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Unto Shepherds?

Words of Life / Salvation Army
The Truth Network Radio
December 26, 2021 12:56 am

Unto Shepherds?

Words of Life / Salvation Army

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December 26, 2021 12:56 am

As we near the end of our Christmas series with Phil Needham, today he focuses on how God used this incredible moment, this miracle the world had been waiting for- to shine a spotlight on the people sitting on the lowest rung of the social ladder.




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Hi, this is Bernie Dake. Welcome to the Salvation Army's Words of Life. Merry Christmas, everyone, and welcome back to Words of Life. I'm Bernie Dake.

And I'm Cheryl Gillum. From all of us here with Words of Life to you and your families, we pray that you've had a peaceful, beautiful Christmas Day yesterday. Cheryl, what's Christmas Day like for you and your family?

Wow. Well, as the kids have gotten older, it looks a little different. I mean, they don't wake up at, you know, oh, dark 30 in the morning anymore. We get to sleep in a little bit more, but usually we wake up, you know, maybe around eight or so. We gather around the tree. We have some special time together focusing on what the real meaning of Christmas is, probably reading Luke 2 and all that good stuff. And then we open up presents and we have a wonderful breakfast together. Man.

What time is breakfast? Maybe we'll show up at your house. You're welcome. Always welcome. That's nice.

Come on over. Well, we don't have any kids, but we have a little bit of a tradition where we open up our stockings before breakfast and those are just generally, you know, like little gifts and little remembrances from the year before and things that are maybe special, but just nice things. And then after breakfast, we go back and open the big presents. Yeah. Now, I did that growing up.

My family did it when I was a kid, so that must be like an upstate New York thing or... Yeah, maybe. Yeah. And listen, at the end of the day, for us, it's not about the Christmas presents. It's really just even just about the ability to be present. And that's become more important over the course of my life to just value the people that are in your life, your family, take an inventory, you know, and just have a real sense of gratefulness for all of the things that the Lord has blessed us with.

Absolutely. And so as we near the end of our Christmas series with Phil Needham, today he focuses on how God used this incredible moment, this miracle the world had been waiting for to shine a spotlight on the people sitting on the lowest rung of the social ladder. Especially this time of year is an incredible reminder that God will always use ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

God bless you. Hello, this is Phil Needham, and I'm continuing the series that runs through Advent and Christmastide. Today, let's talk about shepherds. And we may want to be thinking about Luke 2, 8 through 20. On Christmas Day, we celebrate the miracle we've been waiting for. We call it the miracle because for the first and only time in human history, God and man became one. We also call it the miracle because all the miracles that ensued over the course of Jesus' life were made possible by this one miraculous birth. The whole story of Jesus is the continuation of this miracle we call incarnation, the enfleshment of God, Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus, Son of God, and man.

We should say also that this miracle of miracles came at quite a peculiar time. The very location of Jesus' birth does not suggest suitability for an important event in history. We'd expect the Jewish Messiah would be born in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish faith and worship. Instead, Luke's gospel spotlight travels to little Bethlehem, and not to its better homes and inns, but to a stable. As if all this wasn't odd enough, things get downright weird as Luke leads us from the humble birthing stable out to even more obscure terrain where the only people who are tough and desperate enough to hang out are crude herdsmen, in particular, shepherds.

We're talking the lowest rung on the social and economic ladder, the humblest of the poor. We're talking coarse, dirty, and smelling of sheep, people unaccustomed to civilized worship and holy living, the last group you'd want at your nice family gatherings. The angel of the Lord shines the spotlight on them. In order to find worshipers and witnesses of this never before seen cod and human flesh of a baby, the angel goes out looking and finds shepherds.

He scrapes the bottom of the barrel of humanity, people who know practically nothing about Scripture and rarely go to worship, if at all. As hardened as these outdoor herdsmen are, watch their reaction when the angel shows up and showers them with glowing glory. They're scared stiff.

Their rugged fortitude has not prepared them for this. They are probably temporarily blinded by the glory. Then the angel says what the angels love to say, don't be afraid. And then he delivers the message, I've got good news, wonderful, joyous news for everyone. In other words, even and especially for you shepherds, your savior is born this very night, Christ the Lord. Go and see. It's not far from here.

Look for a stable with some light and see if you can find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger with mom and dad nearby. No sooner has the message been delivered than a choir of heavenly forces burst on the scene and fills the sky with an anthem, glory to God in heaven and on earth peace among those he favors. As quickly as the choir has appeared, they disappear, leaving the shepherds to decide whether or not to go look for a baby Messiah. They don't hesitate. Let's go now, they say to each other.

Let's see, let's confirm. They leave immediately and they find Mary and Joseph and a small fragile newborn Messiah, divinity in swaddling clothes. Luke doesn't say of them as Matthew says of the three magi that they kneel and worship Jesus. The magi are astrologers and contemplatives. The shepherds are men of action, so they act. Luke says that they start reporting what they've seen and what they've been told this birth means.

They must be telling the story in a convincing way because everyone who hears it is amazed. The last we hear of those shepherds is that they return home glorifying and praising God. Have you ever wondered what happened to them? They may have not lived long enough to see and hear Jesus when he began his saving mission 30 years later. Most shepherds of that day probably did not have a long lifespan.

It was a very hard life in the wild. The gospels say no more about them. Perhaps they lived the rest of their earthly lives by the promise revealed in the illumined straw that night. Perhaps they were stunned into the revelation that they, the lowliest, were the first to hear the angels, first to obey, first to see, first to proclaim, the first witnesses, witnesses who believed because they actually saw the child. When Jesus did begin his mission about 30 years later, he talked about a shepherd. He called him the good shepherd and he said he was that shepherd, the shepherd who cares for his sheep and would give even his life for them. As a boy, Jesus had plenty of opportunities to observe shepherds. He saw in the best of them the qualities that would shape his heart and his ministry. The church later took the name of shepherd, which means pastor, to describe its spiritual leaders.

Truth be told, the name could be applied to the calling of every follower of Jesus. We all have someone to shepherd, love, care for, give our lives to. Maybe those common shepherds who came from the hillside that night almost 2,000 years ago received such love, such goodness, and such grace that they became good shepherds for the shepherd and guardian of their souls. Now we celebrate the coming of our Savior in human flesh, Jesus, who became our good shepherd and privileged the group of ordinary shepherds to have first sight and be first witnesses. This birth humbles us, strips away our arrogance and pride because we ourselves are the unworthy ones on that hillside, brought to the manger as we are, called to be shepherds for the good shepherd. This Christmas, look up to the sky. Let yourself see angels singing.

They're singing to you. If you feel as lowly as those first shepherds did, know that the good news comes first to you. If you feel all too good about your position and accomplishments, know that this night tells you who you really are.

No better than those who think they're the least, but privileged to be one of them. Please join me in prayer. Dear Jesus who came in humility and was revealed to lowly shepherds, teach me to see myself among the least so that I can know myself for whom I really am, one of your beloveds, made precious not by anything I've done, but by the value you give me through the life you lived and the death you suffered for us all. This Christmas, I come again to the stable of your birth, awed by the miracle, overwhelmed by your presence right here with us. Teach me to be like those first shepherds, a living witness that you have indeed come into the world. May my actions show the difference your presence can make in one person's life. I pray this through you, my Lord, my shepherd.

Amen. The Salvation Army's mission, Doing the Most Good, means helping people with material and spiritual needs. You become a part of this mission every time you give to the Salvation Army. Visit to offer your support, and we'd love to hear from you. Email us at radio at Call 1-800-229-9965 or write us at P.O.

Box 29972, Atlanta, Georgia 30359. Tell us how we can help. Share prayer requests or share your testimony. We would love to use your story on the air. You can also subscribe to our show on iTunes or your favorite podcast store, and be sure to give us a rating. Just search for the Salvation Army's Words of Life. Follow us on social media for the latest episodes, extended interviews, and more. And if you don't have a church home, we invite you to visit your local Salvation Army worship center. They'll be glad to see you. This is Bernie Dake, inviting you to join us next time for the Salvation Army's Words of Life.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-04 22:23:14 / 2023-07-04 22:28:02 / 5

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