Luke 2:1-20 Christmas Eve 2017
We often look at the shepherds in the story of Christmas and think, “What a peaceful, wonderful life.” But the life of a shepherd was really anything but peaceful and wonderful. They were in danger from the same predators that hunted the sheep. The people of the towns didn’t trust them and looked down on them because they lived a nomadic lifestyle. If the angels had come today, they might have come to one of the many homeless encampments to make their announcements.
Despite, or maybe because of their low position in society the shepherds looked forward to the time when the Messiah would come and restore the kingdom of David. We still look forward to the time when the King of Kings returns to establish God’s Kingdom. I think the story of the shepherds is our story when we receive the good news of Christ’s coming.
Even though the shepherds looked forward to the Messiah with Joyful anticipation, when the time came, Luke tells us that they heard the good news with fear and trembling. Isn’t that how we respond when we first hear the Gospel? Oh, we celebrate the idea of God’s love, of God’s kingdom, but when it comes to living that Gospel we become afraid because the message is so different from what the world has taught us. We are afraid because we know that no matter how good we become, we can’t be good enough to deserve the love that God gives us when he gives us his son. But that fear turns to joy as we begin to understand that God’s love is not based on our goodness, but simply on God’s love. God loves us before we even realize that we are in need of a relationship with God. When we realize that God loves us and all we have to do is to accept that love, we can experience almost the greatest joy imaginable. We have to find out more. We have to investigate and see whether these things are true.
When we investigate we experience God’s love even more. We know God’s love is true because it is true for us. We discover that God’s love is real! We discover that God loves us-- even us-- in our own lives. This is the greatest love. It is the love and the peace that passes all understanding. It is the love that calls us back to God.
When we experience a love like that, we must do more than just accept it. Like the shepherds who left rejoicing, we must share the good news of God’s love with everyone we meet. The love of God, the light of the world changes us so that we can change others. Because the love of God, the light of Christ has come to us we can share that love with all we meet. That’s how God’s love spreads. It is shared from person to person, until the whole world is ablaze with God’s love.
But God’s love is not just a one-time thing. It is renewed every day, every minute as God surprises us with God’s love in ways we can’t imagine. The Bible tells us that Mary, Jesus’s mother pondered all these things in her heart as she added the events of the first Christmas to all of the other ways God had blessed her. She pondered after all the ways God loves. I think after they returned to their flocks, the shepherds pondered as well. They pondered the meaning of all they had heard and experienced in this night of God’s love. They pondered what they would be called to next. We too have the privilege of pondering the meaning of God’s love. We can ponder what type of call God has for us to share God’s love with the world.
So this Christmas, Fear not! Rejoice at the coming of the King of Kings! Tell the world of God’s love. And take time to ponder what all of this means in your life. Amen.