Who knows the carol, “In the bleak mid winter”? I really like its poetic language about Jesus’ light and warmth coming into a cold, dark, and bleak world. I’m also challenged by its last verse, to bring all that I am to Jesus, because that is all that he asks of me. But, I do think that last verse doesn’t do justice to what the shepherds did. It seems to me that the shepherds did rather more than bring a lamb. In our reading tonight we heard that, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
And what was it that the shepherds had they been told about Jesus? Well, the angels had told them that the child that has been born is a Saviour, he is the Messiah, and he is the Lord.
He is a Saviour. Jesus comes to save and to rescue. Now, they weren’t told what Jesus had come to save people from, but they were told that he had come as the one who would save. Through the rest of the accounts of Jesus’ life we discover that, among other things, Jesus comes to save people from illness, from fear, from feeling lost, from sin and the effects of sin, and from death. In short, whatever someone needs to be rescued from, Jesus is the rescuer, the Saviour. That doesn’t mean that everything is always easy or straightforward in our lives, but it does mean that in the end we won’t be beaten. If we trust him, Jesus will keep us safe for ever.
He is the Messiah. He is the one that God has chosen to lead his people into freedom. This title would have had a special importance to the Jewish people at the time. It is likely that they were expecting someone to come and drive away the oppressive Roman forces and to reinstate the Kingdom of Israel. Jesus didn’t fulfil these expectations in the way that was expected. He fulfilled them in a much wider way. He wasn’t chosen for the limited task of leading the people of Israel out of Roman oppression, but the for the much greater task of leading all people, everywhere, out of the control of all oppressive forces. He is the Messiah.
He is the Lord. This is one of the most important declarations of Christian faith. Jesus is Lord. In the end, when push comes to shove and I have to decide what I am going to do in any situation, Jesus is Lord. That might mean that what I do is not what I want, not what my family wants, not what my boss wants, not what the laws of the land say, but what Jesus says. Jesus is Lord. I am not the most important person in my life. My wife is not the most important person in my life. My parents, my children, my friends are not the most important people in my life. The things that I own are not the most important part of my life. My work isn’t the most important part of my life. Jesus is the most important person and part of my life. He is Lord.
The shepherds were told that Jesus is a Saviour, the Messiah, the Lord. They went to see Him. When they had seen they went out and spread the word to others, who were amazed.
That message has been repeated, has been handed down from generation to generation, over the centuries. Now it has reached us. We have been told. Jesus is a Saviour, the Messiah, the Lord. We have seen much more evidence backing up these claims than the shepherds did on that Bethlehem night. They saw a baby in a feeding trough and were convinced. We have seen that baby grow up into a man. We have seen the healing he brought, his death and his resurrection. We have seen the way in which the good news about him has spread across the world and through time. We have seen the difference that is made in our lives by his Holy Spirit working in and through us today.
It might be that you feel like this is the first time that you have really heard that Jesus came as a Saviour, the one God chose to rescue you from the things that weigh you down, and to be Lord of your life. If that is true for you, and you want to see the difference that Jesus wants to make in your life then come and talk to Tim or myself afterwards. You might feel that you have heard this before but that you don’t feel like you have really seen Jesus. I invite you to ask the Holy Spirit to make Jesus’ presence real for you in a new way this Christmas. Perhaps you have heard and seen, but don’t feel like you’ve been doing enough to spread the word. I feel like that quite a lot of the time.
In our communities there is no shortage of people that need someone to rescue them, who would be glad of relief from the things that are pressing them down, who would thrive in Jesus’ kingdom. As we come to share in the bread and the wine this morning, we can ask God to revive in us our amazement at the outrageous generousity of God. We can look for a refreshing of our vision of the wonder of Christmas so that our faith is renewed that as we spread the word, the people will be amazed. We can ask for opportunities and boldness to spread the word that there is a Saviour, the Messiah, the Lord.
“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed”
Eternal God,in the stillness of this night
you sent your almighty Word
to pierce the world's darkness with the light of salvation:
give to the earth the peace that we long for
and fill our hearts with the joy of heaven
through our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.