Seeing is Believing - December 24, 2016 (Christmas eve)

Luke 2:8-17

Announcing the arrival of a new baby is a big deal. It's privilege, an honor and a joy. People want to share in the excitement and once the word is out, it's hard to reign it in. I come from a large least that's how we think of ourselves. My dad is one of four and between them there are 12 kids. We would regularly be together for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and almost annually for a mother's day gathering. And it wouldn't just be my grandma, the 8 kids and spouses and 12 cousins, we would also have my grandma's sisters, their kids, and their kids. We would regularly be about 50 or 60 people milling about my aunt's house. And some folks you only saw once every year or two, and so you had to reintroduce yourself each time you saw them. Well, one year, it was thanksgiving and the phone rang. When it's busy like that you don't wait for someone who lives there to just pick

up the's probably family anyway. So, I answered the phone and it was my cousin Carrie. She said, don't tell anyone, but I'm pregnant. I tried to be as cavalier as possible. I simply said that's great news! And then handed the phone off to the next person. Another cousin took the phone and not a moment later she shouted with glee: "You're pregnant!!! Congratulations!!!" So much for keeping it quiet!! Good news is worth sharing. It's hard to hold it in!

Most parents want the privilege and joy of sharing the news. It's their child, and by default, or biology, it's their right. They want to be able to say, "It's a girl! or It's a boy! He made it! She's perfect!"

They want to choose what details go to whom and when. Announcing the birth of a child is a big deal. So you can imagine that Mary and Joseph might have been a little surprised to learn that they weren't the first to tell the good news! They didn't know right away, but they would learn soon enough.

God kind of jumped the gun, and sent the angel to spread the word about Jesus' birth before Mary and Joseph had a chance to say anything. And God spread the news not to Mary's mom or Joseph's dad, or their siblings or cousins or friends, but to a group of shepherds out in the fields. Yep, God chose some random strangers that no one thought much of—they heard it first. If not for the joy of a new baby or the fatigue of a long trip and hard labor, Mary and Joseph might have been mortified or even furious.


Someone else told their news and not to the people they would have liked!! But the nature of this announcement actually tells us a lot about God's relationship to Jesus.


#1 God's in charge here. God picked Mary and Joseph and God picked the shepherds. They may not have been our choices (or even theirs) but those choices were not haphazard. God was quite intentional.


#2 To choose the shepherds is to choose the least and the last. Shepherds weren't popular or well liked. Most people didn't give them the time of day, but God did. God leveled the playing field and didn't choose the popular people, or the most well known. God chooses from among the loser and the outcast. And in doing so, we are forced to see them in a new light. We can't ignore them, but beyond that, we have to see their value since God saw their value.

#3 Jesus wasn't just Mary and Joseph's baby. If he were—they could have called all the shots. Instead, Jesus is also God's baby. Mary and Joseph have a lot of say so and responsibility, and, so does God.


Now, if we had any doubt about Jesus being a big deal, the heavenly host clears it up. Mary saw one angel. Joseph saw one angel. The shepherds saw one angel. And then they saw "the heavenly host" also known as "a vast number" also known as "an army of angels". A "host" is equated with the stars in the sky. Now, in Los Angeles, that might not be a big deal, because really, you can only see one or two stars. But for people who breathe clean air...that's a lot of angels...thousands upon thousands of angels. To see or hear a heavenly host is to hear a lot of them...too many to count. This was no small deal. Jesus was a big deal—worthy of the attention of thousands of angels and what would likely soon be thousands of people.

I'm not actually sure how often an angel might have appeared to the shepherds. Maybe it was old hat. Or maybe it was the first time. They could have been skeptics or they could have been believers. They might have thought it was amazing to hear from this angel or that they'd go see the baby later. Whatever the case and whatever their conviction, after the one angel a whole host shows up. Countless angels appeared and started singing and praising God and re-announcing the Good News. The Messiah is born. There's no ignoring something like that. So the shepherds left for town and tracked down Mary and Joseph and found the baby just as the angel had said—wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger.


There he was—the Messiah—wrapped in fabric and lying in a trough. It probably made as much sense to the shepherds as it does to us. It's not where you'd expect to find a savior. It's definitely not what you'd expect after the angels and the singing—all that pomp and circumstance, but there was God's chosen one sleeping among the animals.

There he was and he was a big deal. And so when the shepherds left they were sure to tell everyone, regardless of whether Mary and Joseph were ready or not. And if anyone doubted them, they were shepherds after all, they simply told them about the angel and then the multitude of angels, and the song and the fact that it had to be true because these were God-signs, and thousands of angels wouldn't show up for nothing. There was news to be shared


It's a boy!
He's here!
He's the Messiah!
You'd better go see!
He's a really big deal!


So it may not have been what Mary and Joseph expected, or how they would have expected it to happen, but here was the Messiah...God in the flesh, Immanuel, there for them and for all. Regardless of who received the news, it was good news, it was God's news, and it was worthy of sharing.