A rather subdued ‘Black Friday’ has passed (thankfully) but the Christmas season is on and struggling to thrive – economically at least, versus the “Grinch” called COVID 19, attempting to steal Christmas cheer and the ringing of cash registers.
Nonetheless, I find both a mission and reason to cheer as did those first Christian evangelists – shepherds appropriately enough, who received the literal Good News of the gospel to come- via the incarnation of their long-awaited King (Lu. 2:15-20) and then went on a mission they ‘chose to accept.’ .
An angel of the Lord according to Luke 2 came and reported this incredible news to the shepherds in a field, watching over a flock just a couple miles outside of Bethlehem, that Christ the Lord – Messiah and God in the flesh (Jesus/Joshua the transliterated name of Jehovah– the Lord who saves) was born in that city, laying in a manger and that peace and hope was on the way for God’s people.
Hope is precisely what every human being yearns for in order to give life meaning and an expectancy that something better lies ahead – particularly in the midst of hard times. Is there a Christmas season more deserving of hope than COVID and the current state of the United States, in 2020?
The Mission of a COVID Christmas
Our mission, “should we choose to accept it”, is ‘mission possible’, because with God all things are possible. We like the shepherds, are to take for ourselves and then give the gift of Good News (Lu. 2:16-17; Matt. 28:18-19). You can’t give what you don’t have right? Particularly if it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, this part of the Christmas story gives us a very simple principle to apply as it’s played out before our eyes. What are we to do with the Good News of Jesus Christ?
The shepherds understood that the angels were speaking for the Lord. They believed the message. They trusted in it.
They went by faith, to going and seeing that which had happened- accepting it as true- as a fact and knew the birth of Christ had already happened because God had told them so in their special and personal announcement or revelation (Lu. 2:10-12a). We have the same in the pages of our New Testament gospels.
These messengers and preachers went in “haste” to deliver the news according to this text. They reacted to this event as the women did, who ran to tell the disciples they had seen the risen Christ (Matt. 28:8). This is the real, first Black Friday, as they hit the stores if you will, running ‘with great haste’ – just not for a discount.
These shepherds took off to look at something truly valuable, the most precious gift of all time, which is God’s gift to humanity in the form of himself gift wrapped in a manger. They told everyone what had happened.
I would argue these were the first evangelists of the Christian faith – even before the church was born, arguably at Pentecost. This is the way it was done before E.E. (Evangelism Explosion) and the Way of the Master or the Four Spiritual Laws. The first message of the first evangelists is the Christmas story, and the first messengers are Shepherds. Why shepherds?
God does not call the rich and mighty to himself – generally speaking. He calls the poor and the lowly (1 Cor. 1:26, 28a, 29). God chooses or elects those by grace who humble themselves to the cross and to Christ. Grace and humility are therefore the first words of the gospel and salvation. The last are often first and the first are last.
Each born-again believer of Jesus Christ has a story to tell about what God has done for them, as the testimony we give as witnesses for the gospel. But the main story is God’s story. His redemption story for this world.
Biblical scholar Michael Green in his excellent book, Evangelism in the Early Church writes, “There was no distinction in the early church between full time ministers and laymen in this responsibility to spread the gospel by every means possible, there was equally no distinction between the sexes in the matter. It was axiomatic that every Christian was called to be a witness to Christ, not only by life but lip.”
That’s the method that God chose to save the world through his church. I think Charles Spurgeon was right when he said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”
Christians are ambassadors of Christ, given a ministry of reconciliation to the world (2 Cor. 5), meaning we do this because it’s who we are.
The Reactions to Your Mission
In having studied the Christmas text (Lu. 2:18-20), I found at least two responses or reactions to the good news of the birth of the baby Jesus- which launched the mission and ministry of the Messiah.
- The Crowd (18)
And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them…
We have a message for the lost people in our lives as to why this baby was born to die and die the way he did and most importantly, why he died at all. Christmas is just a bridge to the cross and Easter Sunday. That’s a wonder.
Regardless of what people think, we tell our story and focus on God’s story, which started at Christmas, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). God could have sent a soldier or a judge or a reformer to Israel under the yoke of the Roman empire, as most of the Jews then and now, would have preferred and are still waiting for.
Rather, God sent a Savior to meet man’s greatest need as the Rabbinical Jewish religion could not meet the needs of men’s hearts nor the demands of God’s law.
- The Shepherds (20)
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
This is the reaction every Christian should have after they’re saved, as we prepare to celebrate the true reason for this season. We have the hope of glory to come. So, like the shepherds, let’s celebrate and sing about what we’ve seen and heard about Jesus- more than the wrapped gifts under the tree.
Let’s rejoice and share the joy with the enthusiasm we had as new converts to the faith. Have you noticed how new believers in Christ can’t wait to praise God and worship Him and share the grace gift they’ve’ been given? We need to recapture that love of Christ and the gospel as when we were first saved – to return to our first love (Rev. 2). We need to take advantage of this Christmas COVID season and fulfil our mission to bring Christ back to a time and place of despair and infuse it with the hope that we all wish for.