Christmas Day 2017
One of the great things about Christmas is watching the various reactions that we have throughout the day - most of which are positive.
With kids in the house, it’s extreme excitement, perhaps bordering on hysteria.
But we all have various reactions. We all react when we are given a present.
That reaction might vary. It might start with suspense, wondering what is inside. And then when we open it we do one of several options.
One might be genuine excitement or appreciation when the gift is genuinely a good one.
Of course, not all presents hit the mark. Perhaps you’re quite adept at putting on some mock excitement as you thank the giver of your gift while secretly wondering what in the world you’re going to do with it.
But we also react to other things as well.
We react when we see family, particularly family we don’t see everyday.
Now again, this might be a positive or a negative reaction. Perhaps you are genuinely happy to have everyone together. Possibly that happiness might come with some caveats - you know, like: ‘I’ll be happy, but only as long as Uncle Bob doesn’t start carrying on like he did last year...’
We react to the food - in my case usually my eyes light up but my stomach struggles to keep up, so the initial excitement turns to that feeling of heaviness where if you jump in the pool, you might sink straight to the bottom.
I’m sure each of you also had some sort of reaction in coming to church this morning.
Maybe it was a positive one - because you love keeping Christmas about Jesus.
Maybe it wasn’t quite so positive, where you wished your family just didn’t put quite so much pressure on you to come - after all, you’ve got presents just waiting to be unwrapped at home.
Reaction to Christmas story
Reaction to Christmas story
This morning, you have heard the Christmas story being read. Now again, I’m sure you are all going to have quite different reactions.
However, I suspect for many of you it will be like watching an old familiar film. Certainly, I know in my house there are some movies that I’ve felt like I’ve watched so many times you no longer get caught up in it.
Take for example the movie Frozen. Like perhaps every other movie in existence there is this big dramatic scene at the end where you are left wondering how each character is going to react. The first time I watched it I was captivated and felt myself emotionally involved.
The second time - well, not so much.
The fifteenth time? Well, let’s just say I don’t get emotionally captivated anymore.
I think our reaction to the Christmas story is often like this.
But that’s why this morning what I want to do is look at the Shepherds and watch their reactions - after all their reactions are the reactions to the actual event, and I think we can learn a thing or two from them.
Well, I’m not going to spend too long on the background today. We’ve read through the account, and I’m sure you all know the story.
But I’ll take us to the time when Mary and Joseph have recently had the baby and are now have the little baby Jesus in the manger.
If you have your bibles with you, then this would place us at .
In the next verse, (that is, verse 8), we have a scene change and we now see the shepherds out in the fields - and we are about to the see the first of many reactions from them.
The first reaction being to the bright shining lights in the sky.
Verse 9 tells us that at the sight of the angel of the Lord they were terrified.
You know, sometimes I think wouldn’t it be great if God just spoke to us about what to do - I suspect the reality however would be that we would be scared out of our wits.
But it’s actually not this reaction that I want to focus on. But it was this reaction that was the catalyst for them going to see the little baby Jesus.
You see, this angel of the Lord told them about Jesus, telling them that he is the Messiah - the one that all Israel has been longing for.
Now I don’t quite know what their emotional state would have been like at this stage - I suspect though that they might have struggled to describe their emotions as well.
However, whatever it was, they then got to witness perhaps one of the greatest sights that I think any living person could see - a heavenly host of angels singing praises to God.
I mean, can you even imagine what that must be like?
You know, sometimes you get goosebumps when someone sings a beautiful song really well - but I think this would have just been out of this world (actually, I mean that quite literally).
The Shepherds Reactions
The Shepherds Reactions
Well, following this impromptu heavenly choral performance I dare say the shepherds would have been left somewhat stunned, I suspect probably left staring into space for some time after they left - but for however long that lasts, they at some point are moved into action - saying to one another that they need to go to Bethlehem and check this out, and this is exactly what happens in .
Now there are three stages to their reaction that I want to look at now:
The first reaction, is actually what I just mentioned - in that they made a decision to go and see for themselves.
Now we might normally just gloss over these part of their reaction, but I think it is important. You see, the heard the news (admittedly in rather spectacular fashion), but they were left with a choice. They could either just keep it as a memorable experience or they could respond by looking into it.
Earlier this year the ABC put on a series of shows called ‘The War on Waste’. It was a well put together series of investigations which often left you with your jaw dropping open and thinking - ‘wow, does that really happen?’
But when you watch this, you are faced with a choice, we you just sit there and be astonished at the investigation, or will you be spurred into action.
Well, the same thing happens in the Christmas story. We can sit there and think - well, isn’t that a nice story, or we can look into it and see what difference it can make to our lives.
The the first part of their reaction is being spurred into investigating further.
Sharing the News
Sharing the News
The second part of their reaction is actually often overlooked, but we see it in verses 17 and 18.
You see, it tells us that when they had seen the little baby, they then spread the word concerning what had been said about the child, and all who heard it were amazed.
What they are doing is not some arduous chore as a result of being told that they have to tell other people - which is generally the way most Christians seem to think about sharing the good news - rather what they are doing is telling people about the exciting thing that just happened.
You know, sometimes I hear some exciting news, and I just can’t wait until Fiona get home so I can share it with her.
Well the Christmas story should be the same for us. It truly is an amazing story. After all, we’re talking about God, coming down to earth, and becoming one of us.
Sometimes we complain about how little coverage the real meaning of Christmas gets - but our we doing our bit in sharing it?
Not in some compulsory forced way, but as a result of the sheer beauty of what the story represents.
But there is a third part to their reaction that we see in verse 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.
At the end of the day, their is one reaction that is truly fitting to this story - and that is praise.
The Christmas story should bring joy because it reminds us that God has come to be with us. That he has come to restore humanity - to bring us peace (or shalom).
I believe that quite often we’re not as joyful as we should be because we haven’t taken the time to realise the true extent of what God has done.
Actually, perhaps none of us really know the true extent, but the more we meditate on the wonderful things God has done for us, the more our hearts will be filled with joy.
This morning, we will all react to many things that will happen today.
But I want to urge you to not let the real Christmas story pass you by unnoticed.
Just like the shepherds, I’d encourage you to explore the message further, share the wonderful truths that you uncover, and just let your hearts be filled with praise for God as you recall his great gift for us.