12/22/02, A4B

“And the Shepherds Returned”
Luke 2: 8-20

e love the shepherds because they represent us. They were not wealthy or politically powerful. They did not come from a far off country, but from the valley below the Nativity. We feel good about the shepherds being there to represent the practical, everyday person. The angel was not sent to kings or priests to announce the Messiah's birth. The angel went to men who represented the ordinary candidate to hear the "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." (Luke 2:10)

All people are of the same value in God's sight. Nobody is worth more than anybody else. We only become special in God's sight when we respond to His calling. God is calling each of us to fulfill some special role in His plan; however, we must respond. These shepherds rose up out of the ordinary by responding to God's plan for them in the Christmas Nativity. God often takes the most ordinary folks and calls them to the highest purposes. Our highest purpose in life is finding God's place for our lives in the eternal plan for the ages. Through His power, ordinary folks can accomplish extraordinary things, and oftentimes we see persons who have had an advantage in their youth, get left on the sidelines as the race nears the finish line.

We have learned in recent years that the royal families of Europe have troubles too. Scandals surrounding the British Royal Family have hit us in tidal waves. Famous wealthy people seem to be troubled about so many things. Piles of money can be a blessing, or a curse. It seems that the wealthier America's movie actors become, the more bizarre they seem to get. Powerful politicians face many more critical issues than the rest of us. Every President, Senator or Congressperson seems to have feet of clay. The bigger they are the harder they fall. Today's news is that Senator Frist can walk on water and that Trent Lott can's even drink water; however, if recent experience follows somebody somewhere will dig up some dirt of Dr. Frist. Knights in shining armor seem to tarnish.

As Luke's gospel says, the good news of great joy is meant for everyone because everyone needs it. The best of us are still sinners saved by Grace. We all must come to the manger on our knees. These shepherds were willing to bow their knees and open their hearts to the Babe of Bethlehem. Later they returned to their own families, friends, associates and neighbors with the story of how the angels had sung the good news of Jesus' birth as they were doing their job keeping watch over their flocks by night. Their greatness came through their positive response to God's Grace and guidance. This is what makes the shepherds so special to us.

Reflect for a moment upon your response to God's calling. As were the shepherds, you may have been doing your job when the realization came that God had a different role for you to fulfill in your community or church. I was called to full time church ministry; however, my brother was called to be a star volunteer in his church and community; and to build a business kind of on the side. His calling is as significant as mine. Friends and neighbors in his town seem to think that Eddie can walk on water.

The shepherds came to see their Messiah with the price of mutton in the backs of their minds. They were men who dealt with the real world of the business of raising sheep for sale. Their bottom line profit margin was of significant concern to them. Most of them were no doubt married with children. They must have felt sorry that their kids did not get to see the baby Jesus. Scripture does not tell us, but I have wondered if the shepherds revisited the manger scene with their families. We would have done so, wouldn't we?

Still today, amid the joys of Christmas, we have in the backs of our minds the practical matters of life. We are striving to get in all of the Pledges we must have to underwrite our 2003 Unified Church Budget. We will only be able to pay out the current year if we receive several more big offerings, and time is running out. We pray and hope that we will make it.

We all live in a world where we must deal with fickle human beings. The character of Scrooge invades all arenas of life, including churches. At times, it seems that contrary people seem to be fighting for their own personal agendas instead of for God's vision. Within some churches it seems that they are trying to shoot themselves in the foot. Folks get crossed up trying to pull power plays, forgetting that God's Kingdom is not their own little fiefdom. Outsiders expect to see infighting among political parties, but are turned away when they see it in what claims to be a local church. Often we are our own worse enemy. About every day the news media carries a story about troubles in some church somewhere. In our "City of Churches," we certainly have our share. Local churches cannot grow and fulfill God's purposes because negative people creep in and attempt to derail the train. Church founded colleges seem to be having more internal problems than do state institutions.

The fact is that wherever we work and live, we will face practical problems. I am sure that you, as did the shepherds, are forced to deal with other sheep herders who have refused to find their way to the manger. Yet, our calling is to play our personal role in doing our little part in changing things for the better. Our task is finding His call and fulfilling it, wherever it leads us.

The Good News, of great potential joy to those who have gotten on the wrong airplane to the wrong destination is that we can change planes. Sometimes folks have to change several times to get back home. Sometimes we need the help of a friendly ticket agent to find our way. But, home compels us to come on back. God is calling for us today! We all are invited to bow at the Babe of Bethlehem's manger and receive Him as Lord: For the first time, of for a homecoming.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

12/22/02, A4B