That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! – Luke 2: 8-11 (NLT) The news is good and the joy will be great. He is born this day! The Savior! The Messiah! The Lord! Hallelujah to the best gift we have ever received. In between the tinsel and the tree, the gifts and the headaches, and the family and friends – this time of the year is most wonderful because Jesus Christ was born. It is the most wonderful time of the year because God has reconciled Himself to man. We now can have the true fellowship with our Creator as we were designed to! I remember my time in the world – constantly seeking that elusive missing element in my life that could make me happy or feel complete. Little did I know that there was a Jesus shaped hole in my heart that only He could fill. I tried filling it with relationships, careers, education and even alcohol but the promises of the world always dried up. Always left me empty. In fact, Christmas time was not a very happy time – as it is not for many people in the world. That is because the worldly concept of happiness is something we must chase after and even when we think we have it…it always seems short lived. The joy of the Lord however, is not based on anything situational – it is always relational. So there is nothing the world can do to replace it or affect it. Hallelujah once again! We have been looking at some of the characters in the Christmas story from the Gospels over the past few days. Last time we examined how the story of the Magi had principles we could apply in our own lives. Today I want to look at the shepherds. Aren’t they the same? Actually no, they appear in two different Gospel accounts and based upon their differences we can tell that they were different sets of people who were called by God to visit the new born King. Within the shepherds’ story, we can learn more principles for our lives. The first thing is found in the differences between the Magi and the shepherds. God will call and use anyone. Look at the stark differences between these two groups of people. The Magi came from lands far away and the key verses above indicate the shepherds were nearby. The Magi were wealthy kings while the shepherds were probably very poor based upon their chosen profession. The Magi were very educated, studying the stars as astrologers while the shepherds were probably uneducated. So what does this mean for us? There is a sense sometimes in modern American Christianity that we are more of a social club than we are a triage unit for the unsaved in this world. We often treat people in the world with utter disdain while paying lip service to the Great Commission. We see things like prayer being removed from the public schools and go to war with the world. As if that is going to help one person get into heaven. We get mortally offended when we see the world doesn’t want the Ten Commandments in their courthouses and start protesting against the very people God intends for us to reach with the Gospel. Has it ever occurred to us why the world is so dead set against Christianity? Could it have something to do with the Christians? In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. – Matthew 5: 16 (NLT) This verse is what immediately follows Jesus instructing us that we are to be salt and light to a dying world. Instead we have become pepper and glitter as a pastor I know likes to say. What do people in the world see when they see Christians? Maybe that has a great deal to do with why they don’t want our religiosity in their town square. Beloved we have to realize however that it is not us they are rejecting but God. When Israel asked for a king, Samuel was greatly offended but here was the word of the Lord: “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. – 1Samuel 8: 7 (NLT) It does not matter how smart someone is – many of the disciples were uneducated fishermen, and from all accounts they were not even too good at that. God does not call the equipped – He equips the called. It does not matter how far away someone has come from. God has not only blessed America! The church is not America. It doesn’t matter how much money someone has either. Despite how some of American Christianity has perverted the Gospel, this is not about material wealth but rather about spiritual riches. God visited both the Magi and the shepherds. He spoke to both and He called both. Secondly, from the account of the shepherds we learn that it is our responsibility to “tell it on the mountain”, so to speak. After the key verses we see this: After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, - Luke 2: 17-18 (NLT) Not only did they tell everyone about Jesus but also about what God had said about Him. That He was the Messiah and Savior! Where does this writing find our witnessing today? There is a false notion out there that because evangelism is a gift that not everyone has a duty to witness. These are completely different things. We all have a responsibility to witness to people what Jesus has done in our lives. Not what the religion of Christianity says we should or should not do but rather what God is continually doing inside of us! Unfortunately, there are too many of us who sit in pews each Sunday, pay a tithe, maybe even serve in a ministry, but never share Jesus with a soul. Not our unsaved family members, friends we have known for years or co-workers at the job God has blessed us with. Then I hear the overwhelming “Amen!” response when the pastor says Jesus is coming back soon and I cringe. Not because I am not looking forward to the day Jesus comes back but because the job is not done. How can I be happy when my family remains unsaved? How can I be happy when my best friend remains agnostic? There is a selfish thread running through Christianity that we need to stop pulling on before it completely unravels. The shepherds understood that they now possessed the greatest news for all mankind! They knew that they were allowed inside access to the greatest story ever told as it was being told! They had two choices – they could go back to the fields content in all God had shown them and done for them or they could tell everyone what they desperately needed to know – that Christ the Savior has been born! We are those shepherds today beloved. We have been let in on the truth that can only be understood because the spirit of the living God dwells inside of us. That Christ is still the Messiah! That Jesus is still the Savior! That He is the only way, truth and life and none will come to the Father except through Him. As shepherds of this great joy and good news, what will we do with it? Will we return to our fields as if nothing happened and question everyone who wants to join our little church? Pass judgment on the world He so graciously saved us out of? Or will we like the shepherds of old glorify and praise God while telling everyone we can about the great truth of salvation we have been let in on. Lord I pray we take the route of the shepherds. In Jesus name, amen. Rev. Anthony.