One of the most surprising aspects of the Christmas story is its simplicity and humility. We might have expected that the son of God, a child of the divine, would have been born in a palace surrounded by servants and waited on by the wealthy, but he wasn’t. It would have made sense that God’s son would have entered this world in a place of importance and the city that was known as the only place on earth where God actually lived, which was Jerusalem, but he didn’t. At the very least the birth of God’s son should have been announced to world leaders like the royalty of today, but even that didn’t happened. God’s palace was a stable, his crib a manger, the city was Bethlehem and the announcement went to ordinary workers. The story of God’s son coming into the world in flesh and blood has only one spark of glory and that is the hosts of heavenly angels praising God and announcing Jesus birth over the hillsides of Bethlehem, but the only ones there to hear it were the shepherds.
Why did God choose to enter into the world this way? Why choose humility and not worldly honor? Why choose poverty and not praise and glory? Two reasons come to mind. The first is that God is making a statement that His kingdom is not going to look like the kingdoms of this world. The nations of this world are ruled by Kings and leaders who are set apart and given privilege – which often leads to pride. They are giving all the splendor of this world which often leads to selfishness and riches which can easily lead to ruin. God is making a statement in the birth of Jesus that His kingdom is going to be different and the focus is going to be the power found in humility and an eternal life and love that come through sacrifice and service.
The second reason Jesus came into this world through a stable is that a stable was open to everyone. Not everyone could enter a palace. Not everyone would feel comfortable or be welcomed in a palace, but a stable is different. A king would enter a stable to find his horse but so would shepherds and servants. The choice of a stable means God was making a choice to come to everyone, not just a chosen few. By coming in humility God says he is coming for all.
The first people to welcome Jesus also tell us that God was coming for all because the shepherds of Bethlehem were pretty ordinary people. They were hard working servants of the wealthy and religious who because of their job working with sheep were often considered outcasts and unclean. These were not people able to worship in the Temple or live among their family and friends so it seems to be a pretty unlikely group of people to first get the news of the Messiah’s birth and yet God chose them to make a statement that He had come for all. No one was beyond the limits of God’s reach.
Today that message is still the same – no one is beyond the limits of God’s reach. God is here for everyone. God loves everyone. It doesn’t matter our past or present, it doesn’t matter how rich or how talented we are, how smart or pretty or accomplished we are – God has come for all of us and we all have the same choice as the shepherds did that night: we can let this message of God’s love for us go or we can go and check it out. Let it go might be a catchy Disney song, but it was not the response of the shepherds, look at what they said – Luke 2:15.
Let us go. The shepherds didn’t let it go, they didn’t let the news of Jesus birth go – they went to check it out and what they found at the manger changed their lives. When they found a child wrapped in strips of cloth and laying in a manger it changed their lives because that child confirmed what the angels said which was that this child was not just a savior, and not just the world’s savior but their savior. Look at Luke 2:11. A savior has been born for you. This was their savior, their king, their God and instead of letting it go – they went to find him.
They were not the first ones or the only ones to do this, however. Mary and Joseph faced the same choice. They could let it go or they could go. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary and Joseph and told them that they were going to be parents of the Messiah – they could have let it go and followed the easy road and left God behind, but they didn’t, they said, let us go and together they went.
When a star appeared in the sky on the night Jesus was born the Wisemen who saw it could have said, let it go, it’s just a new king in a far away land, but they didn’t, instead they said, let us go and worship this new king, and so began a journey of following the star. They all had choices to make when they heard about this new king, the son of God and their choice was to Go TO God and to Go WITH God. This is the same choice we face today.
Today we can let it go and allow this message of God’s love and salvation to just remain out there or we can say, let us go and we can come to God and find the salvation, freedom and life God has for us. God has taken the first step by coming to us, it’s now our turn to take a step toward God. It’s time for us to Go TO God. That step toward God for Mary and Joseph meant yielding their own will to the will of God. It meant they no longer lived in ways that put themselves first but put God first and others second. Mary had to put God first and forget about what other people thought and Joseph not only had to put God first but then he had to put Mary’s needs before his own. Coming TO God changes our priorities and perspective. We don’t live according to the ways of the world and the values of the society around us, we live according to the word of God and the values of God’s kingdom of love. We stop placing ourselves first and put God first.
When we say, let us go TO God, it means we allow God to enter our hearts and lives and give direction to how we live, but then there is the second step. We have to Go WITH God. After the shepherds found Jesus and knew that they had found God’s son, their Savior, their lives were changed and they left that meeting WITH God. They went forth praising God and sharing with people all that they had seen and heard. They went into the world sharing this good news of God’s love with others and that is part of what it means for us to Go with God. The story of Jesus and the love of God is not something we can just keep for ourselves; it is something we need to share. This has always been a story that has needed to be shared.
On the night Jesus was born creation itself proclaimed that Jesus was born by placing a star in the sky and the hosts of heaven broke forth in songs of joy. This is a message that still needs to be shared and so we need to find ways to go into the world and share what we know of God and what we know of Jesus with others. Whether we know a little or a lot, whether we have walked with Jesus for a few days or a lifetime, we need to share what we can about God’s love for us and the difference that Jesus makes.
The shepherds didn’t know much about Jesus, in fact they didn’t know anything all. All they knew was that the baby laying in the manger was the Savior of the world. They couldn’t say how or why or when or what, all they knew was who – that child was the Savior and that is what they shared. We don’t have to have any answers, we just need to be willing to go and share what we do know about God’s love and invite others to come and see what Jesus is all about.
This season is a great time to share the news of Jesus because people are open to it. People are often looking for an invitation to worship with someone on Christmas Eve. Lots of people want to find ways to help others in this season and share God’s love. Many people are trying to find ways to make this season something more than just giving and getting presents. People are open to hearing about Jesus and the love of God and so this is a great time for us to simply share what we know. We can do that through a Christmas card to friends and neighbors, or sending an invitation to worship on Christmas Eve to a coworker. We can go caroling in our neighborhood or take our family or small group and go sing to one of our shut-ins.
Everyone who came to Jesus and accepted his love, grace and truth had to make the decision to go and share it. The disciples were also given the mandate to go into all the world and share what they knew – to make disciples – and they went. Are we willing to go? Are we as a church willing to Go WITH God and share his love and grace to people and in places that might be new to us?
Let it go might be a catchy tune, but it is a lousy response to Jesus. The response God is looking for is the same one given by the shepherds the night Jesus was born, Let us go. Let us go TO Jesus and then once we have accepted his love and grace, let us go WITH Jesus and share his love with others.
Let Us Go
1. Take time to reflect on the story of Jesus birth found in Luke 2:1-20
• What does Jesus being born in a stable tell us about the nature and character of God?
• What were the first words said by the shepherds after being told that a Savior had been born?
• Why did God reveal this to shepherds?
• What did they do with this news?
• What did they do after they saw Jesus?
• Who first shared the news and love of Jesus with you?
• How did they do this?
2. What does it mean for you to go TO God? Where does forgiveness need to bring you healing? Where does God need to strengthen you? How can you actually go TO God?
3. What ways can you go WITH God in this holiday season and share with others the love and grace of God?
• Invite family, friends, coworkers and neighbors to Christmas Eve worship (postcards available)
• Donate items or time to Toys for Tots (December 15th at the Food Bank)
• Help distribute Food Bank Christmas Boxes to the Brokerhoff residents (December 19 at 9:00 AM)
• Provide for a family in need
• Go caroling as a family or small group to one of our shut-ins
• Sign up to help with the Christmas Day Dinner or provide food for the meal (sign-up in the lobby)
Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the LORD has told us about. (Luke 2:15)