Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-17-_-_Nativity,_Birth_of_Jesus

Sermon Script: Luke 2:1-20
Sermon Title: What Story Are You Gonna Tell?

Let’s have a show of hands. When y’all get together with family and friends do you have this tradition of sharing stories from Christmases past? One of my favorite stories comes from when my grandmother used to spend Christmas Eve with us so she could be there for Christmas morning. She had this little Pomeranian tea cup toy dog. It was a little black ball of fluff that would sit next to her in Mom’s recliner. One year after the presents had been opened and while we were waiting on brunch our family cat Tyler walked into the living room and there was that dog. It all started out innocently enough. Our blonde tabby came walking across the room. He put his front paws on the edge of the chair and began sniffing the dog. They were nose to nose and then the dog made a fatal mistake. The dog licked Tyler in the nose. I heard Tyler’s reply from across the room. POW! With no claws Tyler had popped that dumb dog in the face and the chase was on; a blonde streak followed by a black streak. The chase flew into a bedroom, and then we all heard another sound. Warrrrrwrrrr! We found the poor dog sniffing and yipping at the edge of the bed as it considered the best way to go under after the cat. My grandmother came in and told her dog I, “You’d better not go underneath there.” My grandmother and her dog are both gone now, but retelling those stories at Christmas helps to keep them both alive in a special way.

Now, y’all know that for shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night telling stories was the way they passed the time. There were no TV’s. There was no internet. There was no Wifi. There were no computers. There was the fire, and there were the stories. It’s very likely they would return to the fire to warm themselves and take turns keeping watch over the sheep. That’s when it happened. “[A]n angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear” (Luke 2:9). That’s when the angel told them a new story. The angel shared the good news, ‘“unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will 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 host praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace among those

With whom he is pleased”’ (Luke 2:11-14)!

The shepherds had a new story to tell. However, the shepherds weren’t stupid. Seeing visions and dreaming dreams is one thing, but for a person living in the first century seeing a thing in person is proof. Scripture says one witness is not enough. There had to be two or three witnesses (Deut 19:15). The shepherds needed to see the child to believe this saying was true. “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened” (Luke 2:15). After all; the angel said, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths [and] lying in a manger.” So, the shepherds went to Bethlehem to see the baby. Sure enough, there they were; Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths and laying in a manger. The story was true. Now these well practiced story tellers had a really good story worth telling: the good news of Jesus Christ.

What did these shepherds do next? They went straight to work. Scripture tells us the shepherds

Went out and told people what the angels had told them. Everyone who heard what the Shepherds said began to wonder about what they had heard. For once, instead of a rumor causing pain and suffering, a rumor brought wonder. What could this mean? What might this story mean for Mary and Joseph? What might this story mean for the shepherds and the people who heard the story from the shepherds? What might the story of Jesus’ birth mean for us today?

I think one lesson from the story of the shepherds is everyone has a story to tell, and the stories we tell are important. We often tell stories about ourselves or someone we know. I can’t speak for others, but I know for myself when I start to tell those stories I try to emphasize the good stuff. In particular I love to brag on my wife’s cooking, how my five year old son loves to work in the yard, and all of the things my daughter is learning to do for the first time. Maybe you love to tell these stories too. Maybe these were the same kinds of stories the shepherds told by the campfire. The only real difference between the shepherd’s stories and our stories is Christmas has come. Jesus Christ has been born into the world. God is with us. When the shepherds heard the news about Jesus’ birth and saw Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger it changed the stories they told. It changed their jobs. They were no longer sitting in fields, watching their flocks and minding their own business. Now they were acting like heralds or modern day news broadcasters. I think it’s safe to argue the shepherds had seen something wonderful and now they wanted to share it with everyone.

Church, what new stories will you want to tell this Christmas? What new stories do we have to share with others now that God is with us? Maybe you have seen this before. We get to telling stories with family and friends and sometimes we find ourselves circling the drain of all the things that are wrong in our lives or all of the things that are wrong in other people’s lives. And then if we are competitive… do we have any competitive people in the room? (raise my hand) If we are competitive the whole story telling exercise can become a race to the bottom. Who has got it worse? Whose job is worse? Whose marriage is worse? Whose kids are worse? And because we are competitive we have to find the worst of our lives to drag out and be able to compete. When those stories are over and we have laid out all of our dirty laundry we have made ourselves feel like garbage and we have taken our friends and loved ones with us. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Here is my junk! What do those stories say about us? What do those stories say about the things God has been doing in our lives as we encounter friends and loved ones we only get to see once a year? When we only share what is not right in our lives what does our complaining say about what God is doing in our lives? Where is God with us? How is the shepherd’s example different?

I tell ya. I knew this guy one time. He used to call himself a poor man, but I swear he was the riches man I know. He had been struggling with Alzheimer’s for eight years – he was only supposed to live for five years. His name was Jerry Owens, and he used to sit with me when I would take up the money for Poorman’s suppers. Jerry was dying and he knew it. Jerry’s mind was going and he could have had all kinds of things to fuss about. Do you know what Jerry would talk about when we would sit down together? Jerry would tell me funny stories about his job before he retired; about his kids Rodney, Terry and Tim, and Jerry would tell me stories about his wife Ollie. None of the stories were ever ugly, and Jerry’s favorite thing to say to me was, “You see that woman there? She sure has been good to me.” Now it may be my line of work, but I just don’t see that very much any more. It seems like everybody’s got something to complain about or someone to blame. But as I sat there with Jerry’s wife Ollie on the day he died Ollie had such wonderful things to say about her husband. She could have complained and detailed the ways Jerry had been ornery the last five or six months of his life, but instead Ollie chose to focus on the good things. Ollie would touch on a thing here or there, but then she’d say, “We don’t need to talk about that. We’ll focus on the good things.”

As I share this sermon I want y’all to know I’m preaching to myself this morning. And I have questions. What does it mean to say Jesus is Immanuel: God with us? How is God seen with me? Better yet, how is God actually in me and a part of me? How am I apart of God, and what God is doing? Clearly, I am not God. This is not an ego trip. However, I am like all of you – a part of the body of Christ. What I say and do matters – and not just because I’m a pastor. Yup; I’m ditching that excuse. What Christians say and do matters because the story of our lives is supposed to tell the story of what it means for God to be with us; in us, and for us to be a part of Christ – Christ’s representatives in the world. As you get together and tell stories with family and friends about what has happened this year please give a thought to which stories you tell, and how you tell them. Let’s ask ourselves this question. How do our stories share God’s story with others?

In the name of Jesus Christ – Amen.

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