Over the holiday season, I imagine there were lots of things you wanted to invite people to.
Come over for a holiday meal.
Come watch the Bowl Game with me.
Come watch the giant acorn drop with me.
Come shopping with me! There’s sales at Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears, Sam Ash, Claire’s, Pandora, and Belk! And that’s just at Crabtree Valley Mall.
And then, if you’re a part of a church your pastor asked you to share a Christmas Worship invite with your friends.
How’d that go?
Was that at easy as inviting someone over for the Big Game?
Was that as easy as inviting them out for a Double Cheeseburger?
If you’re like me, then probably not…In fact, it can be downright intimidating.
Case and point – I was at the Pickled Onion the other week – because my favorite NFL team, the Green Bay Packers, were not on regular TV. I was sitting by myself eating a delicious order of nachos, when I struck up a conversation with the Jacksonville Jaguars fan next to me.
First, I was impressed that a Jaguar’s fan even existed. And second, it was nice to talk to someone during the game.
And as we watched we talked about a lot of things: About the NFL and its concussion problem – about our favorite type of hot wing – about his former job in government – about our current government – about dogs and how to train them.
And, then about halfway through the game – he asked me a question during the lull of a commercial.
“What do you do?”
And…I looked over at him, cigarette hanging from his lip – PBR in his left hand. Football noise in the background. I know what I do. I’m a pastor. I tell people about the Almighty God, his hatred for sin and his answer in Jesus our Savior. But I also know how people react—I know how that answer could cause this new friend to switch spots – or at least clam up for the rest of the game.
Within that 5 seconds of silence – I had a crisis of conscience. I could answer. If I would, it might be the end of this friendship.
Should I clam up?
Should I make up something not necessarily true?
Should I tell him that I work in communications and leave it at that?
Maybe something like that has happened to you.
Maybe you’ve had moments to share the Gospel and clammed up.
Why? Why the anxiety? Why the nervousness? Why the fear?
Today – we are going to finish up our series called “Do Not Be Afraid” and we’re going to hear about the final time an angel said that, “Do not be afraid,” during the Christmas story. And as we do so, we want to learn (1) what is it about the Gospel message that’s so scary – to hear and to share (2) why we don’t have to be afraid of sharing it.
Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Afraid of Good News?
This takes place in Luke 2 beginning at verse 8. It’s actually the same night as baby Jesus was born – the very first Christmas.
You know how in movies, they sometimes segue from one scene to the next? Picture that here. We were just at the scene of Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger. Mary’s crying. Joseph’s crying. The donkey is crying. Everyone is happy that the Savior has been born.
Segue to a shot of a dark night sky. A few stars quietly shining their light on the countryside.
The camera pans back to reveal a campfire. Smoldering. Roasting. A few men – ranging from age 19 to 67 are circled around the fire. One sits against a tree. One is laying on his side. Another is cuddled up with a gentle lamb.
They are shepherds. Their job is to watch sheep. They lead the sheep to water. They help the animals find food. They protect them from wolves and bandits.
And tonight, was a quiet night. As they passed around a loaf of stale bread that the eldest had kept in the side pocket of his tunic – they relaxed and listened to the hum of the locusts in the background.
It was a quiet life. Not a lot of exciting things happened. There was the occasional lamb in the thicket and the squirrel mistaken for a wolf, but usually the night was fairly dull. Boring. Uninteresting.
But on this particular night, something interesting began to happen. A light appeared in the sky. Slowly at first, but then building in brilliance.
One of them began to notice. At first, he didn’t say much – “It must be a shooting star.” But soon the light grew. It moved more quickly than a star and was more brilliant than a star – and it was getting closer than a star!
Wake up! What’s that?!
The star-like creature grew closer and closer until it stopped directly overhead.
It wasn’t a star.
It wasn’t a Chinese lantern.
It wasn’t a glow in the dark drone that wouldn’t be invented for another 2000 some years.
It was an angel.
Luke 2:9 says, “They were terrified.” Literally – they were afraid – a great fear.
The kind of fear reserved for horror movies, roller coasters and when you’re driving in the ice and snow and lose control of your car. That’s the kind of fear they have when they see an angel!
And why not?
(1) It’s an angel. Not an angel ornament or a stuffed Christmas angel. A real angel. Divine. Out of this world. Incredible.
(2) This angel was from God! He was messenger of God. He was a messenger of the Holy, All Powerful God. He was messenger of the Holy, All Powerful, sin hating God.
And these shepherds? Were sinners.
Their minds started racing.
Did God hear the gruff, four letter shepherd words that we were joking about earlier?
Does he know about what I did with the farmer’s daughter last weekend?
Can he smell the stale booze on my breath?
Is he here to confront me, because I haven’t been to synagogue in months?
Their minds were racing. This was a representative of God.
God knew all things.
God knew their sinful things.
God hated sinful things. He was undoubtedly about to destroy him. And all they had to defend themselves was a 5-foot piece of wood. A shepherd’s crook that might double as a bow staff, but what would that do against the fiery judgment of God?
They braced themselves for the attack. “It was nice shepherding with you. If you make it out alive, tell my wife I love her!”
I suppose that’s the rub. The friction between sinful humans and the divine message of the Gospel. It’s not God – It’s our sin. Our sin which burdens us with guilt. Our sin which stays on our hearts. Our sins which the devil uses to accuse us – God could never love you.
And, even after we know the truth of that message and we understand how God has used that to change our lives -- it’s almost like we project that onto others. They’ll get mad. They’ll get upset. They’ll not like the whole Savior from sin part – because it implies that they are sinners!
I was on Facebook the other day – and I saw one of my friends had posted something about Jesus being our Savior from sin. Sounds nice, right? But the comments that he had been receiving back were threatening. “Shut up with your religion.” “Yeah, some guy died a long time ago and that’s forgiveness.” “Keep your magical, mystical stories to yourself, Harry Potter.”
His response was this: “I’m sorry. I didn’t think it would upset ya’ll so much.”
Should we be surprised? Isn’t that expected? You understand – sinners naturally balk at God. In fact, Romans 8:7 says, “The sinful mind is hostile to God.” Yours was. At times – it still is. And no matter who you bring it to – understand that may very well be their reaction.
II. Finding Joy in the Good News
So…how do you change their attitude towards God?
Take medicine with big scoop of applesauce?
Do you add applesauce to the Gospel?
Do you make it more pleasant by removing sin and hell?
Do you just say things like “Be kinda sort spiritual and I’m sure it’ll all be fine.”
OR do you do like the angels do – and bring them the good news anyways…
Verse 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”
Zero in on that message. It’s good news. Not terrifying, you’re about to be eternally destroyed by God’s hell fire wrath news. Good news.
And it’s for all people.
For the young shepherd struggling to control his sexual urges.
For the foreign shepherd feeling like he doesn’t fit in.
For the lifelong, aged shepherd who has a history of gruff language, broken relationships, and death creeping closer and closer.
The message is for all people – all shepherds – you.
Listen to the message:
A Savior has been born. A Savior from your sins. A Savior form your past. A Savior from the worst things you’ve said – and the worst things you’ve done. A Savior from the guilt and the pain – and the name calling of the devil: “Loser. Failure. Sinner.” A Savior from God’s Almighty wrath – a Savior to his everlasting love.
He is Christ! That’s the Greek word for Anointed One! As in – this is the One that was promised to Abraham, to Isaac and Jacob – Ancestors of the Jewish race. The One that is born is the one who fulfills God’s plan to save the world from sin. He is the fulfillment of God’s love to you.
He’s the Lord. As in master. As in ruler. And not “a” Lord or “a” ruler.” But “The” Lord and “the” ruler.
As in God. As in you needed a Savior from sin and death and hell – a job that’s impossible for any human being to conquer. Impossible for police. Impossible for firemen. Impossible for the military and political heroes and even a guy who’s really good at swinging a sword.
Impossible for humans! But not for God. So… God came.
God is that Savior.
And suddenly, more angels appear.
But this time the shepherds aren’t frightened.
This time they are overcome with joy.
And they find their gruff, off tune, monotonous voices to be humming along with the angelic choir:
14 “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to mankind on whom God’s favor rests!”
III. What now?
(1) Hurry and See
Look at what the shepherds did in response to the angels. Verse 15 says, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about.”
Notice it says, “When the angels had left them.” As in, right away – right afterwards.
Not – in the morning.
Not – later on this week.
Not – after we find appropriate replacements to watch over the sheep as we’re gone.
They just leave. They go! Because this message was that GOOD and this news was that INCREDIBLE!
Do the same. Hurry and See!
If you’re struggling to tell others about Jesus, because you are unsure about the validity of this message in your life – Hurry and See!
Hurry to your Bible and re-read the Gospel of God’s love for you.
Hurry and listen to a devotion in which God’s love is shared again and again.
Hurry and free up your schedule on Sunday to hear God’s Gospel over and over.
Hurry and get into a Bible study, where you can talk about God’s love, encourage with God’s love and lift each other up with God’s love throughout the week!
Hurry and see Jesus – because in Jesus you have your Savior. I don’t’ care who you are. He’s a Savior for all people.
He says, “I love you. Though you have sin, I came to save you. And I have. I lived perfectly when you couldn’t; died innocently in your place; and rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of every last one of your sins.”
Hurry and be reminded of that awesome truth! No matter what others think! Mary has just gotten baby Jesus to fall asleep. The long journey to Bethlehem has worn them out. The family falls asleep in each other’s arms.
Then, a rag tag group of dirty, rough, tough shepherds knocks at the door. “What do you want? Don’t harm my baby!”
We aren’t here to harm. We are here to praise. To bow. To see the Savior.
Let that be the same with you. Who cares if your relative says, “That sounds crazy.”
(2) Hurry and Share
This is what the shepherds do next. Verse 17 When they had seen Jesus, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child…
Remember: It’s early in the morning. Yet you get the impression with the conjunction and in this narrative – that as people are waking up, feeding the cattle, arranging their flowers, sweeping out their market shops for sales the next day – a group of dirty shepherds comes running through the streets:
“Stop what you’re doing. Something incredible has happened. A baby has been born! Not just any baby. A Savior. My Savior. Your Savior. Because of him, by faith in him, you won’t go to hell! You’ll be forgiven!”
But the shepherds didn’t care. The message was that incredible. The message was that good.
Like double coupons at Harris Teeter. Did you know about this? Apparently once a month, Harris Teeter will double your coupons. I think that’s awesome. If you find a coupon that’s fifty cents off, it’s now a dollar off. If you find one that’s 10% off, it’s now 20% off. If you find something’s a dollar off and the price of the item is $1.99, it’s free!
I really need to stock up on $2 off Doritos’ coupons!
It’s a good enough of a deal that you want to tell others.
Isn’t the message of Jesus that good, too? Eternal salvation for free. Forgiveness of sins for free. Heaven for free!
I want you to think about someone you know who doesn’t know the Gospel. Someone who doesn’t care about Jesus. Remember what we just learned – Jesus is their Savior, too. It’s even better than a double coupon deal at Harris Teeter. It’s double – no—infinite forgiveness in Jesus!
Don’t you want your family to know?
Don’t you want your friends to know?
Goodness – even that coworker that you don’t like that much --- needs to know!
But…what if they think I’m crazy? What if they don’t want to listen to me?
Honest truth is: They might. But why let that stop you? The message is too good. The message is too important.
Picture the shepherds: Can you imagine how crazy that might have sounded?
How do you know?
Well, we saw a multitude of angels in the skies.
We saw a virgin who had given birth to a child.
We visited a barn and found a family there.
We saw God – lying in a feeding trough!
Because it was so crazy, you’d think that the shepherds wouldn’t have done this to tarnish their already poor reputation. Why would you knowingly put your reputation on the line like that? It’s the same reason I don’t run around telling everyone that I saw a purple monkey flying through the air last night!
But the shepherds did share this message – with everyone they saw.
Because it was true.
You share that same message. It's true.
Don’t be afraid. Go and tell.
Your husband. Your wife. Your cousin. Call up a neighbor.
That’s the challenge for next week Sunday. It’s a brand-new sermon series we’re starting called “Follow.” It’s all about Following Jesus and it’s a great Sunday to invite a friend to join you in church.
Your challenge? Invite and bring a friend. Ask them to come with you to see Jesus. If they ask why it’s so important, don’t be afraid to tell them about your Savior. Don’t be afraid to tell them about the good news.
And if you get nervous? What will they say to me? What if they mock me? What if they make fun? What if they block you on Facebook?
Remember this – This is God’s message. It isn’t yours. God isn’t asking you to share your message on your own. Nope. God has your back.
The God who sends multitudes of angels into the sky – has your back.
The God who makes Mary pregnant when she hasn’t slept with anyone – has your back.
The God who became a human to save you has your back.
The God who lived, died and rose against has your back.
The God who forgives you -- The God who empowers you – the God who is commissioning you has your back.
Don’t be afraid to share the Gospel.
I did end up telling that guy at the Pickled Onion that I was a pastor.
And he did ask me a question or two about God.
And he did say that he may join us for worship one time.
And God willing – he will.
Share the Gospel message. Don’t be afraid. God has your back. Amen.