For pastors, like myself, Christmas and Easter are difficult challenges. How do you uniquely present a story that has been not only told, but celebrated for 2,000 years?
I never want the messages to seem bland or repetitive, and that is never easy. This Christmas season, I have been thinking about the characters of the Christmas story. For the next three weeks, I wanted to look at some of the key players in the greatest story ever told.
Any discussion of the key figures of the Christmas story needs to begin with the angels. Angels are throughout the story of Jesus’ birth. Angels appeared to Mary and told her that she was the chosen one to carry and give birth to God’s son, a role she embraced and celebrated.
An angel also visited Joseph, the man chosen to be the earthly father of Jesus. The angel told him the crazy story Mary was telling, that she was still a virgin and that the baby growing inside of her was placed there by God, was true. Instead of privately dismissing her, as he was planning, the angel convinced Joseph that he was also chosen.
On the night Jesus was born, an angel appeared to a group of shepherds working out in the fields that wonderful night. The angel proclaimed, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be to all the people: today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”
After that announcement, a throng of angels appeared in the sky and sang praise to God for this wonderful gift to mankind – Glory to God in the highest Heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors.
God used these heavenly beings as messengers of His stepping into history in the form of a baby. While children may feel slighted when they are cast as angels in a Christmas play, angels really are a key part of the story.
Let’s also consider the shepherds – the ones who were first informed of the arrival of the King of Kings. Logically, you would imagine that the first people to the scene of such an important part of history would be the rich and powerful – not in God’s way of doing things.
The shepherds were the lowest level of Jewish society. When trying to find a group of people in our society that could actually compare to the shepherds of that day, the only groups I have found are today’s homeless. While the shepherds were employed, they were the very bottom of the social totem pole. They worked outside with animals – all the time. They were deemed as “unclean” because they worked so closely to the animals. They were shunned from society and never on the invitation list of important happenings. Yet that is who God chose to be the first at the scene of His Son’s birth – the most unlikely participants of all.
Next week we will take a look at the innkeeper and the wise men.
Rev. Rusty Mullins was the former editor of the Radford News-Journal and the News-Messenger. He also served as pastor of North Fork Baptist Church in Blacksburg. He is currently the Senior Pastor of New Highland Baptist Church in Mechanicsville. He would enjoy any feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.