Damariscotta Baptist Church
Friday, July 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

12/14/14 Sermon - Good News of Great Joy

“Good News of Great Joy”

3rd Sunday of Advent – 2014

Ezekiel 34:23, Luke 2:8-12, John 10:11

 

We are in our third week of preparation for the Birth of Jesus.

 

Today’s Advent Candle is the candle of Joy or otherwise known

 

  as the “Shepherd’s Candle”.

 

But did you notice that the candle for the 3rd Sunday is rose colored and not purple?

 

The rose candle marks a shift from the first two Sundays of Advent that focused on preparation and hope, to a more joyous atmosphere of anticipation and expectancy. It’s that sense we see when a little child is getting ready for Christmas. The closer they get to Christmas Eve, the more excited children get. We are currently more than half way through our time of waiting and hoping.

So today’s candle marks a time of Joy. And we will be looking at the experience of Jesus’ birth through the eyes of the shepherds.

 

In today’s Scripture reading I purposefully left out the verses in Luke 2 that coincide with today’s candle. Not because I didn’t think Julie couldn’t do a good job, but because when I think of these verses I am immediately reminded of my favorite reading and I would like to share that with you now.

 

[Linus Christmas Speech]

 

I suspect many of you remember the musical animated television special from which this clip appears.

 A Charlie Brown Christmas debuted on CBS on December 9, 1965.

 

We all know how the story goes, Charlie Brown, the lead character, finds himself depressed despite the cheerful holiday season. Lucy suggests he direct the school Christmas play, but he is both ignored and mocked by his peers and his own dog.

The underlying message shows how Christmas has become over commercialized and how secularism has taken over Christmas. The show is a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ.

 

Not much has changed since 1965, commercialism and secularism is still taking over the Christmas holiday.

 

Richard Foster wrote in his book Celebration of Discipline,

 

 

 

“In contemporary society our Adversary majors on three things:  Noise, hurry and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in “muchness” and “manyness,” he will rest satisfied.”

 

Personally I think the noise, hurry, and crowds occur all year long, but they certainly do pick up during the Christmas season. All of this hustle and bustle has a tendency to smother Jesus at Christmas, or take the Christ out of Christmas and leave us with “mas”.

 

If we were able to go back in time to the first Christmas, I think we would see that the busyness of life hasn’t changed. The tiny village of Bethlehem was crowded. Caesar Augustus had ordered the census to be taken and everyone was on the move, those in the lineage of David, had come to Bethlehem to be counted. It was like a huge family reunion, everyone and his brother was in town. There were people everywhere.

People sleeping on the streets, in alleys, or anywhere one could find a spot. Inn keepers were beside themselves, trying to make room for the influx of people and then trying to feed them. It was a “good” problem for the innkeeper because more people meant more money. It also meant no free time and exhaustion. The inns are full, the crowds are noisy and no one in the village, heard the cry of a newborn babe, born outside the inn, probably in a cave, placed in a feeding trough, normally reserved for sheep, for a bed. The baby boy was wrapped in strips of clothing to keep him warm.

 

However,

God,

the proud father,

sent out the birth announcement above all others.

If you think about it, it should be the above all the rest, as for the first time in infinity, the transcendent God was now in human flesh.

 

The world would never be the same.

Heaven was near.

Yet, the people in Bethlehem did not hear the announcement God sent. The village was too busy, too jam-packed, too consumed, too pre-occupied. All of the high officials and important people of Bethlehem missed the announcement. Caesar Augustus, the mayor of  Bethlehem, the High Priest, all of the men who were in charge and powerful were too busy, too noisy, too much.

 

Instead, the birth announcement of the King of Kings was heard by an unpretentious group of outsiders living on the outskirts of Bethlehem, a bunch of sheepherders.

Shepherds during the time of the birth of Jesus were today’s social equivalent of a homeless person, living on the street, who does odd jobs for minimal pay.

 

Shepherds didn’t quite fit directly into society, and they weren’t accepted by the culture of the day. They always traveled and moved with their sheep. Their home life existed living with the sheep and being on the go. Thus, they smelled like the animals they tended, which was pretty bad. Their language was rude and crude and basically they were uneducated and unsophisticated men.

 

We have some of those types of people around today. Their clothing doesn’t match or fit into today’s fashion. They don’t have the latest gadget, or electronic device. They are what we may call “backward”.

 

Not only were shepherds “physically” unclean. They were also “spiritually” unclean.

 

You see, in the Jewish tradition, to be able to participate in religious activities, one had to undergo certain rituals, attend particular festivals and services in order to be seen as “clean” by God. Well, because shepherds had to go where the grass was, they had to keep on the move. This meant they missed attending the necessary services and performing the necessary ritual of purification. And if they did happen to show up at the Temple Mount, they were overlooked. You know, the same look many give to the homeless on the street. Walk around them, don’t make eye contact, pretend they are part of the surroundings, not human. These types of people understand that according to the world they are not good enough for God.

 

Thus, shepherds were loners. They enjoyed being in solitude, quietness and separated from others. They preferred the simple life with all of its characteristics: less hectic, slower, calmer, noise free and people-less.

Perhaps that is why God chose to make his announcement of the birth of his one and only begotten Son, to the people of the day who were considered outcasts, overlooked, and outsiders.

 

You see, the shepherds were in a place where they could hear.

 

God chose the outcasts of society, those overlooked by the religious leaders, to be the first to hear about His son’s birth.

What do you think?

If God spoke to shepherds, then maybe there is hope for us?

If we can get ourselves in a similar place, where we can hear God speak to us, maybe it will happen?

What do we need to do to hear God’s message?

To prevent the crowds from trampling out Christ from Christmas?

I have some suggestions.

#1 BE STILL

The story of Christmas has the power of the Almighty and the gentleness of a baby.

 

But so often we wake up on December 26th and realize we’ve missed something.

 

God may be mighty but his desire is relationship, a personal relationship with you and me. And in order for us to have a meaningful relationship with someone we need to spend time alone with that person. This requires moving away from the hustle and bustle, sitting, lingering, pondering, waiting, and beholding.  For those of us who have children, we can relate, as a parent there is something special when your child says, “Hey, mom  or dad, Let’s talk. Or I’d like to spend time with you. This is the same with God. He desires us to take time to , be still and soak Him in. The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God….”

It wouldn’t hurt to put this verse on your fridge, bathroom mirror or the dashboard of your car, as a reminder. Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God….”

 

Like the shepherds, this means we need to deliberately choose to stop, to wait and to be still.

 

My second suggestion is connected with “Being Still”, it is

 

#2 FIND A PLACE OF QUIET

Finding a quiet place may not be easy. Our lives are so full of noise, from the television, radios, computers, people talking, paper rustling, requirements in our heads that tell us we always have “one more thing”.

The only way to find a quiet place is to move away from the noise.

Let’s look at the shepherds. The Scripture says they were “out in the fields”. They were away from the village, and away from the crowds. They had found a place of quiet.

I’d like to suggest that a place of quiet is not always a physical place. Most often, the times we need quiet most is when we are in the midst of the crowds. The quiet place is in the place of the heart.

Think of the “eye of the storm”. The storm rages around the center, but the core of the storm there is found calmness, peace, and silence. This place doesn’t have to last for long. Just long enough for you to connect with God, catch your breath and be available to hear God’s voice.

The Christmas carol “Silent Night” expresses it best, listen to the words,

Silent Night, holy night; All is calm, all is bright

Round yon virgin mother and child! Holy Infant so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.

 

I’d like to share a story I found.

Country music star Travis Tritt spent many years playing out-of-the-way joints before he made it big in the music industry. He reports that many of the bars were dangerous places, with drunken fans starting fights over the smallest matters. Crowds can easily become uncontrollable mobs. But Tritt found a unique way to keep the peace in such situations. He says: “Silent Night proved to be my all-time lifesaver. Just when [the bar fights]started getting out of hand, when bikers were reaching for their pool cues and rednecks were heading for the gun rack, I’d start playing Silent Night.

It could be the middle of July – I didn’t care. Sometimes they’d even start crying, standing there watching me sweat and play Christmas carols.”

Now I’m not necessarily advocating your playing or singing Silent Night in order to quiet things down, but I am encouraging you to find the time, and if you can, the place, apart from others, to be silent.

 

My third suggestion is that we

BE INTENTIONAL

We read in Luke 2:8, “And there were shepherds living out in the field nearby…”

What does it mean to be “living”?

I’m sure Luke meant they were eating, sleeping and doing life in the fields, but I would like to take it one step further. Could it mean that they had an intentionality to their lives?

They were alive, living in the moment.

They weren’t just going through the motions.

They weren’t just waiting for their paycheck, and for the weekend and then doing it all over again.

They were living. They weren’t in a hurry.

They weren’t concerned with making sure everything was just right and looked just the way everyone else had it.

I wonder if we can say the same? Are we really living? Or are we going through the day, the week, the month, the year pretending?

If you haven’t noticed, I am as busy as one can get. I am constantly on the move, and I often have to stop and ask myself, why? I am afraid I am as guilty or more so than the rest of you. But I know the power of being intentional. Believe it or not, I am actually not as busy now as I used to be. And if you are anything like me, or if you can look at what goes on in your day and wonder, what did I do today?

Why does time seem to go by so quickly? Then I encourage you to intentionally choose to live. Be choosy about what you allow take over your time. And when there are times when you can’t choose the circumstances around you – make a conscious effort to be alive in it –

Pay attention to God, and whether it is in the chaos of the 21st Century or lost in the length of day and what you are to do in it.

If we really think about it, Christmas is all about God, living as a human.

And now, God can be living in us, enabling us to live.

 

This Christmas, let’s make sure we take time to be still,

we focus on putting our hearts in a place of quiet,

and we listen to God,

so that we can be intentional about how we live,

stop going through the motions and live this life God intends for us to live.

Let’s keep Christ in Christmas.

Let us pray.

BENEDICTION:

Do not be afraid. I’ve told you Good News of Great Joy, may you find stillness, a place of quiet

and intentionally live this week with the hope of Christ in your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a musical animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. Produced by Lee Mendelson and directed by Bill Melendez, the program made its debut on CBS on December 9, 1965. In the special, lead character Charlie Brown finds himself depressed despite the onset of the cheerful holiday season. Lucy suggests he direct a school Christmas play, but he is both ignored and mocked by his peers. The story touches on the over-commercialization and secularism of Christmas, and serves to remind viewers of the true meaning of Christmas (the birth of Jesus Christ).

Peanuts had become a phenomenon worldwide by the mid-1960s, and the special was commissioned and sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company. It was written over a period of several weeks, and animated on a shoestring budget in only six months. In casting the characters, the producers went an unconventional route, hiring child actors. The program's soundtrack was similarly unorthodox: it features a jazz score by pianist Vince Guaraldi. Its absence of a laugh track (a staple in television animation in this period), in addition to its tone, pacing, music, and animation, led both the producers and network to wrongly envision the project as a disaster preceding its broadcast.

A Charlie Brown Christmas received high ratings and acclaim from critics. It has since been honored with both an Emmy and Peabody Award. It became an annual broadcast in the United States, and has been aired during the Christmas season traditionally every year since its premiere. Its jazz soundtrack also achieved commercial success, going triple platinum in the US. Live theatrical versions of A Charlie Brown Christmas have been staged. ABC currently holds the rights to the special, and broadcasts it at least twice during the weeks leading up to Christmas.

-          Wikipedia