When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:15-20)
The shepherds had heard from heavenly messengers that a new king had been born in Bethlehem. They would find him in a parking garage the one (that’s what a stable was), lying in a bed of straw where the animals ate.
How would the shepherds respond? Would they stay in their fields; or would they leave their flocks, risk losing their jobs, and hike over the hillsides to Bethlehem in search of the newborn King? Scripture tells us what they did: The shepherds “went with haste” to see the one whose birth would be a source of “good news of great joy for all the people.”
When the shepherds arrived, they saw with their own eyes “Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger,” and they became God’s messengers-God’s angels-telling others about the child. This is important. It demonstrates a rhythm in the Christian life: Others tell us about Jesus, we see with our own eyes and believe, and we tell others what we’ve seen. Then we return to our daily lives with joy, changed forever.
It is Christmas time, and there are many people who typically don’t go to church but are searching nonetheless for the “good news of great joy for all the people.” They’ve been searching at the mall, at their Christmas parties, even sitting in font of a decorated Christmas tree, but they still haven’t found Christmas. And they won’t find it, unless someone plays the part of the angel and invites them to come and see the child “wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in the manger.”
Ann’s husband invited her to attend our candlelight Christmas Eve services one year. She wrote, “If my husband hadn’t invited me to Church of the Resurrection, I would still be searching for a way to fill the hole in my heart that God now fills.” That was many years ago; today, Ann has gone on to become a leader in our congregation.
Each year, we give away our entire Christmas Eve offering to two projects benefiting children in poverty. Half of the funds last year went to projects in Malawi, Africa, and the other half to renovate and support inner-city schools. Ann has become one of the leaders in our work with the inner-city schools, which includes tutoring, installing playgrounds, repainting buildings, and supporting teachers.
After we had completed a playground at one of the inner-city schools, a man at the school asked Ann, “Why would you do this for us?” She told him, “It’s our way of showing God’s love for you.” Both began to cry as they stood on the playground that day.
Ann’s angel was her husband, who invited her to “come and see.” She came on Christmas Eve and heard the story of the child, born in a barn, who slept in a feeding trough. She discovered the “good news of great joy for all the people.” When Ann returned home, “singing and praising God,” she went on to become a messenger who has shared God’s love with hundreds of others. They world was changed because of that one invitation.
Who is God calling you to be a messenger for this Christmas?
Lord, please use me to invite_________________ to Christmas Eve services this year. Make me one of your messengers. Then help _____________ to hear the “good news of great joy” that you have come to us in Jesus Christ. Amen.