Elim December 23 2018
the Dilemma of Joy, Christmas Dilemma by the Skit Guys (skitguys.com)
“Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays…” That is what I was singing to myself as I was fighting the crowds in Costco and then the traffic outside. Better to be at home and not shopping. It was crazy on Saturday!
Especially at this time of year stores, merchants, marketers, are all pounding us with advertisements trying to get us to spend our money on their products. And their marketing is pretty clever. Reba and I have our favorite commercials. Car commercials are not about cars, but about lifestyles and luxury. Insurance commercials are quite entertaining and clever. Marketing. Getting your brand recognized and desirable. Getting your name out there. In the same vane, every year I look forward to watching Super Bowl commercials, regardless of which teams play. Advertisers and marketers are pretty clever in getting their name out to us.
But God’s style of marketing is different.
It is amazing that God deliberately chose “premodern days” to do something wonderful and new in our world. The timing for God to enter our world and defeat evil was not choreographed to follow the discovery and invention of space age communications and lightning fast internet providers. There were no selfies with baby Jesus and his young parents. No Twitter or Instagram announcements and photos. Modern day news reporters with TV cameras and satellite connections were not in Bethlehem covering the breaking news of a new born king. There was no “breaking news” or pundits trying to explain what was happening in a small out-of-the-way town called Bethlehem.
The first announcement of Jesus’ birth was by an angel, followed by an angel choir. They were not announcing judgment, but God’s mercy and good news! They were the “breaking news” of the day. God was on the move. Quietly. Subtly. God was slipping into the world in a most unusual, unexpected way. God was born as a baby boy in a small town bustling with people. God was born in a dusty, smelly corner of the world out of sight and unnoticed by most of the world. Except for a small band of shepherds whose quiet evening was shattered with the incredibly, unbelievable news of the birth of Messiah! God certainly does work in marvelous, mysterious ways!
I suppose that not everyone believes that an angel of the Lord broke the silence of a peaceful, non-eventful night for a small band of Palestinian shepherds watching their flocks under star lit skies. It might be hard to imagine the heavens bursting with sound and light to a small band of nobodies in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night. It seems and sounds absurd—a product of some hopeful child’s imagination, but I believe it.
I have never seen an angel. I have never witnessed an angel choir. My guess is that it was pretty stellar, out of this world, so-to-speak!
And the recipients? Those who were directed to find the new born baby and his mom and dad were humble shepherds. Not nobility. Not the rich and famous. No one from Hollywood, no reporters or cable news network executives. Not even church people—no bishops or clergy, or rabbis or any religious professionals. No religious folk. Just a small bunch of guys that lived with their sheep. Uneducated, probably unwashed, unshaven smelly shepherds.
They were the ones who heard that first noel! And they were the ones that made haste to Bethlehem to see this thing that the Lord had made known to them. Imagine their surprise! First the unexpected medium—an angelic messenger and night-sky-filling angelic choir. And the message itself was unbelievable. The Messiah was entering the world quietly and humbly with no human fanfare at all. No red carpet. No trumpets. No royal entourage. No limousine or secret service personnel. Just a small band of insignificant shepherds.
They might have felt totally unworthy, totally unqualified to be the first evangelists to share the news of the birth of the Messianic King. But share they did. They “spread abroad what they had been told about Jesus.” The dilemma of joy overrode their fear of public speaking. And all those who heard their story were amazed.
Mary and Joseph were taking note. They had seen some angels themselves and had been told some amazing things about this special boy they were suddenly charged with bringing into the world and raising. We are not told what Joseph thought. Quietly observed? Wondered. We are told that Mary treasured and held close to her heart what they had shared. It reaffirmed the message the Angel Gabriel had shared with her nine months earlier. It backed up the angelic dream Joseph had about who this special child was and what His purpose and mission in life would be. And I am sure Mary and Joseph spent a few nights talking and wrestling with the meaning of it all.
One thing is for certain. They were never the same again. The shepherds were never the same again. They were changed. They became excellent good news bearers!
We, too, should be good news bearers—sharing what we have seen, heard and experienced of God’s love and grace in Jesus. Telling the good news of Jesus is not a job for celebrities or cable news anchors. God uses everyday, ordinary people like you and me. God chooses the lowly and the humble to show the wonder and power of His love. Let’s get hopping and tell the story of Jesus.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.