A Hollywood Christmas Part 2
Angels in the Outfield
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 8, 2002

 

It was March 10, 1876, when years of experiments finally paid off. A message of six simple words changed the way we live. With the words "Watson, come here. I want you" Alexander Graham Bell sent the first complete sentence over the telephone and ushered in a whole new era. It was a message that changed the world.

It was July 20th, 1969, 11:56 p.m. AST. Apollo 11 has landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong emerges to be the first man to walk on the moon. His famous message: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." And life would never be the same. It was a message that changed the world.

It's was very first Christmas. An angel appears to some common shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem. "Don't be afraid! I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David!" This message, more than any other message ever spoken, changed the world and has the potential to transform lives even today.

Here's what I want us to do this morning. I want us to look at what this message was, how the shepherds responded, and how we're going to respond to that message today.

 

The Message Of The Angels:


I. It was a message of Peace. (vv.10, 14)

Now picture this. It's nighttime and these shepherds were out in the fields minding their own business taking care of their sheep when all of a sudden a great light shone around them and an angel appeared before them. They weren't expecting it. Chances are it had never happened to them before. It was natural for them to be afraid. Fear would be the expected reaction to an appearance by an angel. So the angel gave them this encouragement:

Luke 2:10 (NLT)
“Don't be afraid! …I bring you good news of great joy for everyone!”

Instead of being afraid in the presence of this messenger from God, they could be at peace.

Later on, when the angel is joined by others, they join together by saying;

Luke 2:14 (NLT)
"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.”

They reiterate that it's a message of peace.

Well, there are different kinds of peace, so let's figure out what we're talking about here.

 

What kinds of peace are there?

  1. Political Peace.

    Most people desire to have political peace. It’s the absence of war. It's what we pray for. And especially in times like this with the events of the past year and troops being sent overseas, with the U.S. on the verge of war with Iraq, and with the Gulf War still fresh in our memories, we desire political peace all the more. We think, "If only we could live in peace, everyone would be happy."

    It was Harry Truman who said;

    "I would rather have peace in the world than be president."
    ~ Harry Truman, Dec. 24, 1948

    But political peace does not mean the absence of hatred or despair. At the time that these shepherds received this message, they were experiencing what was called the Pax Romana (Roman Peace). It was a time of political peace and prosperity. But it was external. And they weren't satisfied with it. That's why they were so excited to hear about the birth of the Prince of Peace. The angels proclaimed a deeper, more lasting peace that the Roman government could offer. Because a political and outward peace and prosperity do not satisfy our deepest needs.

    We also desire a social peace.
     
  2. Social Peace.

    We want everyone to agree and get along. But things like that cannot be legislated. Our laws have tried to abolish racial issues, but every once in a while they spring up again. Shera and I moved here from the Halifax area. And just a few years ago our national news coverage focused on racial prejudice and violence in one of the schools in the area.

    We're also dealing with conflicts over language and we've got a whole section of our country that wants to separate. There're the ongoing conflicts between different religions, men and women, rich and poor, and all these social issues that we try so hard to resolve just won't go away. We can't as a society solve all these problems. It's just not going to happen. We can't find a social peace. But Christ came to bring peace, and he will help us individually to deal with these issues on a personal level so we can enjoy a social peace.

    But like political peace, social peace was not the primary peace Christ came to offer. He came primarily to bring us a spiritual peace.
     
  3. Spiritual Peace.

    Spiritual peace is what we need the most. In one of the prophesies in the Old Testament about the birth of Christ He was referred to as "The Prince Of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). Now the shepherds are being told that this Prince has come.

    This is the kind of peace that can help us when our boss calls us into his office, and we wonder what we did wrong. We're afraid we might lose our job. Or we're afraid something's going to happen that will drastically change our lives. Or it's the kind of peace that can help us when we're being examined by a doctor and we're afraid of what he may find. We're afraid it may be serious and life-threatening. Or it's a peace that can help when you're driving along the highway caught in the middle of a blizzard and you're not sure if you're going to be able to make it. It’s the kind of peace that can help you when things go wrong in your life. When tragedy strikes. When life deals you a bad hand.

    Maybe get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you consider your financial situation or your relational difficulties. Or maybe you've experienced a great loss. Spiritual peace is what you need to help you get by it. It's a peace that is the direct result of knowing that God is in control and that he cares for you. It's a peace that says that you can trust Him.

    Last week we talked about how Mary was favoured by God. She exhibited the qualities and characteristics in her life that God was looking for. Here in this account of the angel speaking to the shepherds, we’re told;

    Luke 2:14 (NLT)
    Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favours.

    This peace is offered free of charge to the people God finds favour with. They’re the people who set high standards in their lives, they’re the people who try to live by the guidelines laid out in the Bible, they’re the people who have decided that God is a priority in their lives. They love Him, they talk with Him, they want to please Him (like anyone who loves someone wants to please them).

 

2. They were told of a Personal Saviour. (vv.10,11)

The angel told the shepherds,

"I bring you good news…” (v. 10, NLT)
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you…” (v. 11, NIV)


This is a book that came out in the early 90's entitled "The Day America Told the Truth." It's the result of an extensive survey that was taken by over two thousand people from all across the U.S. And it revealed some pretty interesting things. One of the things covered in this survey was the best and worst occupations. People recorded what thy felt were the most admirable jobs and the sleaziest. Here are the jobs that Americans felt were the most admirable for honesty and integrity.

Before I read it, what do you think might be on this list?

PARTICIPATION

(See page 143.)

Now for the sleaziest ways to make a living.

(See page 144.)

That is how Americans felt about various occupations in the early 90's. But among the occupations of this era, shepherding would have been on that list. Shepherds were considered untrustworthy and their work made them ceremonially unclean in their culture. Yet God chose these ordinary shepherds to be the first ones outside of those directly involved (that is, Mary and Joseph and a few goats... the grandparents didn't even know yet) to hear about the birth of Christ.

The Good News about God coming to earth as a child first came to these social outcasts. Although Christ was born as the King of Kings, He didn't come just for the "important" people among us. He came to make a difference in every life, from the lowest to the highest. Jesus broke down any social barriers by consenting to be born in a barn and by having the news announced first to these outcasts.

We can all know God personally. It doesn’t matter what family we come from. It doesn’t matter what’s in our past. It doesn’t matter if you’re part of the “in crowd” or not. God wants to know you personally.

The shepherds were told of a personal Saviour, and the same message is for you today.

 

3. They were given directions to find Jesus. (vv. 11,12)

I read this week that the average business person spends three hours each week looking for things. I can believe it. Right now, my desk is a mess. I generally like to be a bit neater, but I’ve been pretty busy lately and things just keep piling up. So whenever I want to find something on my desk, it’s like going on an archaeological dig right now.

And that’s just work. It can be like that with the rest of life, too. For example, we put up our Christmas Tree this week. And I know last year we had some of those ornament hooks that I put away so we wouldn’t lose them. Well, guess what… we lost them. I have no idea where they are. I looked all over the place for them. And finally, I just gave up and bought some more.

You know, I don't think there's many things more frustrating than knowing you've got something and not being able to find it. Especially if you know you need it.

We don't like not being able to find things. We don't like to wander about aimlessly. We like to know how to get to where we're going and how to find what we need. And the greatest need that each one of us has in our lives, whether we're aware of it or not, is our need for God.

Here’s another book. "Life After God." It's a collection of short stories by Douglas Coupland meant to be a commentary on our society. And he's not a Christian, but this is what he wrote at the end of his book…

READ (2nd from last page)


Those are the words of a man who knows that he needs God. We all do. We all need a relationship with Jesus Christ. The angel gave the shepherds some directions on how to find Jesus. He was in Bethlehem, lying in a manger, and wrapped in strips of cloth.

The Bible contains directions for us, too, on how to find God. Jesus Himself said;

John 14:6 (NLT)
"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

If you're going to find God… if you're going to find this spiritual peace and this personal Saviour, you're only going to do it by developing a relationship with Jesus Christ.



Well, there you have it. The shepherds were given a message of peace, they were told of a personal Saviour, and they were given directions on how to find this Saviour. How did they respond?

 

The Response of the Shepherds:

 

1. They went to find Jesus. (vv.15,16)

Luke 2:15-16 (NLT)
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Come on, let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
They ran to the village…


They didn't waste time. They didn't dilly dally. They hurried off. They went immediately to be in the presence of Jesus.

 

2. They worshipped God. (v.20)

Luke 2:20 (NLT)
The shepherds went back to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said.

The shepherds were social outcasts. They were heading back to the fields to take care of the flocks, but they didn’t focus on the negatives… they chose instead to rejoice in the fact that they received the message and that they were chosen to meet with God.

 

3. They told others about Jesus. (vv .17,18)

Luke 2:17-18 (NLT)
Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished…

We like to talk about what interests us. People who are in love talk constantly about their mate. A husband who is genuinely and deeply in love with his wife will want to tell others about her. When he goes on business trips, he can't help but tell people about the fantastic wife that he can't wait to get back to.

Or if there's a specific sport that you enjoy, you'll talk about it. I like hockey. I talk about it. Others of you like soccer, or basketball, or baseball, or football. You talk about the things that interest you.

When was the last time you found you couldn't help but talk about Jesus? When was the last time you shared what He means to you with a family member? With a friend? With a pre-Christian? If Christ is alive and well in our lives, we shouldn't be able to help ourselves when it comes to sharing what He means to us. Telling others about Christ should be the natural outflow of our relationship with Him to those who don't know Him.

 


 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2002 SunriseOnline.ca