A Savior Has Been Born, For You!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
God has not left us alone. He has sent us angels, messengers, and most amazingly he has sent us his Son. The angels have helped us to prepare for this day, especially what we heard recently when the angel Gabriel visited Mary to announce that she would be the mother of the Messiah, the mother of God. She asked how can this be since I am a virgin and do not know man? And we ask the same question also. How can I love my spouse when he does something stupid? How can I forgive my sister or the one who spoke badly about me? The angel Gabriel gives us the same answer: the power of the Holy Spirit will do it. Fear not. What you cannot do God will do for you! We have a very important message for you today. Listen well.
Luke is the author of this gospel, an educated man, a doctor, who writes beautifully and he speaks more about angels than anyone else. He wants to document this gospel very well so that we know it is not a fairytale but something that really happened. So he tells us a lot of historical details that maybe you did not notice. He said that the decree went out from Caesar Augustus that everyone should be enrolled and that Quirinius was governor of Syria. He nails it down so the facts could be checked thousands of years later.
Luke goes on to say that Joseph went from Galilee south to Bethlehem by way of Jerusalem for the census since his ancestors were from that city. And in that place in a guest room, we say inn, but probably was a cave where the savior of the world was born. In Bethlehem today you can see these caves, many of them, on the sides of the mountain. There was a lean-to put in front of these caves for family guests. It could be that for more privacy Joseph and Mary used the cave and put the animals in the lean-to, and so in this way Christ was born. The feeding trough that may have nailed to the side of a wall was his manger. Luke mentions this very briefly and then cuts to a new scene outside of Bethlehem.
There were shepherds in the fields guarding their flocks. The lambs were reserved for the temple sacrifice in Jerusalem. Therefore they had to be kept perfect and could have no blemish so they were kept separate from the other sheep; they were the lambs of God. However, the shepherds were not very special, just the opposite. They were at the bottom of the social strata, outcasts and nobodies and were out all night long and watched these sheep. So suddenly a flash of light appears and they were terrified. According to Scripture the first thing that angels inspire is fear. When people encounter them they are afraid. But perhaps what is feared is not danger, but distance…the distance between God and us, and angels reveal this distance, and it can be terrifying.
The angel announces the most amazing news of great joy that is for all the people. Wait a minute what do you think he meant by “all people.” Just the ones who go to church or are goodie-goodies or the ones who look like us and think like us. Or do you suppose that he really meant “all people.” So no matter what you have done, or where you are at today, or your presence makes the priest think that the roof will collapse, you are all included in “all people.”
The angels prove this by making this announcement to shepherds. They did not go to church; they were not allowed, nor could they appear in court, they were the lowest of the low. So if they are the first who hear this good news then for sure this message is for everyone!
Then the angels say, “Today in this city of David a Savior is born for you.” This is very personal, a real miracle, God has sent you and me a Savior. Many today think they have no need of a savior but I would suggest something different. If I am entirely honest there are plenty of times I need help. For instance when I am trying to get my weight under control and I cannot, when I try to reduce the amount of debt and it only gets worse, when I see the amount of time I have invested in my kids and they don’t meet me halfway, when it can’t seem to find the right person to marry, or when the doctor announces a bad diagnosis and I am terrified, when I want to reconcile with my spouse and it seems to go nowhere.
You know that in these or similar situations you cannot get there alone. You need help; you need a Savior. And the good news is that is exactly what you got. 2,000 years ago angels brought this message to shepherds, a news of great joy. And today we announce the same thing; Christ comes tonight to be your savior and mine. To help us with this reality we will start a new series in the New Year called the Joy Factor; come and listen.
So today we ask you to simply accept this message. Christ did not come to condemn anyone but he came to heal our wounds, our doubts, our hang-ups, our bad choices. He knows you better than you know yourself. Give him a chance, and come and listen.