to be given on December 28, 2014
How many of you started telling what you got for Christmas? Or, did you ask your kids, grand or great-grandkids what Santa brought them for Christmas? That is part of the fun, isn’t it? We all want to know what our family and friends got for Christmas. Just hearing the kids share what they got is great fun. Of course, having them race around showing you what they found under the tree is a delight, too.
The excitement of receiving a gift is sometimes so overwhelming we can only run from one to the other to show them what you found in the pretty packages. The gift of Christmas that God sent us did not appear under the tree all wrapped up in pretty paper and ribbon; God’s gift arrived in Bethlehem in a manger filled with straw for the livestock.
The baby’s parents were exhausted after traveling almost 100 miles by foot and on a burro’s back. The census could not have come at a worse time with a baby due any time. Consider even the region’s environment: no paved roads, no rest stops, no McD’s to get a quick meal. This was a journey made to be compliant with the Roman leader’s decree.
When young parents have their first child, today’s setting is very different. The birthing rooms are clean, sterile, and decorated like a luxury hotel’s room. Everything is designed for the mother’s comfort but also for the daddy. In fact, the team of doctors and nurses even get into the act helping share the news of the baby’s birth.
The baby’s birth is news that is shared almost instantly today. We take pictures, videos, and have birth announcements ready to go. The word of the newest baby travels quickly from family and friends to others through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, not to mention an email or a message.
Do we need to consider how to spread the news of Jesus’ birth? Can you even imagine what it would be like today if Jesus were born this week? The announcement would have been on the internet within minutes. Hundreds of photos would be snapped and sent to Facebook so others could know the baby was born and even see what he looked like.
The angel announced Jesus’ birth. Remember the words from Luke 2:9-12:
9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
One can only imagine the shock the shepherds must have experienced, especially when the “host” of angels appeared right there in the open fields near Bethlehem. Not quite the same as the alarm on a phone or a tablet is it?
The shepherds may have been the first to learn of Jesus’ birth outside the stall, but they had to check it out. Just like grandparents waiting to learn the newest grandchild had arrived, they hurried off to see the new child whom they believed was to be the next great leader of the Jewish tribes.
What would you do? Would you be one of the faithful who believed that Jesus was the Messiah and you simply accepted the news and went on with the day? Or would you have needed to see the baby with your own two eyes? Granted, we can only imagine what the experience was like for the shepherds; but in our world, wouldn’t the cynical side take control and we would wait.
The news of Christmas cannot be shared fast enough or far enough. The birth of Jesus was thousands of years in the planning, and his birth should be shared. Are we doing that?
Just what would the world have thought if the angels had not appeared or the Three Kings did not ride in from the east? Would the news of Christmas have been shared with others? How many people would we rush to tell that we had seen Jesus with our own eyes?
Christmas Day may be over, but what have we done to share the news? Have we used all the tools at our fingertips to share the news? Have we waited too long to spread the word? The shepherds did:
7 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.
The news spread quickly. The shepherds returned to their station on the hillside and they talked.
Can you say that you have shared the news of Christmas with all your family and friends? Be honest. I know that I have not done that very well. I know the story and figure all my family and friends do too. They know my church routines. They know how I live my life. Surely it is not necessary to share the story with them. But it is.
The fact that for nearly 30 years, the news of Christmas faded away as the faithful waited for the baby to grow up and to begin the work of saving the Jewish faithful. The news the shepherds shared with such enthusiasm and eagerness became old news, forgotten since no major changes occurred in their lives as a result of the baby’s birth.
What happened at Jesus’ birth is the same that happens today. We learn exciting news, but as the days, weeks, and years pass, we do not keep the excitement alive. Sharing the news of Christmas is so important if God is a daily part of our lives. The newness may wear off quickly as we move into January, but the value of the news never lessens.
Share the news of Christmas with those around you. Talk about it at dinner. Invite others to discover the value of faith in their lives. Keep the news of Christmas moving through all your messages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. When you are with friends, share how God is alive in your life. Share a smile and a word of gratitude with the clerks in the stores. Read and discuss the Word as preserved in our Bibles.
The news of Christmas is well over 2,000 years old, but we do celebrate it each year. The concern is that the news is heard and then people open the gift in their own lives. Each new visitor who decides to return Sunday after Sunday finds that the news of Christmas is alive in our congregation. [add for Chilhowee: Every time we open the door of the church and invite the kiddos in for a special party, the news of Christmas is shared. When the fair-goers walk in for a traditional lunch with a piece of pie, we are sharing the news of Christmas.]
As the year closes, a new year begins. Share the news of Christmas each and every time you can. When we open the door of the church, make sure others know it is open. The calendar we take down is replaced with a calendar fill of opportunities. Look ahead and plan.
What are new ways to share the good news? What can you do? Use each opportunity you can to be God’s hands and arms so others may learn of his unconditional love. Open your arms and love for there is no better way to share the news of Christmas.
Please join with me in prayer:
Dear loving and giving Father,
Thank you for sending your son as our first Christmas gift.
As gifts were opened amid squeals of delight, we celebrated.
Thank you for our family and friends
Who joined us in the celebration of Christmas.
Help us to demonstrate and to share the news of Christ
With family and friends or strangers and foes
From sunrise to sunset and even into the night.
Let us keep the news of Christmas the best news of the year.