4 01 2017


Why do we punch elevator buttons more than once? Why do we love the front seat of a bus but fight for the backseat of a church? I know the Parishioners at The Lighthouse do it to stay out of the splash zone of their perspiring and expressive Pastor! Why do we ask for directions, but then argue with the person who is giving them to us? What is the real purpose of a necktie? Why do many want to “Friend” you on Facebook but then refuse to acknowledge you in public? Why can’t we “sleep in” on our days off? My guess would be that rational behavior is not one of our best human trademarks. There are many things that we do that must make the angels in Heaven assigned to watching over us just scratch their wings in wonder!  

One characteristic that is true about our breed is that we are a “Spread-The-Word” kind of species.

We are good news tellers. We like to go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere when we are moved by a message. When we see a must-see movie, we must say it to all those that sit in the company of our conversations. Spread the wealth. Sing the truth. Share the treasure. One fact about most fellows and ladies is that they can’t keep to themselves what has touched their hearts.   

With that in mind, before we get too deep into the start of a New Year, I want to show you one last nugget from the Christmas Story. This is from the Gospel of Luke about some shepherds. St. Luke writes, “.” Up until Christmas Eve, this group had just been shepherds, but now they were men with a mission that mattered. They had been given a reason to advertise. Their pilot was ignited to burn. Encountering a life changing experience opened the door for them to become light bearing torches. No name shepherds in the dark of night were transformed into eternally famous life changers in the light of day! And God invites us to be a part of this assignment also.

 I want to write about a contrast between those who think they are powerful and the authentic source of power itself. There are those who falsely assume they have control and then there is the engine room where all the major decisions of life are really made. Once again we need to revisit the Christmas portion of Scripture. Joseph got to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus made a decree that the entire world should be taxed. That’s a pretty awesome thing when you think about it. One guy is able to make a decree that everybody ought to pay money, and it ought to go to him. Why? Caesar believed that he was the guy who had the real power. In his own mind, he was the center spotlight of the universe. As a matter of fact, this is from an ancient inscription.  It says, “Caesar Augustus is savior of the world.”

 That language “savior of the world” is kind of loaded language because Caesar claimed that as his title. In fact, the word gospel was actually a technical phrase that would be used in the first century to describe the beginning of the reign of a Caesar. The assumption was that he was the good news for the human race. He was the light of hope in the midst of hapless humanity! The birthday of Caesar was regarded by himself as the redeeming hope for all mankind. Does anybody know when Caesar Augustus’s birthday is? It’s September 23. I checked on that. We might want to make note of this so we don’t miss it again. I venture a guess that Hallmark does not sell a whole lot of birthday cards for Caesar Augustus. But there is another birthday from a long time ago that is still going real strong. Wouldn’t that come as a big surprise to Caesar? Long after his bulb has burned out, there is another light still shining bright!

 Caesar had the money. Caesar had the clout. Caesar had the power. He believed his reign was good news for the world. He was bringing peace to the world. He was bringing prosperity to the world. Any reader in the ancient world of that story in Luke would have thought, “Caesar is the good news.” “Caesar is the glowing governor.” And yet, Caesar was only an instrument in the hand of the God of all creation. Caesar makes this decree that the entire world ought to be taxed. In another part of the world he would never visit, in another country he had probably never heard of, a guy he would never have met named Joseph goes to his hometown. By the way, his hometown just happens to be the place where, according to ancient prophecies, the Messiah, the Savior, the true Light of the world would be born.

Immediately, for anybody reading this story, the question would arise, “Who is really in charge? Who is really making the decisions? Who is the real subject of the good news dilemma?” The story of Christmas is the story of contrasts and oxymoron’s. Caesar and Herod wore the titles- but Jesus was the true Messiah! Joseph and Mary were the outcasts and yet they were in God’s spotlight. Shepherds couldn’t get a word in edgewise in society and yet the Angels talked to them directly. And the dregs of the culture were the carriers of the Christ. They spread the word. They shined their light. The lightweight became the heavy hitters. Mary may have been the first one to literally carry the gospel, but it was the Shepherds that were the first guys to spread the word.

 Willie and Waylon would have sung back then, “Mothers, don’t let your babies grow up to be Shepherds! Let them be Rabbi’s or Rulers or such!” Shepherds were looked down upon. It was just assumed that shepherds were dishonest. Shepherds would take their flocks, and they would eat on the lands that belonged to other people. They would eat other people’s grass. Shepherds were considered just kind of dishonest, thieving people. Yet, it is the Shepherds that God chose to be the first ones to bear witness to the birth of his Son, Jesus. Why? If Shepherds could be witnesses for Jesus then anybody can be a witness for Jesus. It’s not about the credibility or articulateness of the witness. It’s about the person of Jesus. It’s about spreading the word.

“I have to tell you.” We shine our lights for all kinds of things. We talk of baseball, football, basketball, soccer, dance, music, work, hobbies, kids, and pets and so on. And as we embark upon a New Year, I ask you all, “Why wouldn’t we make our lives matter about what matters most?” One night, when these Shepherds are in a field, and an Angel appeared, and the Shepherds are overwhelmed with fear and joy, the Angel says to the Shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news. It’s not just good news for some folks, and it’s not just about Caesar. It’s not about money. It’s not about power. It’s not about human circumstances. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, even you shepherds, you who are listening to me right now. He is the Messiah. He is the Lord. He is the Son of God. He is the Savior of the world. It’s not Caesar. Caesar’s name is great and he’ll make a great salad someday but he’s no Jesus.”

 Only Jesus can answer your prayer. Only Jesus died on a cross for you. Only Jesus can forgive your sin. Only Jesus was resurrected from the grave. Only Jesus can give you a purpose for your life. Only Jesus can give you a hope beyond your death. Only Jesus can make his home in your heart. Only Jesus was born in a manger and died on a cross and was resurrected and today 2,000 years later, all over the world, is still changing lives. Only Jesus does that. And the word that came to the Shepherds and said, “You have to tell people,” is the word that comes to us! And the foolish move would be to ignore what we need to pay the most attention to! What will you do? Your future and the hope of others depend upon it.



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