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The Glory of Christmas // The Shepherds // Week 3

CityRise December 14, 2020 sermons, cityrise, Crosspoint Church - Bellaire, Roger Patterson, The Glory of Christmas, West U Baptist,

The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Roger Patterson on Sunday December 13 at our West U Baptist Campus and in our Online Experience on youtube.com/cityriseorg. To view the sermon in full, please visit our YouTube page.

Skit Guys Presentation: The Glory of Christmas (https://skitguys.com/videos/the-glory-of-christmas)

I love the SkitGuys and their presentation, The Glory of Christmas.  And we come to the part of the story of Jesus where we look at the Shepherds.  And at one point in this video, Dan, the accountant/method actor/Meryl Streep loving Shepherd says, “The Shepherds were transfixed by a choir of angels, but also Amazed at the fact that God had chosen them.”

Have you ever felt the awe and responsibility of being chosen by God for a task?

In October of 2014, Pastor Justo Robinson, then, the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Missouri City, reached out to me to ask for a meeting.  I knew Justo from the time I was in college and a member of First Baptist Church of Missouri City.  Justo was a bi-vocational pastor who worked as a school assistant principal in the Fort Bend Independent School District. Justo used to teach with my father-in-law, and my father-in-law, Jim King, greatly admired Mr. Robinson.

After a lot of trauma at the First Baptist Church of Missouri City, the vast majority of the English speaking Congregation had gone elsewhere and Pastor Justo Robinson was made the Senior pastor of the English ministry and the Spanish ministry. 

Quote of Justo: As I said, Justo reached out to me and asked for a meeting.  When he came to sit down with me, he said…

“Roger, we need help.  We need the right partner.  And I have been in prayer and the Lord has placed your name on my heart.  You see, I would come to the sanctuary to pray, and when I asked the Lord what we should do, he put your name in my mind. And he did this more than once.  I know we haven’t seen one another for over 20 years, but I am here to see what the Lord has. We want to see if West U Baptist and Crosspoint Church want to help re-establish the church on the edge of Missouri City and Stafford.  What do you think?”

In that moment, I sank down in my chair.  You see, I hadn’t ever had that happen before.  I had never experienced the Lord putting my name on someone else’s heart.  And to be honest, that was the last thing I saw coming.  God chose us in his sovereign plan to invest our hearts in another part of the city to reach people for Jesus Christ!

Well, we have journeyed with Justo for many years now, and we have moved to the place where we are seeking to revitalize a once incredible church.  And we are going to this campus to live out the vision to lift our city and world by generously giving the gospel of Jesus Christ by meeting people’s spiritual, medical and social needs.  

We will partner with Attack Poverty and our clinic, Casa El Buen Samaritano, to accomplish something we couldn’t do on our own.  We will harness the power of our network to see something amazing come forth. 

As a reminder, we are launching CityRise Missouri City on January 10, 2021!  Please pray for this great work!

You know, I can only imagine that the Shepherds of Luke 2 were the type of people who sank in their chairs when the angels appeared to them and picked them to announce the birth of the Messiah.  You see, the shepherds had a lowly place.  But it was to this group that the angel appeared announcing the gift to all mankind of, “a Savior who is Christ, the Lord.”

Let’s look at Luke 2:8-20

Luke 2:8-12

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14    “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Transition:  Now, this is such a familiar story to us, that if we aren’t careful, we can lose so much of the meaning because we pass right on by it.

So allow me to ask three questions to guide our time together tonight.

  1. Who were these shepherds?
  2. Why were these Shepherds picked?
  3. Why does it matter?

Who were these shepherds?

They were the lowly and unclean. As Dan said on the video, they were, “…the lowest in the land who were given the highest honor.”  The unclean would be the first to hear the birth announcement of Good News. 

You see, shepherds were the most lowly and humble in all of the land.  They loved their animals, lived with their animals, and overall, they had a fairly nasty job.  These were humble, hard-working men who journeyed about as much or more than they stayed at home. 

As you can imagine, shepherds were kept out of the religious life of the nation because they were ceremonially unclean.  They weren’t considered trustworthy and their work made them ceremonially unclean.  They were banned from religious practice by the law and the interpretation of Rabbis because they had to handle feces and animals who perished.  This made them unclean, and there was a lengthy process by which they could become ceremonially clean, but the demands of the sheep were such that they didn’t have the time to go through that process.

They probably lived a rough life too and probably felt that everyone would be better served if they didn’t come into the temple, lest it fall down or God strike them with lightning.

Do you know anyone like these shepherds? 

  • Maybe you can relate to these shepherds.  You know that you aren’t measuring up in a variety of ways…that your life stinks…that there are some dead places in your life and you don’t know what to do with them or how to clean them up so that God could accept you. 
  • It’s almost easier to stay away than it is to try to get it all together before coming to God.

These shepherds are special guys to me, because in one way or another, they represent every man.

And they were perfectly poised to receive the message of grace.

The message of grace is the free gift of God to forgive, accept and love unconditionally.  This is the love of God. The Bible reveals God as Love… and this love is demonstrative.  It is demonstrated through:

  • Faithfulness
  • Provision
  • Forgiveness
  • Mercy
  • Kindness
  • Compassion
  • Patience

When the Lord appears to Moses, it says…

Exodus 34:6

 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…”

All throughout the Scripture we see God as a good and gracious God.  And God, in his goodness and his justice, is no respecter of persons.  No…he looks at the heart.

He came to the Shepherds because they were lowly and unclean because that is who Jesus would come to over and over again in his ministry.  He spent time with the outcast, the tax collector, the sinners because he had a message to proclaim that NO ONE WOULD BE LEFT OUT!

Notice the announcement from the angel in verse 10.

Luke 2:10

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

All means everyone.  You see, the Glory of Christmas is that God’s intention was that nobody gets left out.

Quote: One writer said it this way…

“Every person created in the image of God was, is and forever will be a person God desires for Jesus to save…The Shepherds were to be the first among many to receive the good news of Christmas and the glory of who Jesus came to save: everyone!”

Who were these shepherds?

Hardworking, lowly, unclean men who needed good news.

Transition: But let’s ask our next question…

  1. Who were these shepherds?
  2. Why were these Shepherds picked?
  3. Why does it matter?

Why Were These Shepherds Picked?

Why did God put my name on Justo’s heart? Why me?  Why not another leader closer to them?

I don’t really have an answer.  Maybe it’s because that church is where my wife grew up.  Maybe it’s because that church is where God called me to ministry and where I was licensed to preach the gospel!  Maybe God knew that it would have a special place in my heart.  I don’t really know. 

I imagine these shepherds didn’t really see anything special about themselves or their service, even if it was obvious to others. 

Now, I have shared this in years past, but it never gets old, so I want to share it again. 

Why were these Shepherds picked?

You see, these particular shepherds were no ordinary shepherds.  They shepherded the Temple Flocks.  Yes, its these shepherds who are believed to be the shepherds of the flocks of unblemished sheep used in the temple sacrifices and Passover observances. 

Now let’s establish something.  Micah 5:2 is the central passage where we learn where the Messiah will be born. 

Micah 5:2 states…

Micah 5:2

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
    from ancient days.

This prophecy establishes the birthplace of the Messiah.  When Herod brought together the chief priests to inquire where the messiah would be born, their resounding answer was Bethlehem.

But Micah had also prophesied something more about the appearance of the Messiah.  In Micah 4:8 we see these words.

Micah 4:8

And you, O tower of the flock,
    hill of the daughter of Zion,
to you shall it come,
    the former dominion shall come,
    kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem.

Micah 4:8 is declaring that something is going to come…something is going to appear or be announced at the “Tower of the Flock.”

The “Tower of the Flock,” in Hebrew is the MIGDAL EDER.  This is a literal place…a tower a few miles outside of Bethlehem and a few miles outside of Jerusalem.  It sat on a road leading into Jerusalem.  It is the place referenced in Genesis 35:21 where Jacob journeyed after Rachel died. 

The Tower of the Flock was on the edge of Bethlehem and was the place where the shepherds could get a high view over their flock.  A passage in the Mishnah leads to the conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple-sacrifices.

So well-known was this, that if animals were found as far from Jerusalem as Migdal Eder,… the males were offered as burnt-offerings, the females as peace-offerings. If they could be used for the Passover, they would be, unless they were within 30 days of the celebration.

So, the Tower of the Flock, was the station where shepherds watched over the flocks destined for sacrifices in the Temple.

Now, look with me at Luke 2:12.

Luke 2:12

1And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

I love that the Angel had a sign just for them.  And the sign that was just for them, was something that they were actually were used to seeing.

These shepherds, these unclean men, would watch over the clean lambs used in the Temple Sacrifice.

You see, these shepherds would have been very active in the birthing process of sheep.  I would imagine that all shepherds were.  But in particular, these shepherds, who oversaw the temple flock were always in need of more unblemished sheep. 

As a result, these shepherds would take the sheep that was about to give birth, to a cave, set aside for this process.  Now, what we also need to realize is that one of the easiest ways a sheep could become blemished or injured, was immediately after its birth.  The first few hours for the sheep were dangerous because it lacked awareness and coordination, as its body had just been through great stress in being birthed.

So when the lamb would come forth, the shepherds would clean it up, and wrap it in swaddling cloths, just like babies were.  This allowed the lambs to rest for a bit and kept them from injury, so that they would be qualified as they aged to be an unblemished lamb, able to be sacrificed.

As a result, one could argue that these swaddling cloths that were placed around the lamb to keep it from being injured or blemished, were cloths not intended for the lamb’s birth, but for its death.  One could argue that these cloths represented the fact that these lambs were born to die. 

Now, with this knowledge, look at the fullness of this Scripture to these shepherds of the Temple flocks.

 Luke 2:12

1And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

This will be a sign to you guys.  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths, in a similar environment in which you assist the birthing process of your lambs, who are born to die.  Guys, this sign, is just for you. 

Why pick these guys?  Because they would get it.  They would understand that the lambs were born to die…and this child…the Savior of the World, the Christ, was born to die.

So, let’s get to our last question, today.

  1. Who were these shepherds?
  2. Why were these Shepherds picked?
  3. Why does it matter?

Why does it matter?

There are two things that I want to highlight here to help answer this question.

The first is the Personal Nature of Good News.

Notice how personal our Savior is in bringing good news.

Why does it matter?

  1. God didn’t wait for those who were unclean to clean themselves up.  Instead, he came to them as they were.  Maybe that is a word for you today. God has not waited for you to come to him…Jesus is Immanuel, God with us!  He came to you!
  2. The clean, came to the unclean to make them clean.  The lowly matter to God. What a beautiful picture, that Christ was the sacrifice once for all.
  3. Just as these lambs were born to die, Jesus, was the only baby ever born, that was born to die.  Those swaddling cloths communicated, “Here is the lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world.”

Have you received the once for all sacrifice?  Have you opened the gift of Christmas? 

There is an aspect of gift-giving called gift receiving.

John 1:12

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

Have you opened the gift of eternal life through the forgiveness of sin found only in Jesus Christ?

You can do that right now, in this moment.

Now, the second reason I believe that the shepherds matter is because the message of good news is to be proclaimed.

Look again at Luke 2:17-18

Luke 2:17-18

17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

What did the shepherds do once they had encountered Jesus?

They did what every other person in the Gospels did…they went and told someone else… “Look…listen…see what happened to me.”

The line that “Dan”, our shepherd in the video, delivered at the manger was a poignant one. He said, “God asked me to be the keeper of the most important message that’s ever been kept.”

While certainly true and a glorious responsibility, this invitation that started with the shepherds was not meant to end with them. The initial sharing of the story with the shepherds was only the initial link of a global communication chain.

What this means is that the glorious message of Christmas has been entrusted to:

  • first century shepherds,
  • 21st century method actors,
  • and every other person who has put his or her faith, hope, and trust in Jesus for salvation. 

One writer says…

For all who have responded to this message of hope, peace, joy and love found in the person of Jesus, all now have been entrusted and commissioned as ambassadors of Jesus, compelled by His love to share this glorious story with the whole world. No one should be left out. All are deserving of hearing the good news of Christ in ways that are understandable and clear.

Has the story lost its luster so that you no longer proclaim the good news? Have you forgotten how personal this good news is?  Have you forgotten how it is to be proclaimed?

To whom are you going and telling the message of Jesus this Christmas?

You know, some have asked…why are we launching this new campus?  And why in a pandemic?

And the answer is simple…because we have good news of great joy that will be for all the people!  Unto us has been born a Savior who is Christ the Lord. 

Can I challenge you for just a moment? 

Before we move on from this and get hurried in all of our Christmas comings and goings:

Make known the news – for people who do know Jesus, be like the shepherds and respond by making known the news.

I want to challenge you to write down the names of 3 people and begin to pray for them:

  • ask God for time with them,
  • opportunity to spend time and share time with them in order to herald the news.