You know that feeling you get after all the build-up, all the planning, and all the work for a big event is done? Do you remember what it feels like when the party is over and all the guests have gone home and all your left with is memories and clean-up? That’s how I sometimes feel on Christmas Day. Last night we pulled out all the stops, and now here we sit. It’s somewhat anticlimactic compared to last night. All the anticipation; all the excitement, it’s gone, done for another year. Today kind of feels more like a day after the party.
Now I know there are many Christians who struggle with going out to church on Christmas Day to worship after they just attended Christmas Eve worship. Pastors struggle with this too, especially when it comes to sermon preparation. It’s the same story we just preached on it ten hours ago. Nothing has changed since then.
That’s actually why so many churches are closed today. The rationale goes like this: All the people show up on Christmas Eve. That’s when you get the most opportunity for “return on your effort”. Look around, this is not unusual, Christmas Day as most of you knew before you got here is typically a bit roomier then Christmas Eve.
No doubt many think: Why bother getting out of the PJs and making the kids leave their toys? We’ve already heard the story of Jesus birth. But maybe just maybe we feel this way because we don’t really understand the miracle of God in the flesh for all mankind as well as we think we do.
This morning I’d like you to consider with me the shepherds we read about in our Gospel lesson. We heard a little bit about them last night. They were the very first ones God told about the birth of Jesus. That’s pretty impressive when you consider, despite the way we romanticize them, these guys were considered to among the dregs of society. Truth is shepherds didn’t count.
Not only were they not counted for the census, they weren’t even counted for taxes, and that’s saying something. But that’s how insignificant they were to the rest of their society … the Roman government didn’t even bother with them for taxes. And yet…God tells them about Jesus first. He makes this Good News known to them by filling the night sky with bright angelic choirs, all singing: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rest. So God pulls out all the stops to tell some insignificant, know nothing shepherds that He loved them and counted them as worthy of being saved; worthy enough to send His Son to live and die for them.
And what do they do well … they do exactly what faith does: They hear this Good News and say: “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened.” Luke tells us that they immediately went without haste. So how does that compare with our own reality? How many Christians around the world heard the Good News last night proclaiming the birth of Jesus? I get that Hollywood’s best would fall far short of the angelic display God put on for the shepherds but still …. how many people heard the exact same words last night? How many do you suppose after hearing that Good News, set out without delay this morning to find Him? If only we ran to church the way children run down the stairs to see if Santa has come.
But here’s the point I’d like you to consider this blessed Christmas Day. Notice what the shepherds do after hearing the Good News and after they go to worship Christ. They go back out into the world; the same world that shunned them. They return to their vocations, and they glorify and praise God for all they have heard and seen, making known to everyone what had been told to them and what they themselves had witnessed and beheld and were a part of. My friends: This is where the “what now?” question just gets absolutely destroyed. What now? Go and tell what God has done for you! Go! Return to your vocations. Return to the callings and offices God has placed you into in order to serve Him and make Him known. Go serve God by serving your neighbor.
Unfortunately, that’s something that a lot of 21st century American Christians with big hearts and good intentions often struggle with. We’ve been duped into believing that we need to find the “secret, higher purpose” that God has for us. We’ve willingly taken the bait—hook, line, and sinker—believing the lie that our everyday vocations at work and home are not enough and if we really want to serve God we need to step up our game. Were led to believe that ordinary life just doesn’t cut it, it’s to ordinary.
But that’s not how God sees it. These lowly shepherds went back to their lowly vocations. They return to nomadic shepherding, only now they’re evangelizing, telling everyone they saw about Jesus. But they didn’t take their sheep into the cities they stayed in the fields where God had first found them. “What now?”
Well like them we share what we know where we are. We share that the Word of God who became flesh and lived among us to die and rise again for us. We share the good news that Jesus the Lamb of God, has taken away the sin of the world. That this same almighty God, still lives with us to feed and forgive us, to nourish and protect us, to deliver us from all evil. We share that God is holding out to all His real and tangible gifts of grace, mercy, and peace. That is after all what the angelic hosts sang about! Here is God’s peace on earth, with you and for you, right now!
It’s that simple, and it’s a profound, yet this joy was never intended to be restricted to one night or one day out of the year. It’s a profound, yet very simple Christ centered joy that is ours each and every day that we live in Christ. That’s what today is about. Today is another opportunity our Lord gives to us to be in His presence, to receive from His own hand, and to celebrate all that He has done for us out of His great love, grace, and mercy for us.
May this gift of Christ to you; the gift of your salvation; the gift of knowing and trusting that God is reconciled to you and at peace with you because of the all-atoning life, suffering, death and resurrection of the Word made flesh. May this gift of God be your joy, your peace, and the reason behind all that you say, think, and do in your daily God-pleasing, family loving, neighbor-serving vocations, until the day we are all together with Him who was born of Mary for us all.
In His Name, Amen.