Joseph…went up…to… Bethlehem…in order to register, along with Mary…who was with child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2: 4-7
We’re all familiar with the Christmas story. If you were the innkeeper, perhaps a more enlightened one, you might look out for the couple. But because business beckons, pragmatism reigns, and Mary and Joseph (and the baby) get to sleep with the animals. It’s a compromise, isn’t it? Let’s keep Jesus nearby. Yet His name, prophesied by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, is Immanuel; God with us. It’s not God nearby, or outside in the manger. It begs the question: What would you do if you were the innkeeper today? Jesus might not take first place (a room in your heart) perhaps, but second place. And certainly not like King Herod, who put out a death warrant on Jesus. But you might keep Him nearby at least.
Most Christians are like that today. Jesus is not #1, but He is “closeby.” Yet, it is God who did us a favour by coming down to earth and made our redemption His top priority.
And in the same region there were some shepherds…keeping watch over their flocks by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them…And said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people…Luke 2:8–10
Its good news! Not rules and regulations, and its for all people! Not just Americans, or specific cultural groups.
Religion says: Try and try and try harder at doing good, at being good, and eventually you’ll work your way to God.
The Gospel says: God came from heaven to do what you couldn’t do for yourself. [To make yourself right before God, cleansed from all sin.] And that’s good news!
The shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem…and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” Luke 2:15
The shepherds’ lives changed when they decided to go to Bethlehem and see the reality for themselves. God is not afraid of being found out. If you’re not wholeheartedly searching, you won’t find Him. God does not reveal Himself to the casual inquirer.
And so the shepherds hurried to the little town, and verse 17 says they made known the statement which had been told them about the Christ child. They went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen (verse 18).
On that night, a night like any other, God suddenly showed up and changed the shepherds’ reality in an instant. God is a God of “suddenly.” He is a Master of the unexpected. What would you do if you were one of the shepherds? a) Go back to sleep. It’s been a long hard day. b) Say “I’ve got a new religion.” c) Tell people what you’ve experienced, what you’ve heard and seen and felt in your soul.
Life is in Jesus. It is not found in the church, though it is a family of believers. And God who made you has a plan and purpose for your life.
As someone who loves God and enjoys talking with Him each day, I remind myself to 1) be ready and willing to share the good news, 2) Be close to God, and 3) Tell people what He’s doing. I don’t make things up.
If you’re a believer like me, ask yourself: If you were the innkeeper or a shepherd then, what would you do? And do that today. (Excerpted from a sermon by Eric Dooley, New Life Foundation, Jan 09)