Shepherds and Angels
All Age Sermon preached Sunday 25 december 2017 by The Reverend Canon Charles Royden
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirin′i-us was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And 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 lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”
Imagine that you were in the field that night looking after the sheep when an angel appears to the Shepherds. We don’t know what happened but I guess it would be like a great light. Let’s get one of those ! Here is my LED spotlight (we turn on a really, really big light which blinds anybodty who we shine it on!) which Max and I used when we were doing his loft insulation. Imagine a bright light like this suddenly appearing and shining in your eyes. How would you feel ? Dazed a bit frightened. It would be a shock, a surprise.
Christmas is a time of surprises as we open presents - has anybody ever had a surprise ?
When our children were small we took them to France. We told them that we were taking them on holiday in the South of France and that we would be staying in a cottage. However not long off the shuttle we stopped on the outskirts of Paris at a hotel and said ‘Guess what Surprise, were taking you to Disneyland first ! Alexandra my little girl burst into tears, sobbing uncontrollably because her plans had been changed. She doesn’t like surprises.
I am sure that the Shepherds must have been disorientated, surprised, worried, not sure what was going on - most probably also afraid.
So the first things the messenger from God says is
- Be not afraid
- I bring good news - Gospel
- of Great Joy
- Saviour Christ the Lord has been born
- Lying in a manger
Jesus lies in a manger to show that God has come but not in a bad way !
God came from heaven to take on our human form, lying in a manger to show us just how much God loves us.
God surveyed humanity and realized how dark and difficult our days could be, how confused we get about our identity and place, how many painful things we do to each other out of that confusion and insecurity, God decided to do something about it. And so after giving the law and sending the prophets, God got involved. Personally, intimately involved with God’s fallen creation.
But when God decided to get personally involved, God didn’t come
to punish, or frighten, or scold, or threaten, or any of the other things that are
often attributed to God (sometimes even by people in the church!). Instead, God came to tell us that we are loved, deeply, truly, and forever.
And just to make sure we got the point, God first brought that message embodied in the flesh by Jesus to people the world was pretty sure weren’t particularly important or, for that matter, loved: no account shepherds, an unwed teenage mom, astrologers practicing a whole different religion. All of this to show that God wasn’t going to leave anyone behind. That God’s message of love was for all. As in everyone, whether the world thought you were important or lovable or not.
And that’s still the way it is. God loves all of us, but especially wants those who don’t feel loved or lovable, those who regularly feel like they’re on the outside looking in, those who feel forgotten, and those who wonder what the point of life is, to hear the “good news of great joy” that God loves all of us.
After all the shopping and cleaning and cooking and preparing…. Or, for that matter (and we sometimes we forget this side of things), after all the trying to make ends meet, keeping a distraught family intact, struggling to get a job, or worrying about a loved
After all the stuff that makes our lives kind of crazy, I think the short, simple, and peaceful word that we are of infinite value and worth to God is perhaps just the simple word we need to hear this Christmas
And so if you really want to keep it simple, you could probably reduce the Christmas message even further,
picking up the two words of the angels’ song that capture the heart of the Christian message: “for you.”
Notice it’s not just that Jesus is born, but the angels say, “Jesus is born for you.”
And it’s not just “good news,” in general, but it’s “good news of great joy for you and all people.”
For while the Gospel is never a private word, it is nevertheless a very personal word,
reminding each and every one of us that God believes we are worthy of honor and dignity and,
above all else, love.