The theme of reversal has run through our meditations this evening. We have contemplated our Lord’s overturning of the world’s understanding of peace. We have seen our Lord’s complete disregard for the accolades of any culture. We have pondered the vulnerability with which our Lord entered this creation. Nowhere is the reversal as frustratingly clear as in the history of the shepherds. Think about what you’ve just heard from the Gospel of Luke. These men, who were tending their flocks by night, are suddenly greeted by the heavenly host to announce the birth of the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. How quickly and easily they must have believed, for they immediately left their flocks to go and find the place where the child lay, that they might worship him. Unfortunately, it seems as if Christians have been trying to recreate this experience for centuries. Maybe we can’t call down angels from heaven, but there is always a temptation to do something so grand, to present an experience so moving and influential that all sinners would fall down and worship the Christ. In the midst of our own doubts, we often ask the Lord for a special sign or indication, like Gideon with his fleece. We are tempted to think that it would be easier for us to believe if only we were greeted by angel choirs as were the shepherds on that fateful night.
But we don’t get the angels. We get the shepherds. The shepherds who have been out tending their flocks for days on end, not showering, not brushing their teeth, surrounded by the smell of animals and manure. Shepherds are not desirable people in the eyes of the world. I’d imagine they are much like the truckers of ancient Israel – people whose work and appearance tends to alienate them from the supposedly civilized folk. And yet these are the very people who are first given the task of spreading the good news of great joy. These are the ones dancing through the streets of Bethlehem glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. These are the first heralds of the Gospel. And these are the type of people God sends into our lives.
The messengers of the Gospel are often unimpressive by the world’s standards. Take me, for example. Who am I, that my Lord would use my voice to bring his word to you. I’m no angel. I don’t stand before you tonight surrounded by the light of God’s holiness. There will be no multitude of the heavenly host to sing background. All you get is a simple guy in his 30s, a father of 3, with his own bad habits and idiosyncrasies that drive his wife and kids nuts from time to time. But in spite of me, what you also get is the holy, precious, unchanging Word of our Lord. For as impressive as the angels may have been, it was the word they delivered that created faith in the hearts of those shepherds. As undesirable as the shepherds were, the words they were proclaiming were the words of God, living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. And as pedestrian and mundane as you average pastor is, we too are simply the messengers bringing to you good news of great joy.
So don’t focus on me, don’t believe in me or any other pastor, hear the word of God for you. Likewise, don’t ignore me or any other pastor simply because the church is full of sinful, unimpressive, everyday people. Hear the word of God for you. Don’t wait for the angels; you already have something greater. For unto you is born in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Cling to the Word. Cling to the promise, and your heart will be filled with the peace of Christ.