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The Shepherds Response

Luke 2:16-20

December 25th, 2007 

      On one Christmas a parent decided she was no longer going to remind her children of their thank you duties.   As a result their grandmother never received acknowledgements of the generous checks that had been given.  The next year things were different, however.  The children came over in person to thank me,” the grandmother told a friend triumphantly.  “How wonderful, the friend exclaimed.  “What do you think caused this change of behavior?”   Oh, that’s easy, “the grandmother replied.  This year I didn’t sign the checks.”  

      This morning we will look not only at what brought the shepherds to the manger, but also their response to seeing and hearing about this Jesus.     On Saturday and Sunday our focus was on what signs and what package this gift would come in.  The OT signs said he would come to lowly Bethlehem, be born of a virgin, and the government would be upon his shoulder, and of his rule (a different sort of rule) there would be no end.     Last night we unwrapped the angels message, a message of good news of great joy that simply burst force from heaven to undeserving creatures, like you and me.   This morning our focus is on the shepherd’s response. What they did with the gift, the good news of great joy, God gave to them. 

      The first response of the shepherds to the angels, is simply “let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened”.   Go where?  Go where God says the Savior born for you is located.    In many ways their lives were intruded upon, their daily ‘shepherding activities” would have to take second fiddle, at least for a while.    Our old nature tells us there are so many better things to do with our time then to spend it listening, singing, and hearing about God’s word. Places where Christ chooses to dwell for us.   Our old nature says what difference does it make if I have the Lord’s Supper, read or hear the Words?   After all I learned this as a child, and most of it is just review anyway.   It is not faith which says “what is the bare minimum I need to “do” to stay in the Christian faith.”     Can you imagine the shepherds saying something like this to the angels.   It might go something like this.  “You know that sounds great, but we have all these sheep to watch.  I tell you what, our next crew gets in at 7am, and we’ve got a few errands to run in town.    If we get a chance we’ll swing by the old manger scene after we pick up a few things in Bethlehem.     Is this how faith talks?   Of course not, rather on the basis of the angels words they went to where the Savior came for them.  May we also go where Jesus has chosen to be for us. 

      Martin Luther wrote this about the faith of the shepherds.  “Faith does not believe that the story you’re reading is true as written.  That does nothing for anyone.  Even unbelievers can believe this Bible story about Jesus birth is true.  Faith is not a natural work apart from God’s grace, as the scripture Cleary teaches.  Rather the right kind of faith, the kind that flows from grace and that God’s Word demands, is firmly believing that Christ was born for you….He doesn’t say, a Savior was born, but rather your Savior, Christ the Lord was born in the town of David   In the same way he doesn’t say, “I have good news” rather I have good news for you”. 

      By the grace of God, they left all and went to see for themselves the wonder of all wonders.   I’m certain they couldn’t have grasped all that was seen in this tiny manger.  Immanuel, God with us the ruler of the stars would be nourished at his mother’s breast.   The contrasts of what they saw and who he was is absolutely striking.  This is the way it would be through out his life.  Jesus is the bread of life, but he would also go hungry.  Jesus is the well spring of eternal life, but on Calvary he would thirst.  He who is the way, would also become weary.  Jesus who is the truth would be accused by false witnesses.  Jesus who is just and holy would be condemned to die by the unjust.  He who is king would be born in a stable, that we could have a place in his mansion.  “Let’s go- started the shepherds in a lifetime of trusting, and believing God’s Word. 

      What else did they do after opening the passage?   They not only went, but it also says they spread the word, and told what was said about this child.   Luther says at this point, the shepherds in effect became preachers of the gospel.  While the message of the gospel is for you personally, it isn’t only for you.   It is to spread like a rock in the pond.  Whether we are shepherds, farmers, students, accountants, prison workers, retiree’s, homemaker, instructors, factory worker or office managers it is our great privilege to speak what has been said about the child.  That’s another reason why we gather together, so that we may state and/or confess together what the Lord has done.   We are to speak it within our families, proclaim it to our grandchildren.  May we like Paul say I’m not ashamed of the “gospel”, the good news of great joy, which is for all people.  The shepherds, I have a hunch, were not the most gregarious, outgoing of sorts, but through the gift of the spirit they spread the message.  

      Finally it says, they left their jobs followed Jesus and went to Seminary.  No it doesn’t say this, it says they went back to their shepherding duties.   Their callings in life, and in their case in this case shepherding.  Their place in life didn’t change, but they sure did.    I suppose this is why continual trips to the manger (where Christ has chosen to be for us in his word) is so good for us.   For as we carry out the variety of callings that we have in life, we too need the strength, and peace the good news of great joy provides.   Enjoy this gift, as we join the shepherds in carrying out our God given duties, may we to glorify and praise God for what we have also seen and heard concerning this our Savior.    Amen.