|Text: Luke 2:20
The shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen; it had been just as the angel had told them.
It was just an ordinary night.
Another night out in the fields watching sheep.
They were shepherds who had done just this night after night. And this night was no different to any other. It might have been a little chillier than other nights. They may have had to move closer to their camp fire to keep warm, but otherwise this was just another routine night of watching sheep, making sure that they were safe from any preying animals, and as they did so, they chatted away to while away the long night hours.
They talked about people they knew, about things that had
happened in town, about the sheep and where they were going to take them
tomorrow to feed and water them.
It was just an ordinary night in the life of a shepherd in the countryside around Bethlehem.
The last thing they expected that night was to see an angel and to hear his message. What a shock it must have been. One minute they are sitting in darkness with just the glow of the fire and the next they are surrounded by a blinding light. If that happened to us we might immediately think of aliens and UFOs. In the midst of the brilliant light an angel appears and has this fantastic message, "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord".
And then suddenly the whole sky is filled with angels as they join to together in the most magnificent chorus you have ever heard, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests". Imagine the most magnificent choir singing the Hallelujah chorus – hundreds of singers producing a wonderful music. This would pale into insignificance compared with this angel choir. We are told that the shepherds were afraid. This was the last thing they were expecting on what was otherwise just another ordinary night watching their sheep.
The whole Christmas story is full of surprises.
Who would think that the baby in the manger was anyone special?
Who would have thought that the baby was Christ the Lord -
that baby wrapped in cloths,
lying in a manger filled with straw,
while his very ordinary, humble parents were looking on?
This child didn't look anyone special. And I guess when the shepherds went to visit the stable maybe they did wonder if they had the right address - whether this really was the child the angel had spoken of.
But we know that the shepherds went away rejoicing and
The child in the manger was no ordinary child.
This had been no ordinary night.
This had been the night of nights!
Today we are here to celebrate and sing and praise God for what he has done for us. He has loved us so much that his only Son left the heavens and was born as one of us. And he did this for a very special reason. He came to assure us of God's love and to bring God's forgiveness to all sinners.
God sent his Son to take on himself all the punishment we deserve. He came down from heaven, was born at Bethlehem, and then later died on a cross so that we can have forgiveness and eternal life. He came to save us, to be our Saviour, as the angels told the shepherds.
It is sad to think that more and more the Christmas story is being sidelined as a "cute story" or a legend. Recently a book was seen in a Christian bookshop entitled "The tale of Christmas". A tale to me is a piece of fiction or even an item of gossip - perhaps a tall story.
Today as we listen and as watch the children retelling the story of the first Christmas, we are not hearing a tale – we are again recounting the true events how God became one of us in order to bring salvation to all people. On the night of nights when Jesus was born we are again reminded how God has brought hope and peace into our lives, forgiveness for all of our sin, and the assurance of God's love as we face the disruption and pain in our lives.
When we realise what God has done for each of us,
when we see what trouble God has gone to save us even though we can hardly claim to deserve such love,
then we can see why this really was the night of nights.
It's no wonder the angels burst into song.
It's no wonder the shepherds returned to their sheep glorifying and praising God for the things they had seen and heard.
I hope that at the end of this service you too will return home glorifying and praising God for the things you have seen and heard as the shepherd did. God has sent us his Son to be our Saviour.
© Pastor Vince
7th December 2008