to life as normal? Business as usual? Of course not. How could they, having heard about the saviour and see it was true..? The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. God had kept his promise, he promised a saviour, he promised a baby in a manger, and they found it to be true. And now going back to their lives, they were thankful. They remind me of us going back to normal after the Christmas period. When the Christmas tree comes down and the lights are wrapped up and we are left in a cold dark January and it’s easy to forget that only a few days before we were shouting about this hope for humanity, this baby in a manger, we were shouting peace on earth, we were singing about it. But when Christmas is over, the hope isn’t gone, God’s promise isn’t gone and the fact that it’s real isn’t gone. The fact that this baby was born to come and save us, to come and grasp us from the hands of death so that we can have eternal life, that’s still true. And it’s still wonderful, So, we need to remember that all year around, and it’s a reason to praise him and to glorify God. What better reason to praise God than this? And we need to do that every day, not just at Christmas.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is, as we enter the Christmas period, and we hear the stories, the good news, let’s think about, could it be real? If it is real (which it is) let’s share it with others, and lets treasure it and keep treasuring it and take it into the new year and every aspect of our lives. The shepherds went on this journey and it’s a journey that we can go on too, and it’s life changing.