December 18, 2022 Shepherds, At Your Service! (Advent 4)

Image via Picryl: agriculture-etc-shepherd-scenes-the-shepherd-night-watch-reads-the-stars-to-1024

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/782156806

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3lFc9VvgK2

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP:
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; 
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today. 
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; 
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

HYMN 238 Angels We Have Heard On High
“Angels We Have Heard On High”, a traditional Christmas carol performed by the Christendom College Choir & Schola Gregoriana.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHWqj6gKS9g

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors,
lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 236 While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks | Christmas Lyric Video | Reawaken Hymns
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdfFUv_vF4A

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Shepherds, At Your Service!
Text: Luke 2:6-7, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, 1 Corinthians 12:7, John 3:16-17
Series: People Get Ready

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Saturday Video AudioWesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Luke 2:6 And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. 7 And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in that 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 fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to 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 babe 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 men 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 babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; 18 and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary kept 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.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

2 Corinthians 9:5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren to go on to you before me, and arrange in advance for this gift you have promised, so that it may be ready not as an exaction but as a willing gift. 6 The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. 9 As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God; 12 for the rendering of this service not only supplies the wants of the saints but also overflows in many thanksgivings to God. 13 Under the test of this service, you will glorify God by your obedience in acknowledging the gospel of Christ, and by the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others; 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him: give my heart

A Christmas Carol – words by Christina Rossetti – 1830-1894

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HYMN 221 In The Bleak Midwinter
David Phelps – In The Bleak Midwinter (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MAdq1VjAlg

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!” was the prayer throughout the Old Testament, “Lord God, we are in a horrible place. Come and help us. Come and save us.” And God’s answer to that prayer over all the centuries is for Jesus Christ to come. And the word Emmanuel, another name for Jesus Christ, it literally means God with us. That’s what we need. We needed it 2000 years ago. And friends, we need it now too. God with us. And when we get ready for Christmas, that’s what we’re getting ready for.

You know this custom of giving presents at Christmas? Let me remind you again, the very first Christmas present, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave…” First Christmas gift, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. Why? That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

It’s kind of sad that we have not learned this lesson of the first Christmas gift because, friends, I’ll guarantee you there are people who think that the way for the world to get better is for us to criticize and condemn and shame all kinds of people. And by the way, it’s quite strange that criticism and condemnation and shame rarely is focused on the person in the mirror! It’s always focused on somebody out there whom we could blame for all of our troubles.

God so loved the world that he gave, that he sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world. Here’s something that we should understand too. If God didn’t send Jesus into the world to condemn it, there’s a pretty good chance he didn’t send you to condemn it either. God’s gift to the world is Jesus. God’s gift to our world today is people who are like Jesus. And if you start working on your New Year’s resolutions, I can’t think of a better one than that: Lord, help me to be more like Jesus. Help me to be more like Jesus.

Here’s another thing about Christmas. There’s a third present. The wise men bring a third present. So Jesus is the first present. The wise men, they go shopping and they bring their presents. That’s where we get the whole bring presents thing. You are very unwise if you don’t give presents!

But there’s a second present. And that’s what I wanted to talk to you about today. And here’s what the second present is about. This is a political cartoon by Steve Breen of the San Diego Union-Tribune. It’s copyrighted, so I want to give proper credit. Over in the corner of this public park, there is a family huddled by a brick wall, living on a blanket, trying to shelter from the cold winter winds. A little girl’s walking along the pathway with her father. And she looks at the family there the husband, the wife, the little baby, and she says, “Daddy, is that a manger scene?” And Daddy says, “No, honey, that’s not a manger scene.”

See, the real problem at Christmas that so many of us deal with is we get so distracted by shopping, and we get so distracted by the Christmas music, and we get so distracted by all the things that we want to do to make our Christmas perfect, all the things that we have to do to get ready because family is coming to our house, so everything has to be spotless. And the tree has to be up, and it has to be perfect. And some of you, honest to God, you put up more than one tree because you want everything to be perfect for Christmas.

And we’re so distracted by our Christmas that there’s so much that’s happening in the world that we don’t notice. And we think to ourselves, “If I was alive back then, I would have found a place for Mary to stay.” Well, people don’t change. All the way back in 1543, Martin Luther mentioned this in his Christmas sermon: “The inn was full. There are many of you who think to yourselves, ‘If only I had been there, how quick I would have been to help the baby.'”
And Martin Luther in 1543 says, “Why don’t you do it now? You have Christ in your neighbor. You ought to serve your neighbor. For what you do to your neighbor in need, you do to the Lord Christ himself.”

“Well, Pastor, where is that in the Bible?” Well, if you want to turn to Matthew, chapter 25, there’s three parables of warning. And the last one says that at the great judgment, at the end of time, people are going to come to Jesus, and He’s going to look them in the eye, and He’s going to say, “Some of you go over here. Some of you go over here.” And let me just summarize by saying, the ones that get to heaven, Jesus says, are the ones, Jesus says, who when He was hungry, they gave Him something to eat. When Jesus was thirsty, they gave Him something to drink. When He was alone or sick or in prison, they went to visit him. In other words, according to this parable, going to heaven is wrapped up with noticing Jesus. And these naive people, they just look at Jesus. They’re astonished. “When did we ever do that?” And Jesus says, “When you did it to any of the least of these, you did it to Me.”

Friends, noticing Jesus and noticing our neighbor is extremely important. If you have chest pains, you know it’s a signal. It’s time to go to the doctor. If you can’t breathe, you know it’s a signal. It’s time to go to the doctor. Friends, if you don’t notice the people around you, it’s a signal of great hurt … And great need for healing.

Because, certainly, the innkeeper failed. The innkeeper failed the “notice your neighbor” test. And while they were there in Bethlehem, Luke Chapter 2, Verse 6– while they were there, the time came for her Mary to be delivered, and she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And we have trouble with that … just like Martin Luther’s church members had trouble with it. Certainly, they could have done something.

And in the little Christmas pageants that we put on, the innkeeper says, “I’ve got this stable that’s really nice and warm and full of hay,” but in my heart of hearts, I have a feeling that Mary and Joseph were not given permission to stay in the stable. I think they just slipped into there because they needed something and no one noticed them.

But God was not going to let that happen. Luke Chapter 2, Verse 8: And in that region, there were shepherds out in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. Wow. And they were filled with fear. If you look through the Old Testament, every time God does something astonishing and appears to people, their first reaction is astonishment and great fear, because they don’t understand what’s happening. And the other thing that consistently happens every time God appears, the very first words are these, Verse 10: And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid. Be not afraid for behold, I bring you great news, good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. For to you is born this day in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign for you. You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace among men with whom he is pleased.”

Then the shepherds made a wise decision. 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. Now, at that time, they estimate that the population of Bethlehem was probably around 400 people. When you drive into Kinmundy, the sign says Population 700. And I’ll bet every single one of you know, if you need your car worked on, you know where to go look. In a village half the size of this one, if you were looking for a stable, you’d probably know where to look. And so the shepherds make their way to Bethlehem, Verse 16: And they went with haste and they found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying which had been to. told them concerning this child … and the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen as it had been told them.

And I want to suggest to you that the shepherds are the second Christmas present.

And we all give Christmas presents, but I want to give you some principles for giving Christmas presents. This comes from 2 Corinthians 9. Paul makes this point. The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully, verse 7. Each one must do as he or she has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver. Your joy in Christmas will multiply if you allow yourself to be a cheerful, joyful giver. And not only that, don’t be concerned, don’t be worried, don’t be afraid, look at verse 8: God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide an abundance for every good work. So consequently, God is ready to give you everything you need so that you can give to others what God wants you to give them. God works through you.

But there are some problems. And these are problems that I experienced in my childhood. And here’s the very first one. My grandmother had a freezer like this, and she was never able to get that deep into it because it was always stacked to the brim with frozen food. Every time my dad and mom and I and my brother would travel all the way from Champaign to Red Bud, Illinois – if you know where Red Bud is, it’s over by the Mississippi River, south of Belleville – and my German grandmother would pull out of her freezer all kinds of things for us to eat. And sure as shooting, every time we would visit, as it got time to get close to time to go, she would complain about how there was no room in her freezer. And my dad would say, “Well, mom, you know, you can send us home with anything.” And my grandmother would reach down into that chest freezer … they last for like 100 years, don’t they? They sure do. They sure do.

She’d reach down into that chest freezer, and pull out these half-gallon paper cartons of milk, that milk used to come in, probably still does, and they were full of rhubarb sauce [laughter]. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had rhubarb sauce, but rhubarb sauce is where you take rhubarb, which is really sour, and you grind it up like apple sauce, and you put sugar in it, but never enough sugar. And every time we went to visit my grandmother, we went home with four, five, six, twelve half-gallon cartons of rhubarb, and they would go into our freezer. And I’ll tell you, my dad, like my grandma, would never let anything go to waste. That rhubarb wound up on the table.

I have to tell you, we’re trained to be grateful for everything, but it’s really grown different difficult for me to be grateful for rhubarb I have had my life’s quota of rhubarb. Ever since I was old enough to vote. I have not allowed anyone to force me to eat rhubarb.

So you see here’s the problem: God will give you in abundance what you need to give other people but be careful; maybe it’s not rhubarb. My grandmother had a garden and I thought to myself many times, “I need to go out there and spread salt on the rhubarb patch.” To this day I don’t know if it’s a plant or a tree or a bush. I don’t know what it is and I don’t want to know what it is! Like poison ivy, I want to avoid it because if you got too close to it it might take you over. Because apparently, rhubarb took over my grandmother’s mind to where she thought that everybody in the world wanted her rhubarb. So be careful about giving the gift that you have too much of.

Here’s a second thing. I played the guitar since eighth grade and one of the hard things my parents had to deal with was that when my brother and I would plug our electric guitars in, that very loud sound would come down the stairwell and ruin their day. And so the other thing to be careful of is this: the last thing the Virgin Mary needs, as an exhausted new mother … Right after she’s finally gotten the baby Jesus to fall asleep, along comes the little boy who thinks to himself, “What this woman needs is a drum solo.” My mom and dad were willing to let my brother and I play electric guitars but no drums, no drums. You’re looking at the drum set of Neil Peart the drummer for the band Rush. It probably took him longer to set it up than any drum solo he ever played on it. And I can just imagine Mary wondering, “Why is that kid setting all these drums up? What is going on here?” You want to turn somebody against music? Give their children a drum set.

Amen. You see here’s the problem: What you should give other people is not always what you have, because it’s not always about what you have lots of. It’s not always about what you love to do although what you love to do is important. It is a good thing. But when you give it needs to be an appropriate gift, a way for you to love your neighbor.

And that means that you notice what your neighbor needs.

What can I give him as poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb. Now just think, Mary and Joseph here in this stable that they don’t own … what are they going to do with a lamb? If I were a wise man I would do my part… And we need to be wise with the giving of gifts but here’s what’s always appropriate: Yet what I can, I give … Yet what I can, I give him: I give my heart.

You and I need to give out of our hearts, and we need to open up our hearts to understand the hearts of other people and how they feel and what they need and what will bring them joy and what will bring them happiness. And it’s probably not a drum set. It’s probably not rhubarb, no matter how much you love playing your drums and no matter how much you love rhubarb.

But if you notice what other people love, your gift will play into what they love. Now, 1 Corinthians 12:7 says that to each person, to each one of us, is given the manifestation, the way God’s spirit shows up for the common good. God’s spirit doesn’t show up so that you and I will feel good. God’s spirit doesn’t show up so you and I can do what we’re talented at, so that we can give things, or so that people appreciate us. God’s spirit wants to reach out through us to bless other people at the point of their need.

So here’s what I want to suggest, is the second Christmas present.
O holy child to Bethlehem descend to us, we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in. Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell.
Oh, come to us. Abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel.

What your neighbor most needs at Christmas time is a neighborhood … because I can tell you when you feel like a stranger, when you feel all alone, when you feel like no one cares, when life gets really hard, when you feel all alone like no one cares … because no one notices. They walk past people who are homeless because it hurts to admit that such a thing can happen. But it doesn’t even need to be that extreme.

We get so distracted with preparing for our Christmas that we are often unable to notice other people. And we’re so busy wrapping up gift baskets of rhubarb that we don’t see what they really need. What your neighbor most needs is a neighborhood. They need people who understand that they have names. Now that’s a problem for me because I’m name-impaired. I was at Caseyville United Methodist Church for nine years, and I still remember the Sunday, after being this man’s pastor for nine years, as I shook hands as people left the church, and I greeted him by the wrong name, after nine years. I am name-impaired. By the way, that’s why the pastor says, “Brother, I’m so glad you’re here today. [laughter] Sister, it’s such a blessing to see you.” They might not remember your name.

But neighbors have names. And when you notice your neighbor, I guarantee you it blesses them in great ways. But also, if you notice in small little things, that will bless your neighbor the most.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, help us to become even better at this second gift of Christmas, to be someone who notices our neighbor, to be someone who sees the people around us and feels a sense of empathy for what they must be feeling. Lord, help us to be inspired by the shepherds to welcome people into the neighborhood that is the neighborhood of our heart, that they are no longer strangers, but they’re a part of our lives. We ask that in Jesus’s name. Amen.

I want to be frank with you. The scripture does not explain, but in between the night that Jesus was born and the night the Wise Men came, there’s a period of maybe 12 months, maybe 18 months. We’re just not sure. But there is something I believe in my heart. The Bible doesn’t say, but I think the very next morning, Jesus and Mary and Joseph packed up and they went to live with the shepherds. Now if what you love to do is go camping in winter, you can say, “It’s like Jesus, he’s camping with the shepherds.” And I’ll bet they loved eating lamb. And I have a feeling, I believe, that they lived with the shepherds until they could get established because the shepherds created a neighborhood and invited them to be a part of it. That’s what I believe. When we get to heaven, we’ll find out what actually happened, but that’s what I believe happened. May God help us to be that kind of neighbor at Christmas time.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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