Christmas A - Luke 2:8-20

Luke 2:8-20 NIV

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone 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 about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen Him, they spread the Word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

          A headline on Newshub yesterday said, “Closure of Opotiki birthing unit will lead to babies born on the side of the road”.

          For most of us child well-being is a priority. We take special care of those soon to be born and those new born. We prepare well, stocking up with nappies, singlets and onesies, wipes and towels – even a cuddly toy or two or more.

          Most children in New Zealand are born in special birthing centres and hospitals equipped for every emergency. Yet, every now and then a baby is born in unusual circumstances: at home, in the car or on the side of the road.

And in a stable in Bethlehem. Not the ideal, but the reality – in fact the reality for many babies births around the world where there are not the facilities, trained medical staff and support networks in place.

Here in New Zealand most of us have taken for granted that we have amazing neo-natal and post-natal support – what with midwives follow-up, doctors visits, and the plunket nurse together with extended family and friends.

When our Saviour, Jesus, was born we know He was born in less than ideal circumstances after a rough journey from Nazareth to Bethlem, being born in a stable on the side of the road and out the back of a small-town inn.

There were no soft nappies from the Huggies factory. There was no sanitised birthing bed with stirrups and attentive doctor or midwife. There was no hot running water and soft wipes.

Just Mary and Joseph, perhaps the innkeepers wife and the stable animals looking on. Swaddling cloths – strips of cloth which the baby Jesus was wrapped in and then laid in a manger – a feed trough for animals – probably cushioned in hay or straw.

There was no doctor to visit, no newspaper classified, or snapchat or facebook to announce the birth – yet there was a heavenly choir of angels who proclaimed the birth to – not the to the Plunket nurse, but to several course shepherds out in the fields.

The shepherds were tending their flocks of sheep – sheep which may have been used to supply the Temple with sacrificial animals to be slaughtered on the altar to pay for the sins of all people.

Here, now, the shepherds were told to go and see “the Lamb of God”, Jesus, “who takes away the sin of the world” by His sacrificial death on the cross some 33 years later – hence the view through our nativity here at the front of the church to the crucifix – a reminder of why Jesus came from Heaven to make payment for the sin for you.

Here with the birth and revelation of Jesus is something to get really excited about. The host of angels in heaven were so excited they sang,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests.”

     Can you hear the angels sing? You must have heard them because you are here this morning, following the shepherds to Bethlehem when they hurried to and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us and you about.”

     What did you find in the stable? A young family? A baby lying in “mean estate” in the humility of the stable?

     So, what now, now that you have seen the baby Jesus? What will you do now that God has revealed to you His salvation in this child?

     The angel told the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

     Now, you too have heard what the angels told the shepherds – through the Scripture – through this Word from God you have been to Bethlehem and seen with they eyes of your hearts what God has done.

Will you, like the shepherds, make known what God has done in sending Jesus and share everything concerning what had been told them about this child?

     Will you, like the shepherds continue glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

     There are those who are “C. & E.” Christians – they worship at “Christmas and Easter”. The shepherds probably fell into this category – out in the fields, tending the sheep, earning their keep – they were not known to frequent the Temple and were regarded with some suspicion by the mainstream society of the day.

     Yet, these shepherds are they to whom God sent His messages of hope with a revelation of His glory and good news for the future of humankind - good news that will cause great joy for all the people.

          What the angels proclaimed has happened and continues to happen in the hearts and minds of shepherds, traddies, teachers, office workers, intellectuals, retirees, students, doctors and nurses, pop idols and people everywhere – Jesus is revealed, received and worshipped and then proclaimed and shared.

          Glory to God in the highest!

          Amen.