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The Shepherds: From Ordinary to Messengers

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When God interrupts our routines, it is important to follow through on what we are being asked to do.

Interruptions are interesting because we often view them as an inconvenience, don’t we?
For instance, there are few things more frustrating then when someone interrupts you in a conversation, right? Or when you are trying to get somewhere and a problem arises that impedes your progress.
Think of a time recently when you were irritated by interruption.
The interesting thing about scripture is that in the moments we see someone receive a type of direction, it often comes in the form of interruption. Think about it:
-The disciples were all met by Jesus in their standard work environments and they were invited to follow Jesus
-The apostle Paul literally had a divine interruption that blinded him and completely changed his trajectory as He chose to follow Jesus rather than oppose the church
-Even in these past couple of weeks, Elizabeth and Mary had their lives changed as they were both called to bear children for different, yet both significant purposes.
You see, one of the things that we have to become comfortable with as Christians is a shift in direction. When we really learn to listen to God- to tune in to His word and hear His voice- He will challenge us, call us, invite us to take steps of obedience that were not a part of our plans. And that is the beauty of this whole narrative.
As much as we are paying attention to the Shepherds in this story today, we can say that the lessons appear throughout the entirety of this narrative- So today, we are going to use this story of a few shepherds who became messengers to look at how their course changed.
What I want us to realize today is that if you want to be used by God, expect Him to show up in the ordinary.

An Encounter with Glory

When it comes to ancient culture, there is no one who captures the moniker of an “average Joe” more than a shepherd. This is another instance of what Chenaya referred to last week as the “Upside Down Kingdom”
God uses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary.
And the contrast of this story is ripe. These shepherds are doing nothing spectacular… they are simply and humbly fulfilling their responsibilitites.
But as they are doing so, they experience two phenomena
Luke 2:9 ESV
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.
Imagine for a moment that you are sitting in the dark. We’re not talking dusk- we’re talking pitch black, the kind where you look down and can’t even see your shoes. And then all of a sudden, you see this illumination. A light that cannot be ignored because of it’s sheer brilliance.
When scripture talks about the glory of the Lord appearing, it often comes in the form of a natural phenomenon. Revelation 21:23 describes what a sinless world looks like, and you’ll notice that there is a sufficient brightness that eliminates the need for any other source.
Revelation 21:23 ESV
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
But when the glory of the Lord appears in this way to people in scripture, it is not solely for the sake of creating a spectacle. Although the revelation of the Lord is a beautiful thing, and something that we can marvel at- there was also a purpose to come with it. The angel was delivering a message that would communicate to them a massive shift in the function of humanity.
Another fascinating note about the glory of the Lord as it appears is it points towards something great.
It is near impossible to have an encounter with the Glory of the Lord that doesn’t change you. We see that the primary response of the shepherds is to be terrified, but the angel translates that for them. He says Luke 2:10
Luke 2:10 ESV
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.
So here comes the shift. The moment of transformation through a call to action. All of which stems from a divine experience.
When the angel declares news to them, he isn’t saying that this is my first stop among many. He is letting them know that they will actually serve as the messengers. This divine encounter was unique to these humble shepherds, and they would be tasked with tremendous responsibility from that.
You see, this moment didn’t exist solely for them. A theme that we often pull out of scripture os that blessing doesn’t tend to happen in isolated circumstances- God is up to something.

Divine encounters will be accompanied by divine objectives.

I want to pay specific attention to verse 14 for a moment. When we receive objective, it can be easy to lose ourselves in doing something. But the last part that Luke records here is a declaration of worship:
Luke 2:14 CSB
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!
Freinds, may we remember that in every objective that we receive and every moment of encounter that we have, it all exists for the glory of God. He is always working among us, far beyond what we can imagine. But in all things, He is accomplishing HIs will and HIS plan for His glory. Amen?
So how did the Shepherds react?

Divine Encounter Invites Humans into Response

Let’s take a look at the shepherd’s “work in progress”
Luke 2:15 CSB
When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
Notice that there is no coaxing here. The angels certainly gave a message, and there was enough directive that this was a message meant to be shared- but there is no indication that the Angel sticks around and says “Okay guys, so here’s what I want you to do...”. But as they received the message, they were compelled to immediate action.
The CSB version translates a sense of urgency that arises within the shepherds as it says “let’s go straight to Bethlehem.”
When you say that you are going “straight” there, that means business, doesn’t it? Many believe that the shepherds would have travelled 90 miles to arrive in Bethlehem.
This shows us the level of faith that they had. One author says “they did not go in order to believe, but because they believe”
As they arrive, they do exactly what they were supposed to do
Luke 2:17–18 ESV
And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
This is an interesting moment, because Luke has been building anticipation for John preparing the way for Jesus. But the shepherds get a moment where they become the first “bringers of good news” or evangelists.
This message delivery was two-fold. They delivered the message to all who were in attendance at the actual birth sight of Christ (we know this because Mary treasured this message in her heart), but we also see that their praise and declaration is carried with them as they return home. We’ll get to that in a couple of minutes.
But before we do, I want to hilight the standard objective of what happens when we encounter Jesus.
The angel communicated nothing short of the good news of Jesus when he said Luke 2:11
Luke 2:11 ESV
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Your saviour is here! Today, all that has been foretold has come into being. The Messiah has arrived on earth and is bringing salvation. Humanity is being restored to God the Father, what was once broken has been made new! This baby was good news because salvation is here!
And as they hear the message and also witness this child, there is this sense of responsibility that this message of good news and great joy was going to change the hearts of many. As the encountered God and understood the significance of this child, they were compelled to communicate to all who would hear.

The Bible reminds us that Good News is not meant to be concealed, but it is to be shared.

And finally, once enough time had passed, we learn that the shepherds return home.
This small detail is fascinating, because it opens up the question: What happens once transformation occurs?
Luke reminds us that these shepherds did not start a travelling evangelism troup. They were not touring the middle east putting on shows about how Jesus has come.
No- they go home.
They go back to THEIR normal, but they don’t go back to normal.
Although we don’t read any more about these shepherds, Luke makes it fairly clear that some significant transformation has occured. Luke 2:20
Luke 2:20 ESV
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
The greatest transformation that we see in the lives of the shepherds is that they worship.
They are expressive in their worship
They are obedient in their worship
I find it interesting to explore the idea of calling. Because here, there was a clear purpose and calling on the lives of the shepherds. Growing up in church, calling meant a 100% shift of life, usually reserved for some type of vocation. Calling was reserved for a preacher or a missionary, or someone who devoted their career to some type of service to the church.
But I think this return of the shepherds flips that on its head. We know that these shepherds transformed into people of worship. We know that they became messengers of the good news to all who would listen. But we also know that they likely embodied this new identity in their normal, everday vocation.
When we reserve the language of calling for those who hold a microphone, we miss the point. When you encounter the presence of God and experience the saving power of Jesus, YOU ARE CALLED.
You are called to be a witness, both in word and in deed.
I want you to believe today that you are a messenger of the good news of Jesus in your everyday stuff of life.
In fact, God has chosen to show YOU His grace, and He wants to partner with you to further the work of His Kingdom exactly where you are.
When we reserve calling for certain people, we over-glorify some while absolving others of any responsibility to carry the message of the gospel into their lives. Frankly, that doesn’t work out for anyone.

God has called you to bring good news to the people around you.

As we conclude this morning, I want to remind you that the Christmas narrative isn’t a nice story in isolation- it is a part of a greater story.
Jesus is King- the saviour of the world, and just as the Shepherds proudly proclaimed this truth, you are called to do so as well.
This message was so exciting because it meant that there was union with God. The apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians the importance of what Christ accomplished for all of humankind:
Ephesians 2:1–10 CSB
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
This is a perfect example of hindsight- because of Christ:
-You have been made alive in Christ
-You are saved by grace
-You are God’s workmanship. You were designed with a purpose.
We began this morning talking about interruptions- and many of you today have had your life interrupted by God’s grace. This is the kind of interruption that leads one towards love.
So who needs to hear about how God has interrupted your story?
And for some of you here today- maybe God is knocking at the door and you are ready for an interruption.
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