Imperfect Christmas, Imperfect Guests (Luke 2:8-20)

Christmas Eve Eve (December 23, 2020)


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Did you see it this week? Everyone was taking pictures of this rare phenomenon in the sky that last happened 400 years ago, and nearly 800 years ago during the nighttime. Experts called it the “Great Conjunction,” while others called it the “Christmas Star.” From the view of earth, the planets Jupiter and Saturn are aligned to form a bright light, like a star.
The human eye only sees little dots in the sky because the objects are over 550 million miles from Earth. In fact, the two dots are 450 million miles apart from each other, even though they appear to be side by side, which goes to show you what appears near may actually be quite distant.

This season has been challenging in unique ways. While we had hoped Christmas would draw family and friends close, unfortunately many are separated. Even when it comes to faith, people who should be calling out to God more have found themselves in a slow drift away from the joy and peace that come from the roots of Christmas.

Many look at the Nativity as a picture perfect story that we’re able to capture on hallmark cards and yard scenes. And since we think it’s a perfect picture, we can only see a small speck or faint image, and think that it doesn’t relate to our life. But tonight, I would like us to look closer to see how this narrative is filled with imperfection and therefore has a wonderful invitation to include us all into the image God desires to be in our mind and heart.

EXAMINE           Imperfect Christmas – Imperfect Guests

Luke 2:8-20

8  And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
10  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
11  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
13  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15  When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
16  And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.
17  And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.
18  And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
19  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
20  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

One of the reminders I think is always important to say is that Scripture is not just a story but a true narrative. It doesn’t start, “Once upon a time,” or “In a galaxy far, far away,” or about some unknown place like Narnia or Middle Earth. Instead, Luke’s Gospel opens with reports of collecting eyewitness testimony (Lk 1:1-4), dating of historic events and people in a real place in time (Lk 2:1-3).

What makes the Nativity story fascinating is certainly the main characters of Joseph & the virgin Mary, along with the central figure of Christ’s birth. But what also stands out as unique is the invited guests for the nativity.

  • The angels did not seek to announce among the elite and educate the wisdom of Roman philosophers.
  • The angels did not seek to announce in the Temple enlighten the Jewish religious leaders.
  • The angels did not seek to announce broadly to endear the whole population.
  • Instead, the angels announced personally to encourage the lowly by speaking to shepherds.

God’s angelic announcement to shepherds – the unlikely and imperfect guests – give us insight in how God wants to relate to us.

  • Routine Time: The Scripture opens with a regular and routine time of shepherds keeping watch over their flock. 
  • God is always speaking and wanting our attention. God will use everyday experiences, whether happenings in the sky, conversations with people, or ordinary opportunities. Ask God to give you ears to hear and eyes to see Him – especially if you’ve had difficulty to see God in 2020 and as we enter 2021.

  • Dark Time: The angels appeared at night time when the task of keeping watch and warning off predators was more difficult. Additionally, the angels had to tell the shepherds to “Fear not,” likely not only due to the preeminence of God’s glory (angelic visits in Bible are not cheerful but fearful – they’re intimidating!), but also due to the dark of night. 
    • Darkness side note: Some don’t like to drive at night, others prefer day or lighted places, or make night lights in homes… Christmas lights add brightness during harsh winter months; especially this year people added them earlier because of the despairing season we’re in.

  • This Christmas we need to be reminded the gift may be wrapped differently, but God still has a gift for us to open. God does His best and brightest work in the backdrop of night.
  • Surprising Audience: The glory of God and the grace of the Messiah was first announced to shepherds. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Lk 2:14). Of all the people in the world, God extended peace and goodness shepherds.
  • Picking teams for games can be excruciating for children (adults too). Captains pick and whittles down to last two and then you’re the last pick. It seems like no one wants you… that’s the shepherds.

God’s selecting the shepherds gives us good news.[1]

  • Unlikely: Shepherds were unlikely because they were nameless nobodies. The Scriptures give names to the Roman leaders, to the parents: Joseph & Mary, to their extended family with Zechariah & Elizabeth and their previously born son John [the Baptist!]; along with named individuals like Anna and Simeon. But the shepherds were unnamed.
    Nobody would have the nameless shepherds on their bingo scorecard for Nativity guests. These unnamed individuals give us hope.

Politicians, Powerful military leaders, nor Priests never asked shepherds for advice. Those who know their Bible, remember young shepherd boy David who came to his brothers before the fight with Goliath. No one wanted to give him the time of day. Just like God had a great plan for David, and also these shepherds to see the Messiah, He does for you too.
Maybe you feel doubted and dismissed. Perhaps this year you have lost friends because of your views on certain subjects. Maybe you feel overlooked or forgotten. Maybe you don’t feel special or that your life has any significance. Maybe you’re watching online and feel alone… and this is the reminder you need that God favors the forgotten unlikely.

  • Unclean: Shepherds were unclean. The Israelites, especially the religious, valued cleanliness and purity but shepherds were dirty and smelly; men who soaked with sweat; clothes drenched with field stench; and likely their style and language lacked etiquette.

    The world would never choose the shepherds to be present at the birth of God because they were unfit and unclean. Yet, not only did God invite shepherds at the birth but Jesus spent the bulk of time with the downcast and outcaste. Jesus was known as a friend of sinners, saying, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners” (Mk 2:17).
  • Unbelievable: Shepherds were unbelievable. They might sound cute, cuddly, and iconic to us, but back then they were the lowest working class [can’t get a job – be a shepherd]; shepherds and sheep were lowly and despised (cf. Gen 46:34).
    Shepherds were those who were messy and made mistakes. Maybe you’re feeling completely unworthy and like you’ve recently blown it. Your life is broken down and messed up because of some foolish life choices. The good news is that God selected unlikely shepherds, and He chooses unlikely sinners like us too.
    • Just look at the disciples who were frequently putting foot in mouth and messing up.
    • A Christmas name of Jesus is “Wonderful Counselor” (Isa 9:6). The name implies that Jesus more than someone who listens to your problems and charges you $150 each week. Instead, Jesus is a counselor who is a guide by your side; He’s the Good Shepherd who leads you through dark valleys and dangerous hills. Counselors are not for people who have a perfect life but an imperfect one. Counselors are for people who are complicated and confused, and a bit contaminated by the toxicity of the world. And that’s what we love about Jesus the Wonderful Counselor because every miracle He does is not about random magic tricks but they start with a problem: blind, lame, sick, struggling, in storm, sinful… if you have any of these then you’re a candidate for a miracle. So, if we come to God saying we have no problems, then we get no miracles. When we’re ready to be real and get raw before God, then He’s ready to do a great work in our life.  
    • None one comes to Christ clean, we come to Jesus broken and burdened and He makes us new.

In all, God welcomes the unlikely, covers the unclean, and embraces the unbelievable.

In a number of ways, I may not appear to be an angel, but this is God’s announcement to you through His word that He sees you, loves you, and His grace is available for you! God’s forgiving grace is available despite our failures, our fears or our feebleness.


Personalize the good news.

Luke 2:11 “For unto YOU is born this day – a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Proclaim the good news.

Luke 2:16, 20 “the shepherds went with haste… they returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen”

After several months of failed attempts it finally happened on December 17, 1903. Orville & Wilbur Wright made four successful flights and became the first to make power controlled, manned flight. Their last flight went 852’ in 59 seconds. Wilbur rushed to the telegraph office in Kitty Hawk, NC and sent his message home: “Successful four flights Thursday morning STOP All against twenty one mile wind started from level with engine power alone STOP Average speed through air thirty one miles. Longest flight fifty-nine seconds. Inform press STOP Home Christmas.”
Upon receiving the telegram, their sister Katherine, went the newspaper office and told the editor of her brothers flying miracle. On December 19, the local paper gave a headline “Wright Brothers, Local Bicycle Merchants Home For Holidays”.

The editor had missed the point entirely.

– * Don’t miss the point of Christmas – *  

Christmas Eve December 24, 2020

[1] Some thoughts inspired from J.D. Greear’s message: Jesus’ Favorites (Luke 2).

One Comment Add yours

  1. Amen Pastor Dave, so wonderfully spoken. Thank you for sharing. Blessings.

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