[Simple short message for ECM.
Will need 2 props: 1. A “crown” (paper cutout) & 2. The word, “LOWLY” (printed out, folded into triangle so it stands up on its own]
Good morning everyone! Merry early Christmas! Okay, so today, I wanted to step inside the Christmas story a little bit. We will start low, and end on a high note. You see, there are many characters in the Christmas story, like Mary and Joseph, who were humble and lowly. Although we might think the action ought to all be in the king’s palace somewhere, God’s focal point really is with the lowly. <Bring out LOWLY sign, put on table in front.> We all know that Jesus was not born in a well-furnished mansion, as we might have expected, but to a lonely peasant couple, in a filthy setting of a barn. Today, that might be comparable to finding a baby under a highway underpass, lying in a shopping cart with crumpled up newspapers. It’s a sad, miserable picture, but this is how God chose to reveal his glory.
Today, we’re going to experience a little bit more of that lowly taste of Christmas. You see, not only was Jesus born in lowly conditions, he was also proclaimed to lowly people. Does anyone know who could have said “Angels we have heard on high” on that very first Christmas? Yeah, it was the shepherds! To give a little bit of background on the shepherds, it definitely wasn’t a walk in the park. Shepherds were social outcasts, on par with, or slightly above, the prostitutes and tax collectors. They were poor and uneducated and therefore were looked down on to a point where they could not even witness in court. Furthermore, they were also religious outcasts. Since they came into contact with all sorts of animals and carcasses, they were considered unclean and were unwelcomed in the temples. These are the people that God chose to reveal his angelic host to.
Let’s go ahead and read Luke 2:1-20…
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 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.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
These shepherds were minding their own business, when suddenly “Hallelujah!” all of these angels show up! They hear about good news of great joy for all the people, a promise of a Savior and a Lord, and they get to see him! But “Good news of great joy that will be for all the people”? Really? All the people? It’s so hard to believe. Not just the strong ones, the talented ones, the rich ones, the pretty ones, the smart ones? Well, the angel was pretty clear about this: this good news will cause great joy for all the people. That’s really something to think about. Does that mean, God wants something to do with the poor, the uneducated, the injured, the depressed, the ugly, the weak, the kind of people that we wouldn’t want to talk to or even be? If we remember how Jesus came: to a lowly peasant couple, to a lowly situation in that unhygienic barn, proclaimed to lowly shepherds who were rejects of society… we can conclude that yes, God wants something to do with lowly people. And then the question becomes, does God want something to do with me? … You see, I’m not that good. I’m extremely forgetful, I’m often late, I’m lazy and I get easily irritated at people. Are you telling me that God wants something to do with a person who’s pretty messed up, who’s annoying to her friends and has a dirty heart? Are you saying that God actually wants something to do with me? Yes, I think so. If God came to the shepherds who were at the outskirts of town, if God came to Mary and Joseph who couldn’t even find a decent place to stay for the night, if God chose those kinds of people to see Jesus first, then maybe God wants something to do with me, too.
Well, what is this good news of great joy that he wants to tell me? I mean, isn’t a baby born in a manger actually sad and pathetic news? I know what I consider good news of great joy. This past weekend, one of my best friends got married and I got to join in on the celebration! That’s certainly good news of great joy! But.. even though it’s good news for my friend and her family, it’s not good news for all the people. Hm. Ok, how about this: What if ____ won the million dollar lottery, and she’s going to share it with everyone in this room! Wow! That’s good news of great joy for all the people, right? Well.. I don’t know about that, either. Maybe everyone will be richer, but where does that leave someone if they were depressed, disabled in some way, or even extremely sick? No amount of money will fix their condition. So it’s not really that great, after all. So what could be so great about some dirty baby, born in some remote barn, to a poor peasant couple? How can he affect every single one of us?
Let’s go back to what the angels said. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to YOU; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” So, that means that we need a Lord, or king, and we need to be saved! And it’s very clear what we need to be saved from: our very own selves, who are the wrongful kings. If you remember from 2 weeks ago, we talked about who was going to be king in our lives: us or God. <Bring out crown, move to front of self to represent “us”, lifting up crown on upper right to represent “God”.> Now, we all know that God’s a whole lot smarter than we are and better at directing the universe, but when it comes down to, for example, one annoying roommate, suddenly at least for me, I have a battle with God. God says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” <lift crown up> and I say, “Go away, neighbor!” <yank crown to self>. So I often experience that I fall short of God’s heart and his standards. Jesus really ought to be king, but now that I’ve messed up in letting him direct my heart and actions, I need someone to save me from the consequences of my sin, which is death. Now, whether we reject God knowingly or not, we are people who are not perfect in our relationship with God. We might say, “Sure, I’m not perfect, but nobody’s perfect.” But the thing is, before a perfect God, our imperfection, no matter how small, deserves separation from God and all of his goodness and life, forever. <put crown on table in front>
Far from being perfect, this is how lowly we are. We are lowly because we lack in character, love, and purity. If all of our thoughts that went on in our heads were projected on a screen for everyone to see, we would be ashamed and it’d be clear that we are messed up sinners from the inside out. I imagine that being here, too, in a nursing home, would feel like we are in a lowly position. Maybe we feel lowly because of our bodies, which lack the independence that it once had. Maybe we feel lowly when our family or friends have passed away or are distant because of our sense of loneliness or isolation.
Even though we’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s perfection, that’s exactly why the good news of great joy is for all the people, even those of us who feel like we are the lowest kind of people. You see, even in our sin, the holy God still loved us. He saw that we were helpless to our fate, so sent His Son, Jesus, to take the punishment of death that we deserved. The good news is that if we confess that we are sinners, believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died for us on the cross and rose again, we can accept God’s forgiveness and accept Jesus as our King and Savior. <lift up crown and put back down.>
Let’s go back see how the shepherds responded. The angels told them, “A Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” And that means he was born to each one of us, to all people, even the humble people like the shepherds, even to someone as lame as me, and also to you. Salvation is available to any one of us. This is the good news of great joy for all the people: even though we all have sinned, we are all welcome to invite Jesus to be our Lord and Savior. Man, the shepherds were overcome with not only joy, but awe and wonder! And their response was to tell everyone the news, even to complete strangers who came from all over the nation!
Now, we don’t have angelic hosts singing today, but we’ve all heard many Christmas songs about Jesus. We also don’t see the bright glorious angelic lights that the shepherds did, but we have Christmas lights. We may not see any barns, but we’ve seen plenty of nativity scenes. The shepherds responded so freely and immediately to the invitation to meet Jesus, and then spread this good news that brought amazement to those who listened! Even though they were the rejects of society, even though they were considered as nobodies who couldn’t testify in court, God gave them front row seats to testify about his humble Son, Jesus. So, we don’t need to pretend that we are perfect, because to be honest, we’re not. It’s ok to admit our brokenness and lowliness, <lift up LOWLY sign> because that’s where God can meet us. That’s exactly where God did meet us on that first Christmas. <put sign down> He came into the world in a lowly way: in a filthy barn, and died in a lowly way: on the rugged cross. God chooses to enter into our lowly and filthy hearts, too, if we would only first acknowledge our lowliness and our need for him.
So, this is the story of Christmas. Jesus is a Lowly King <arrange LOWLY on stage right, and crown stage left on table>. He also is the King of the lowly <switch props>. <pause>
We know much more than the shepherds do about Jesus. And just like them, we too ought to move toward this good news of Jesus coming to save us from our sins. If we are Christian, let’s spread this good news of great joy to everyone that we can find! Just like the shepherds, we can say that even though we are so lowly in some way, God still loves someone like me, so he must love someone like you! We ought to rejoice like the shepherds did, and then have that joy overflow to others! And if you are not sure if you’ve had this kind of joy before while acknowledging our lowliness, I want to encourage us to find Jesus to be good news of great joy for ourselves. If it is your prayer that we are lowly and broken and that we need Jesus to be our king and to save us from our sins, or if it’s your prayer to find courage to spread this good news to others who need to hear even though we feel so lowly ourselves, if that is your prayer today, would you please raise your hand? Ok, let’s pray.