Most people in America are familiar with this passage; we read at Christmas time, even if they rarely crack open a Bible. These verses from Luke have even entered the popular culture, through Linus’ famous speech in the Charlie Brown Christmas video. Every December since 1965, in between televised scenes of the Grinch slithering around Whoville, and George Bailey being saved by Clarence the angel, and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer running around the North Pole with Herbie (an elf who wants to be a dentist), we have Linus, who discovers the true meaning of Christmas in the gospel of St. Luke, chapter 2.
But my concern is that with all the annual repetitions, the familiarity of the story of the shepherds can cause us to take it for granted – to overlook just how amazing this incident really is. Because it’s not just a story of God’s love for some shepherds. It’s a story about God’s love for us. And if we consider this story carefully, we’ll see that it has a message of love and hope for each one of us here.
To merchants it is the busiest time of the year. Stores stay open longer and hire extra people to accommodate all the shoppers. It means more profit, hopefully enough profit to see them through lean times ahead.
For some employees it means a Christmas bonus, a little more money in their pockets to do things that they want to do. For many teenagers & adults it is a time of fun & parties. For children it is a time of impatience, with time seeming to pass so slowly, as they wait for Christmas morning. But sometimes I get the feeling that we are like the folks who decided to throw a party to honor a very special friend. They sent out invitations, decorated the hall, & had the food catered. All the people came together at the designated time, but to their surprise, the guest of honor was not there. Finally, they made the embarrassing discovery that no one had ever invited the guest of honor.
I wonder if that happens at Christmas time. Do we go through all the decorating, & buying presents, & preparing elaborate meals, but somehow forget whose birthday it really is?
The fact that God made the announcement to shepherds helps us to understand the real meaning of Christmas. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son," & He chose to announce that to shepherds first. They had no power or prestige. Yet, God’s angel came to them and said, "Unto you are born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ, the Lord." Unto shepherds a Savior was born.
It’s not just a story of God’s love for some shepherds. It’s a story about God’s love for us. And if we consider this story carefully, we’ll see that it has a message of love and Hope for each one of us here today.