Sunday, December 14, 2008

When the World Gets Difficult, Remember the Miracle of God! -- Luke 2:1-18

When the World Gets Difficult, Remember the Miracle of God! -- Luke 2:1-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 14, 2008 AM

Would you look at that. How in the world did that little sheep figure from our nativity set get into my pocket? Sheep. What funny creatures they are. I have never raised any, but I have known folks that have and being a pastor, a shepherd so to speak, I understand sort of what that means. I have a flock – kind of. And, didn’t Jesus say that His followers were kind of like sheep? Sheep that stray. Sheep that wander away from the fold of God. Sheep that get caught in the traps of sin and the ways of the world. Sheep that I have to go look for and try to bring back sometimes. Like the lost sheep in the world?

The world. Wow. The world today seems to get more and more difficult. Recession, layoffs, a new President. And now my own daughter is going to have a baby. A baby, and I am going to be a grandfather. Me? A grandfather? Another little lamb entering into this difficult world. Will I be a good grandfather? Will he be a good boy? Will my daughter be a good mother? What of these tough times?
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And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)
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Would you look at that? There is that little figure of a sheep I bought for my grandchild. He is going to be a shepherd just like me. For I am just a stinking shepherd. A job that no one else wants to do. A job that pays little and demands much. Sheep! Bah! Sheep! They are the most stupid ungodly creatures in the world. Sure, everyone loves to think of the cute little lambs jumping around the fields in the spring and early summer, but no one likes to think of the hard work, long hours, the wind, cold, rain, and constant dirt of watching a herd of stinking miscreant sheep. Sheep that wander off. Sheep that cannot find food and water on their own half the time. Sheep that fall into ravines, get eaten by wolves, break their legs, necks, and leave their young to fend for themselves while I have to carry them back, feed them myself, and make sure they survive to grow up to be more stinking sheep! Bah! At least some of them will be sacrificed for the sins of people -- including mine! There is some justice in the world, after all, I guess.

World. What a difficult place for a shepherd to raise a family. What a difficult world for my grandchild. Where everyone looks down on you because of your occupation. Romans everywhere. Pious Priests and their toady Scribes. Bah! Sheep! All of them sheep!

Where is that tavern keeper? Jonas, where are you? I need my cup filled with more wine! Cheap stuff is all I can afford, but it helps keep the early morning chill out. I’ll take some to my two brothers in the fields. Like me they are keeping the family business going of shepherding. Our father was a shepherd, his father was a shepherd, I think every ancestor of mine had to be shepherds. When we bleed we bleed lanolin! I think my brothers would like a few nips at the old wineskin tonight. It is going to be a cold and clear I imagine.

It gets tougher and tougher to hike out here every year. Elias! Samuel! Where are you two lazy bags of bones? I have wine, a little goat cheese, and bread from town for your bellies! Elias! Samuel! Where have you two gotten off to this time? I cannot believe they let the fire die down. Sometimes I think that my brothers are as ignorant and stupid as the sheep we watch. They are probably off chasing down some lousy ewe that’s about to give birth to a lamb that will end up being someone’s sacrifice, like I said before.

There. Another branch on it should bring it back to life. Whoa! Is it ever chilly tonight. Crisp and clear. You can see all the stars of heaven. It is as if you could reach out and pluck one from the canvas overhead and put it in your pocket. Say, some of them appear brighter than usual. Must be the clarity of the night or the wine I drank earlier.

And people wonder why I spend so much time talking to myself. My brothers are usually OFF SLEEPING somewhere and the sheep only bleat back at me. At least they depend on me and I can gripe to them as often as I like and never hear a word of disagreement! Taxes! The Chief Priest! The stinking sheep! Ha! Town’s people cannot do that with the Romans wandering everywhere! But I can! Did you hear me you silly sheep!?

Elias! Samuel! Where are you two? I am going to eat this without you two! Hush old man! What’s that noise? Did you hear that? It sounds as if someone is singing. It can’t be my brothers, they sound worse than the chief priest’s donkey when they sing! Shhh! Listen…

Oh my Lord and my God! What does this mean? The light is so bright! What do you mean “A Savior is born?” In the City of David? Bethlehem? That tiny town of rubble and mud? I was just there earlier tonight. Oh my Lord I am not worthy to be in your presence! Get up? I should go to Bethlehem myself and I will find a newborn child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger? A feeding trough? Are you sure? This is the sign God will give us for the Savior the Messiah and our Lord? Oh my Lord who am I that I should receive such glorious news? I am but a lowly shepherd. Unworthy and unloved by all whom I meet. Yes, I will go now. I will hurry there to Bethlehem and see for myself what you say is true! Oh, if only Elias and Samuel were here!

Elias! Samuel? There you are! Did you hear and see the messengers of God? You saw and heard them too? No one is going to believe this! How in the world can we share something that seems so unbelievable and yet so wonderful? We must hurry now right away and see if this thing is true for ourselves! Come on! Leave the fire! Leave the food! Let’s just go! Hurry! Hurry!

I wonder which stable, which house? Look, there! See where I am pointing. That small cave by that home there! Inside there is a couple. Let’s see if this is the one spoken of by the heavenly host!

I would not have believed this if I had not seen it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears. There. Just as the messengers said, is the newborn babe lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes. The Messiah? The Savior? It must be! It has to be! What wonderful glorious news! We have got to tell others about what we have seen and heard! Elias and Samuel, I know we are just a lowly shepherds but tonight God has reached down and given even us lowly shepherds hope!

Hey! Everyone! Wake up you sleepy people! You little town of Bethlehem, for tonight in your city is born a Savior! He is the Messiah and the Lord! Wake up and listen to what I have seen and heard myself! Me! A lowly shepherd! Wake up!
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The world may be difficult but you little figurine of a sheep remind me that everything is going to be alright for my flock, for my family, and for my grandchild because another little lamb came into the world.
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This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.