Christmas, 2016 – Fear Not

 

St. Pauls Lutheran Church, Cambridge ON

Saturday December 24, 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

 

TEXT: Luke’s Christmas Story, especially verses 1 and 8-11:

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered….

 

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

 

 

Preparation:

·      download “VeggieTales God is Bigger Than the Boogie Man Song” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK72_--ZsM4 from the “VeggieTales Official” youtube site

 


Sermon: Fear Not

-“Question:

 If you were a shepherd 2,000 years ago, and were outside watching the sheep one night when an angel showed up with a message from God,” what would you do?

 

-“Answer: Panic!”[1]

 

-That question and answer was given in a weekly devotional book.

-And then the authors went on to explain:

Shepherds were not highly regarded in those times. It wasn’t considered a very noble profession. You practically lived outside with animals (stupid animals, at that). You were constantly coming into contact with … [sic] animal stuff.

 

‘Unclean’ was not merely a description – it was a condition. Shepherds were unclean hygienically and ceremonially. They weren’t allowed to testify in court. They weren’t allowed in the synagogues [i.e in Jewish congregations] or in the Temple. Ironically, [taking care of] the very animals that would be sacrificed for Passover – rendered them unfit to make sacrifices in the Temple.

 

So, what must they have thought when they saw the angel? They probably thought, Oh, no! What did we do now?

 

They had been told that God didn’t like unclean people, so they might have assumed the angel was there to tell them that God was mad at them – or worse….

 

But instead, the angel began with these words: ‘Fear not.’

 

‘God’s not angry,’ the angel continued. ‘In fact, I’ve got good news for everybody – even dirty shepherds like you. You know all the stuff that’s wrong with the world, all that stuff you wish could get fixed but looks hopeless?  Well, God’s going to do something about it. [God is] sending Someone to save the day. This Saviour is going to be King. You can go see Him now if you want. Here’s how you will know Him when you see Him.’[2]

 

-Question:

 if you were one of the shepherds that night, how would you expect that sentence to end?

-The God of the entire universe has come to see you.

      -What form do you think God might take?

 

-The angel continues:

 “He’ll be wrapped in rags, lying in a feed trough, surrounded by stinky animals”.

-In other words,

 “You’ll find him in the middle of a big mess.”

 

-So tonight, I invite each of us to ask ourselves, “What is the big mess in my life?”

      -Relationships?

      -Finances?

      -Family struggles?

      -Does your conscience trouble you?

      -Is there a habit you’d like to break?

      -Is there something for which you feel deep shame ... remorse, … or regret?

-What is it that threatens you?

-The Christmas message of good news is that the angel proclaims:

 “Here’s the Good News:

 God is not afraid of your mess.”

-In the middle of whatever mess we find in life – in the middle of our mess, God is there!

 

-Christmas means that God chooses to become one of us.

      -God does not stand back, aloof.

      -Nor God does not come in judgement, or wait until we’ve cleaned up the mess we’re in.

-Christmas proclaims that God loves us as we are!

      -With all our faults and failings, in all our mess.

-Through Christ Jesus, God embraces us in love.

-Christ came to bring to us God’s great love in the middle of this mess we call life.

 

-So Luke begins his Christmas story “In the days of King Herod …”[3]

-“In other words, in the days of a despot… [sic]

      -In the days of a corrupt leader …

       In the days of a man who would kill his own family members to maintain power….

      -In days that came six years after 2000 men were crucified in one day for attempted rebellion,

       and 500 per day crucified after that—in those days Jesus was born!”[4]

      -In the days of a big mess.

 

-In a Peanuts cartoon by Charles Schultz, Linus tells Charlie Brown, “When I hear those coyotes howling at night, it totally depresses me.

 I start to feel lonely.

 Then I get scared.”

-Charlie Brown responds, “I thought holding onto your blanket made you secure.”

-And Linus replies: “I think the blanket’s warranty must have run out!”[5]

 

-As Jesus is born, God comes into our lives, into whatever mess it is that causes us to fear.

-As Jesus is born we are reunited with God.

      -And that reunification helps to banish fear.

-As Jesus is born God promises to be with us, always.

 

-Have you ever heard of “Veggie Tales”?

-It’s a cartoon series featuring vegetables that tell Bible stories.

-The first episode is called  “Where Is God when I’m S-Scared?”

-In it, Junior Asparagus has watched a movie called “Frankencelery,” which has scared him,

 and so he’s afraid to go to bed.

-Here’s the clip about the discovery of Junior Asparagus: that God is with him when he’s afraid….

PLAY VIDEO “Fear Not – VeggieTales God is Bigger ….”

(1 minute, 35 seconds)

 

 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered….

 

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

 

-Christmas means that in the middle of whatever mess we find in life— in the middle of our mess,

 God is there!

-Thanks be to God. Amen.

 



[1] Kenneth Boa and John Alan Turner, The 52 Greatest Stories of the Bible – A Weekly Devotional. Baker Books, Michigan 2008, pages 214-26

[2] Kenneth Boa and John Alan Turner, The 52 Greatest Stories of the Bible – A Weekly Devotional. Baker Books, Michigan 2008, pages 214-26

[3] Luke 1:5

[4] Lisa Sharon Harper, “Nativity of the Lord” www.onscripture.com/revelation-light-0 retrieved Dec 21 2016.

[5] Quoted by Dwight Gunter in sermons.com’s “Sermon Resources for Christmas [2016]”