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THEY WERE SORE AFRAID (Luke 2:8-15)

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Podcast: They Were Sore Afraid

At Christmastime, when we sing the hymn Silent Night, we generally think of the stable in Bethlehem & all that was going on there. In reality that night would have been  anything but quiet with a new born infant..and the animals. However  before that event Luke tells us earlier in his gospel that there were Shepherds…doing their job out in the fields. Now for first century Palestine that would have been the one of the lowest paying/ least respected job anyone could have. Yet ,for someone familiar with Hebrew Scripture many of the great leaders of the faith began as Shepherds. Moses as he was called by God in the burning bush. King David…who is credited with the 23rd Psalm: 

The LORD is my shepherd ; I shall not want . He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my  soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.    Psalm 23:1-3 KJV 

God..as a Shepherd—Lie down in Green Pastures (what the Shepherds were doing that Night)…He leads me..like a Shepherd leads his flock…and Restores the souls of His flock…Jesus reminded his followers…I am The Good Shepherd…who does ALL of these things. 

Luke continues to explain that these Shepherds were watching their flocks at night. Faithfully doing their job…when they encountered God is a great & significant way. A great lesson for us as we go about doing our day to day tasks…Do we leave room for God? Reminds me of the old Warner Bros cartoon of the Sheep Dog & the Coyote. When they were “On the Clock” they were focused on their vocation/calling. As with these shepherds, when we realize our calling from God…we are always…on the Clock. 

So, Luke tells us that there were these Shepherds..who were Living/Abiding Out In The Fields..not just working in the fields…he said living. However, a closer look at the one word Greek word (Agrauleō) that is translated here-“Living in the fields” who more literally means-out in the fields playing musical instruments” at first this makes no sense why it is translated living in the fields (if they are playing musical instruments they aren’t just working).  This would also bring to mind David, who was also Agrauleō. Before he was anointed David king, Samuel had come to Jesse to anoint one of his sons (with no success): 

Then Samuel asked,  “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,”  Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep.” “Send for him at once.”  1 Samuel 16:11 

These Shepherds are doing the same as David-Living/Abiding/Waiting. Then in the midst of the Silent Night-Luke tells us: An angel of the Lord appeared to them… Again when we see this displayed in Religious Art we see an angel floating above the Shepherds..in actuality the word used here to described this angel is the same word for Stand/Stood. One of the most prominent places we find this is in the sixth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians church. He says:

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.   Ephesians 6:13 

 Stand-Like the Angel in the Power of God & His Powerful Spirit. We are also told that The Glory of the Lord shone around them…Every Sunday when we have an opportunity to give back to God we celebrate by additionally offering a Doxology-Praising God by looking at His Glory. The Psalmist goes as far as tying our Salvation to Glory: 

Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.   Psalm 85:9 

God’s Salvation-is near those who Fear (Awe) Him-Glory is There! The speaking of fear. I think of what Luke records in the King James Version. 

They (The Shepherds)were Sore Afraid... 

Who wouldn’t be ? That was an incredible encounter and a starting place for them and maybe for many of us. What do we fear? When we hear the news from the world in TV/Newspapers/Internet…We fear so many things (just as the shepherds did)…Luke tells us: 

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid 

What would it take to keep us from worrying? An Encounter with Christ? My hope for everyone/anyone at Christmas—No Fear  . Luke records that the angel tells them: 

 I  bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 

This Good News will bring Great Joy…for ALL people. You notice the angel didn’t say-Don’t worry-Be Happy. Happiness is fleeting feeling-it comes and it goes. Joy is the permanent  state of being we can encounter again & again thru a relationship with Christ. Jesus  reminded his followers: 

And now I am coming to you. I have told them many things while I was with them so they would be filled with my joy.”    John 17:13 

May we all be filled with His joy this Christmas Season. Then Luke tells us the Shepherds are told: 

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.  Luke 2:12 

 

So the Shepherds are given 2 signs /signals. The word “sign” is an expression used in interpreting written documents in the ancient word… There was no punctuation. There had to be some kind of sign/signal in to indicate where words and sentences stopped /ended. The same implication is here with this message to these shepherds..this how your New Life will begin.

 First, A Baby wrapped in cloths (indicating new Life). Second, Lying in A Manger, a place Shepherds knew well that provided nutrition for their sheep. This baby will somehow feed them and all Humankind…In Bethlehem-(Meaning House of Bread). Jesus told his followers...I am The Bread of LifeLuke continues saying: 

 

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others — the armies of heaven — praising God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.”   

A large group of God’s messengers Praising God in Doxology as we did earlier…adding Peace on earth-To all whom God finds Favor. We recently looked at  Luke’s telling of the Annunciation of Mary and the word we learned as she was told that she was highly favored…well here it is again.  For those who are… charitoō…they will know peace. What keeps us from knowing Peace? Maybe, not realizing God’s Grace. Like the bumper sticker says: No Jesus-No Peace—Know Jesus…Know Peace… Finally, Luke records: 

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.”   Luke 2:15 

That is where we embark on our advent journey. Let’s go… and see. As we experience…may we be prepared for an encounter…that whatever level of fear/worry/troubles you currently possess that you can find true peace in a baby sent to bring New Life.. in a Manger that can restore and nourish Your Soul..for the Glory of God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THIS BOY (LUKE 2:21-38)

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Happy Boxing Day!  The Holiday Began with story of King Wenceslas of Bohemia. The English crusaders who were on the way to Holy Land introduced King Wenceslas to Christ. Wenceslas was so fascinated by Jesus compassion for the poor that on the day following the celebration of Christ’s birth (which also The Feast/Day of Remembrance of Stephen-1st Christian Martyr) he invited the poor to bring a Box to receive whatever they Needed (something that would fit into that box). It turned out that eventually Wenceslas himself was martyred (like Stephen)by his own family (ultimately for his faith) believing he was giving away too much of their wealth to the Poor. However, as the crusaders made their way back to England as they passed through Bohemia discovered what Wenceslas had instituted (and his martyrdom) and brought his tradition back to England and is still observed  today.

Which in a sense is where we find the story following Jesus birth. Mary & Joseph (who are very poor) need to go to The Temple (according to the law) for two important events in the life of a 1st century Jewish family. However, because of their Poverty they had very little to give in the way of offering.

The  first act as Luke tells us is the Offering of Purification of Mary-which is required of any woman in that time following giving birth. It is something that later in Jesus ministry he would be accused of…(eating with “Unclean people” such as Tax Collectors & Gentiles). It was also the very thing Jesus brought & brings to the world that makes us all clean. The law stated:

The LORD said to Moses, “Give these instructions to the Israelites: When a woman becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son, she will be ceremonially unclean for seven days. On the eighth day, the boy must be circumcised. Leviticus 12:1-3

Luke tells of an additional rite that needed to be administered that officially separates Jewish 1st born males from those that the Israelites believed  did not belonging to God. The law stated:

Dedicate to me all the firstborn sons of Israel …They are  mine…With mighty power the LORD brought us out of Egypt from ourslavery. Pharaoh refused to let us go, so the LORD killed all the firstborn males throughout the land of Egypt. That is why we now offer all the firstborn males to the LORD –except that the firstborn sons are alwaysredeemed. Exodus 13:2,13-15

The first born sons are always redeemed…The understanding and tradition was that in this ceremony the family would present a lamb to be sacrificed in order for their son to be dedicated. In the case of Jesus he WAS the lamb to later be sacrificed. In fact for the Poorest of the Poor there was a provision for an offering again from Leviticus:

When the time of purification is completed for either a son or a daughter, the woman must bring a year-old lamb for a whole burnt offering. If a woman cannot afford to bring a sheep, she must bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons. One will be for the whole burnt offering and the other for the purification offering. Leviticus 12:6,8

Two turtledoves one for Purification & One for Dedication-again a Dove the symbol of peace that would be symbolic of Christ throughout his time of ministry and ultimately represent the very Spirit of God.

Which leads us to Simeon- Luke tells us that Simeon lived in Jerusalem. The name Simeon means “Hearer” (in Hebrew) and in many ways Luke sets the stage for us, as we come as Hearers —The Ecclessia “The Called” as we have heard the call to Come & Worship Him

The 1st thing Luke tells us about Simeon is that he was …

A Righteous and Very Devout Man.

Righteous is often considered something we do or a lifestyle. I remember my son Nils when he was around 7-8 years old. Nils was a huge fan of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The phrase they used to say when defeating their adversary was “Righteous!” (which was heard a lot in our household in those days). This is not what Luke meant. The Greek word “Dikaios” actually refers to having God inside of you. When Luke calls Simeon Devout he is a using a word which means that he was “Carefully Observant” (to the spirit of God). Two attributes we should aspire to.

Luke tells us a little more about Simeon:

He was filled with the Holy Spirit, and eagerly expected the Messiah to come and rescue Israel

Simeon was “filled” with the Holy Spirit (Even before Pentecost) which explains how he could be both Righteous & Devout. We also learn that Simeon “expected” the Messiah to come. The same is true for us when we come to worship God…Do we expect to encounter God… Jesus..The Holy Spirit in our time of worship—it literally makes all the difference in the world.

When we look at who it was the Holy Spirit had called Simeon to encounter that day we can understand and see several different contexts. First he came see The Baby Jesus

…John writes in his gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1,14

Jesus also came as The Lamb of God. Peter writes in his epistle:

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 1 Peter 1:18-20

Jesus came as The Savior of The World..John writes in his 1st epistle:

God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:11-12

Simeon as it turns out was the first to encounter the Living Christ and to realize that Jesus was and is the Messiah. The one who literally changed the course of human history. Who allows people to be free from oppression Physically & Spiritually. The one who still calls us to Follow Him. Those of us who are Hearers (just like Simeon). When we hear and answer that call we understand (as did Simeon) that This Boy…The Baby Jesus…The Lamb of God…The Savior of The World IS the Light of All Nations and The Glory of God.