18 Dec Bishop Rob’s Christmas Message
The journey towards Christmas for the Church began on Advent Sunday, with the fulfilment of God’s promises, at last, a sense of excitement and anticipation rises as we prepare for the birth of Jesus our Saviour.
The rehearsal and preparation for Christmas I believe are as important as the day itself. Each of us will experience our own unique journey.
For some it won’t be a straight road, smooth and easy, it will be a struggle. Perhaps of pain in the darkness and will require strength and stamina. They will find their path perhaps in reading of the experience of the Shepherds.
For some it will be an opportunity to share the Good News with messages of blessing, singing their way to Christmas and finding their encouragement through the witness of the Angels.
For some it will be a journey of the intellect, searching for that elusive star of wisdom and truth which will lead to an act of worship and the offering of questions which are answered by the innocence and purity of the Christ child. Profound gifts offered to him and questions answered through gold frankincense and myrrh. Questions concerning wealth, prayer and the questions of life and death.
For me in my first year as Bishop, especially a rural one, I am focussing on the Shepherds!
“In the region there were shepherds living in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night. Then an angel of The Lord stood before them, and the glory of The Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them. ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2: 8-11).
The Shepherds were outcasts in their day because their work prevented them from taking part in the great temple feasts and ceremonies. It is typical of the way God acts all through scripture, that the most momentous announcement of history was made to a group of frightened shepherds living on the fringe of respectable society. The angel makes it absolutely clear that the good news is for them. ‘I am bringing you good news’. They were being entrusted with a message of joy “for all the people”. The news of the birth of the Messiah and Saviour of the world was to be entrusted to them and no one else.
That may be an important message for us too, because God has entrusted to his followers in each generation, the same message “for all the people…” and very often we’ve kept it to ourselves.
Of course in one sense the shepherds were the ‘right’ people because all of this was happening in the town of David and David was the most famous shepherd boy in Israel’s history. He may well have been keeping the sheep on the very same hillside when the call came for him to meet the prophet Samuel and be anointed king of Israel. Hard to accept perhaps by his father Jesse that such an honour was to befall, his youngest son, the shepherd boy. (But stranger things have happened in the kingdom Christ inhabits!!)
Luke, who all through his Gospel has an eye for the downtrodden and the outcasts of society, must have enjoyed giving the shepherds the starring role on that first Christmas night.
Lord, we thank you for the good news of a Saviour, which someone in the past shared with us, and we are now called upon to share with others. Let us not, for false humility, fear or pride, be found guilty of keeping it to ourselves. Amen.
Yours in Christ,