Preached by Carol Kidd on 25 December 2018: Christmas Day
Good News! We have arrived at Christmas Day!
At Church Alive we always start by asking if anyone has any news that they would like to share – usually it’s a birthday, or anniversary, something exciting, something to be thankful for, that we are not worried about sharing with everyone else. The person sharing their good news is invited to light a candle. Some of you may have been present when Abigail raised her hand high in the air really eager to be asked and so excited to tell Revd Linda in a ‘loud’ whisper of awe: ‘My mummy’s going to have a baby!’ Abigail was here at our crib service yesterday with mummy, daddy, her brother and her new baby sister.
For Abigail she was sharing good news of great joy, even mummy hadn’t been prepared to tell everyone just that soon – and we like surprises don’t we?
Good News indeed! Luke describes how first one angel then a whole host of angels appeared to the shepherds – very ordinary people whose job meant being with the sheep at all times, day and night – the ‘glory of the Lord shone around them… they were terrified’. No small wonder, for the sky was shining.
The message had three parts: ‘Do not be afraid’; ‘See, I am bringing you Good News of great joy’; and ‘For all the people’.
Most importantly the shepherds did three things. ‘They said to one another, let us go and see’ – in other words they worked together, by sharing what had just happened they helped each other. ‘They went with haste’ – they didn’t make excuses, didn’t hang back, they went as fast as they could. ‘They made known what had been told them’ – it was such good news it had to be shared!
How many of you have already shared Christmas wishes today? In person? By way of a phone call? Through a text or by social media? So many ways to send Christmas greetings. Who needs a heavenly host of angels when there are e-cards, the ability to skype and see and speak to loved ones far away, Instagram, Messenger, live stream video link and more?
Yet – how disappointed are you when you have great news to share and send out a message, wait eagerly for replies, expect others to respond with exclamations of happiness or a smiley emoji… and your phone remains silent, no ‘ping’ to indicate a notification has arrived, someone has responded – you wonder did the people you sent to get the message?
God knew then by the shepherds’ response that His message had been received. Sometimes – maybe often – 2000 years later when people are more interested in the social and commercial side of Christmas, does God sometimes wonder: are the people hearing the message today?
The angel told the shepherds ‘Do not be afraid. The baby born is the Messiah, the Lord’. They responded, they went, they shared. Their daily routine returned to normal, yet they would be forever changed by the experience. Nor would those with whom they shared the good news of great joy, for ‘all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them!’
God asks us to be like the shepherds: ‘to praise God for all we have seen and heard’. As it has been told to us by others, so we must pass it on and not be put off, not to be afraid if there is not an instant notification.
The Church of England ‘Follow the Star’ initiative this year has encouraged finding out more, deepening faith and sharing. They have used a new version of the famous Carol ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ by Will Todd. That Carol has the line ‘the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight’ – God takes all our hopes and fears and through the birth of Jesus he shares in our joys and sorrows. He is with us celebrating the good times, strengthening and comforting in the difficult days.
May we be ready to go out to share the Good News with the attitude of the shepherds: praising God for all we have seen and heard’.