Isa 40:9-11 Jerusalem, go up on a high mountain and proclaim the good news! Call out with aloud voice, Zion; announce the good news! Speak out and do not be afraid. Tellthe towns of Judah that their God is coming! (10) The Sovereign LORD is coming to rule with power, bringing with him the peoplehe has rescued. (11) He willtake care of his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs together andcarry them in his arms; he will gently lead their mothers.
Luk 2:8-20 There were some shepherds in that part of the countrywho were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. (9) An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of theLord shone over them. They were terribly afraid, (10) but the angelsaid to them, "Don't be afraid! I am here with good news for you, whichwill bring great joy to all the people. (11) This very day inDavid's town your Savior was born—Christ the Lord! (12) And this iswhat will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying ina manger." (13) Suddenly a great army of heaven's angelsappeared with the angel, singing praises to God: (14) "Gloryto God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom he ispleased!" (15) When the angels went away from them back intoheaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and seethis thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us." (16) So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in themanger. (17) When the shepherds saw him, they told them what theangel had said about the child. (18) All who heard it were amazedat what the shepherds said. (19) Mary remembered all these thingsand thought deeply about them. (20) The shepherds went back,singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen; it had been just as theangel had told them.
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen
What is it that takes a man, a woman, a child, and turns their hearts
with longing for some other reality
something that science
or what is called fact
leaves them with an emptiness?
For after all of science and a so called reality
there remains within the human heart a longing for something more,
and a memory of something other
a true home and a true love
a voice within, an invitation that demands an answer
a moment of crisis calling us to a realm of belief.
This message that has haunted some of us
and haunted me all my life,
a message that has shaped who I am
and how I understand God.
A message: Good news of great joy – for all people!
To you is born this day in Bethlehem a saviour who is Christ the Lord
and you will know that it is good news for you for you will
find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth
lying in a manger.
And so this same message comes to shepherds with a sense God’s presence
and the presence, joy.
And you, I’m sure know the feeling, as
their whole world lights up,
as joy surrounds them and bubbles out of them.
And the heavens, the cosmos is alive with joy
as of the singing of angels.
And these shepherds know
they are surrounded by divine love
as the mystery of God becomes for them a reality.
not fact as we would call it
but something more real and truer.
Such, the shepherds discovered!
Oh, they knew about God,
they had heard the stories,
but the God they knew was the possession of the religious elite
and they knew, they were told that
where God was concerned
shepherds were the nobodies at the bottom of the heap.
God there may be, but He’s not for us.
We live on the edge
caring for the sheep of the villages.
We don’t wash and we smell something awful.
We don’t sit at fancy tables
we eat rough on the ground
and women visit us sometimes….
and there are rumours that we are thieves.
So a God there may be,
but best we stay hidden if we can
for they say God is wrathful and would destroy sinners such as us.
God is for the good people,
the religious people,
But I wonder if you and I were shepherds
on a hill outside Bethlehem,
would we maybe experience some times at night
when all is still and the sheep are safe in their folds
and a million, million stars fill the heavens.
And sometimes we would wonder, wouldn’t we,
if behind this vastness there is something other?
A heart that beats for us,
and that life is more than surviving
and maybe we wonder about that inner sense within us,
some kind of longing
that on nights such as this,
is sometimes awakened?
And the God question came to mind
and we we began to wonder what God was like.
And maybe if you and I were these shepherds?
Would you maybe remember
how when that sheep got separated from the flock,
How you had gone out in the heat of the Judean wilderness
and found it nearly dead
and you carried it home
because if you didn’t,
if you didn’t rescue it, it would die?
Or maybe that time
that ewe had died giving birth and you gathered up her lamb
and nursed it to health
and found another mother for it.
Or that time when that sheep had got caught in a wadi
the current carrying it under
and we had gone in after it and saved if from drowning.
So we begin to wonder,
what if God is more
like a shepherd, a good shepherd that would lay down his life for the sheep?
What if God was like us shepherds?
A God who would seek out the lost sheep
so that it wouldn’t die alone.
God like a shepherd who knows the names of his sheep
and whose sheep know the sound of the shepherd’s voice
and will follow him?
What if God was like that rather
than this punitive picture some of us have been given,
of anger and punishment.
And we remember a picture, a song from long ago
where a shepherd had written a song.
A song with words that ran,
The Lord is my shepherd – I have everything I need.
And even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid
for thou art with me!
What if God was like that?
A God who when I am lost restores me
brings me back to Himself?
God as a shepherd? Surely not possible?
Yet, for such a God I long
as we sit on the Judean hillside
And then He is there.
In this mysterious way, God is there
the Good Shepherd is there breaking into our lives
with profoundness that
suggests we should fear
but a word that says – Fear not.
I am here with good news for you.
In all this vastness
there is a heart that beats for you
there is One
who is more like you
than you could ever imagine.
One who is more like a shepherd than a high priest
or religious leader.
One, who even as you would lay down your life for a sheep
will lay down his life for you.
Who will never stop seeking you out
because you are His beloved
smelly or not
on the edge or not
rejected by decent people or not.
You shepherds are beloved of God
the sheep of His pasture
God who carries the lambs in His arms
and gently leads their mothers.
Do I believe this good news of great joy
Do I believe that I matter?
Do I believe that there is One who holds me in life and death.?
Do I believe this good news of great joy.
Shepherds – how you respond
will make all the difference in this world and the world to come.
Will you believe – believe that you and those you love are held
because the shepherd is good.
And live ever free from fear.
Or will you say – this can’t be true
we can’t be that special that God would come to us.
We won’t be fooled
we are just, nobody shepherds.
If we would believe that, God would have to come as a nobody, a nobody shepherd
or a peasant child
like the ones born tonight down in the village.
If God was for us, we would need a sign
we would need to see He was one of us.
Then comes the angelic response:
This will be a sign for you.
You will find a baby
wrapped in cloths
sleeping in a feed trough,
in a peasant home.
To such a house you will be welcome.
So it is written:
When the angels went away from them back into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us." (16) So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the manger; it had been just as the angel had told them.
So shall we too
hear this good news of great joy!
You are beloved of God
the God who comes.
This, “wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly….
God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings.
Nor shall his love ever leave you
nor His hand not hold you
in life or death.
This good news of great joy for all people.
Now unto God the Father, God the Son and God, the holy Spirit, be all the honour and glory, world without end. Amen
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