Speaker: Jim Jensen
Scripture: Luke 2:8-20

When is the last time you were so excited about something you shared it with all your friends all day long? This week, we’ll look at the Christmas carol, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and see what message the Angels had to share.

From the series Sounds of Christmas

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Full Sermon Transcript

Well, good morning, How is everyone today doing? Good, thank you to everyone joining online as well as in the room. We are in a series, a Christian series called the Sounds of Christmas. And we’re looking at a Christmas carol each week and then kind of breaking it down and going to the Bible and seeing how it applies to our lives. And it’s been fun so far. Pastor Tim last week started this off with We Three Kings. And today, as you can see, we’re doing Hark the Herald Angels Sing, which is a great. We’re going to get into it in a minute.But Shepherd’s Gate, we have something to celebrate this morning.

Those of us that we’re able to give to presence with a purpose will know that each year we collect funds and then we buy gifts for families and children who wouldn’t normally have a Christmas because of their financial situation. And maybe you noticed when you came in this morning that there were presents around many of our trees. Well, those are the gifts that we purchased, and I’m really happy to report that we were able to do over $8,000 worth of gifts this year. So give yourselves a hand. That’s wonderful news. I actually they went to Myer and you can see this is a picture of them at Myer and they were kind of blown away there. And even some of the checkout ladies were were tearing up and getting choked up because they realized where these gifts were going.

Just went on and on and on. So that’s that’s a wonderful story. I love our church. I love the way that we put boots to the ground for our faith. And the next one coming up, I’ll just give you a heads up on that is for Samaritan House, which is a food pantry we support in this area. They always get cleaned out by the end of December and we come in in January and we restock at 4 a.m. So look for that in the new year. But today we’re talking about Hark the Herald Angels sing this is Carol. Is that the heart of the Christmas story? It’s great. It’s got angels, Shepherds, the baby Jesus in the manger, all of the central core ideas of this story. And that’s wonderful. But it starts with the angels. The angels basically are bringing good news to the shepherds, good news and I love getting good news. So anyone get good news this week? Anybody?

Oh, good. A few more in the in the first service, one person raise their hand. I’m like, boy, tough week. Yeah. I’m glad a few of you got good news. A couple of weeks ago, Our oldest daughter, Julia, is a freshman at college this year, and so she’s been away at college and she was coming back for a weekend. My wife and I, this was Friday night. Our daughter was coming back on Saturday. So Friday night we retired for the evening and we’re kind of in bed reading. And I get a phone call and it was Julia. And she said, Hey, Dad, can you do me a favor? And I’m like, Well, sure. I mean, I’m kind of in bed, but whatever, you know, what do you what are you need? She said, Come down and open the door and let me in. Yeah, she surprised us. That was good news.

She was there a day early, so that was fun. We love doing good news in our family when the kids were young. I have two daughters, and when they were little, it was very easy. I would say, Hey, how about we go to McDonald’s and get some French fries and you can play in the play place? And you’d think that they won the lottery. They were so excited. It was good news. It’s so easy. It even had to be that you could just say, Hey, let’s go in the backyard and I’ll push you on the swing. And they were very excited. It’s harder when they’re older to give you that, but we still work hard to bring good news to our family and to have good times. This is what the Angels were doing. They’re providing good news. In fact, the Carol calls them Herald Angels. What’s a herald?

Well,a herald is just someone who brings news. And angels are beings created by God. And in the Scripture, we see them many times and they’re almost always bringing news. They’re almost always bringing good news, which is great. And in this case, it was very good news. I don’t know. Have you ever been the bringer of good news? Like the angels? I’m sure Julia, when she called me, had just as much fun making the call as I had running down to open a door for her. It’s fun. It’s fun to be the bringer of good news. And. And so the Angels were doing that for the shepherds. The shepherds actually got to be messengers later on in the story. And then we also get to be messengers today. So how does that all work? We’re going to have to go to the Bible to find out. We’re going to be going to Luke two, which is one of those wonderful Christmas passages that this Carol is based on. And I so I grew up in church, going to church. I’ve probably heard this a couple hundred times, but it never gets old. It’s a wonderful passage. We’re going to read it here starting in verse eight. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks. At night, an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid.

I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people today in the town of David, A savior has been born to you. He is Messiah the Lord. This will be assigned to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloth and line in a manger. Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth, peace to those on whom His favor rests. Well, what was the message of the angels? Let’s go back to the verses nine through 11 here they appeared and they first said, Do not be afraid. Which is what angels almost always say in the Bible. Because think about it. You’re at work. The shepherds were at work, right, Watching their sheep, whom something appears in the sky above them. And it says the glory of the Lord shown around them. I don’t know exactly what that means, but it was probably pretty spectacular. They were afraid. And so they, the angels say, Do not be afraid, which is good. Then they say, I bring you good news, not just good news, but good news that will bring great joy for all people. Wonderful news. And then they say something that for all those 200 times that I’ve seen this before, I didn’t really notice. But as I was preparing for it today, I saw it.

They they they say they say something about Jesus three times. They say that that a savior has been born, that he is Messiah the Lord. And I just started wondering why did they say three things? And as I studied it, I saw that they’re upping the ante every time they say one of these names, the first name is Savior This is a very general term. So I work out most mornings I’m down in the basement, I’m working on my elliptical going away, you know, And then when I’m done, I’ll come upstairs and, you know, this would be as if my wife was in the kitchen as I came upstairs and she saw me and saw that I just worked out and said, Hey, here’s a glass of water. Like, Oh, you’re my savior. It’s that it’s just kind of a general term. But Messiah is not the shepherds would have known this word. It literally means anointed one and they would have been aware of this term because for the prophets of Israel, they were often prophets about the Messiah, the anointed one, a savior that would not only save in a general sense, but would save the whole nation of Israel. So not just a savior but a messiah.

And then they say the Lord and this ups the ante again. The Lord is the term in the Bible that refers to deity. It literally means master. And so they’re saying, you know, this this baby that is born is a savior, not just any savior. He’s the messiah, the one that you’ve been waiting for. Not only is the Messiah, is he the Messiah, he’s got himself. What a wonderful message. Savior, Messiah and Lord. See, the Angels weren’t just excited about a baby being born in Bethlehem. As the Hark the herald angels sing, The first verse goes Hark the Herald angels sing Glory to the newborn king Peace on earth and mercy Mild God and sinners reconciled. What does that mean? Well, it means it’s not just the baby Jesus. The baby Jesus grew up and died on the cross and was resurrected on the third day. He did that so that God and sinners us can be reconciled, can be brought together again. There’s a debt of sin that we cannot pay. There’s a gap between us and God that cannot be bridged by anyone except God himself.

The angels were excited because this is super good news. This is the best news that humankind had ever received. If you want to get personal about this, do you see yourself in this line? Replace the word sinner with your name? God and Jim reconciled so personal. I love that. That’s what it’s like. The angels are bringing the shepherds. Good news. You will no longer be separated from God. That’s what this baby means. That’s basically Hark the herald angels sing. But to find out what happens to the shepherds, we have to keep going in the story. So let’s continue. When the angels had left them and gone into heaven the shepherds said to one another, Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. So they hurried off and they found Mary and Joseph and the baby who was lying in the manger when they had seen him. They spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the thing that they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

So the shepherds you see, this is interesting. The shepherds became the messengers. First it was the angels telling the shepherds. Now the shepherds are telling everyone else about what they had seen. Well, why? How did they suddenly become messengers like the Angels were? Well, one possibility here is that we really only share with others what we care about. Personally, I could talk to you for the rest of the time. We have today about Star Trek, because I really like Star Trek. And I discuss this with you. I could talk to you about Lord of the Rings. I loved that book. I’ve read it over 20 times. I have an atlas that has maps of this made up world middle Earth, and I can follow the characters journeys through the atlas as I read it. I am nerd it out on Lord of the Rings. I can just keep going with that. You know, our family loves boating, and so I could talk to you a little bit about boats and I’m a keyboard player and so I could talk to you about keyboards. Well, I like these things. They’re they’re things that that affect me personally. And I it’s easy for me to talk to you about them or anybody. We talk about what we care about. The shepherds heard the message from the angels and then what did they say?

They said, You know what? Let’s go see this baby. They went and they found him and they saw Jesus. And that made all the difference. That’s when they became messengers. So one of our questions today here is have you seen Jesus clearly? Have you seen him? Clearly? It’s an important question. I think sometimes as we think about being messengers of this good news, we’re distracted where somehow this message is not at the top of our list of messages to share. We’re not talking about it or sharing it. Why? I think there are a few important reasons that we need to look at. Here’s one You’re distracted by the urgent and thus ignore the important. You’re distracted by the urgent and thus ignore the important. Do you feel distracted in December at all? I do. Oh, there’s gifts to buy on Amazon and then you have to wrap them when they get there. If they are in fact the right gift and they get there on time. There’s school assemblies and plays. Of course there’s travel. There’s guests and friends and family coming over. I mean, we all kind of experience it, right? It’s easy to get distracted in December. Maybe you feel a little frazzled, a little overwhelmed, maybe even missing the point of Christmas, maybe letting your circumstances steal your joy. It happens.

And it prevents us from being the messengers that we could be of this. Good news. This reminds me of December 2013. Something happened in Michigan, in the area surrounding the northern area of the globe that year. Does anyone remember what it was? I think some said it there was there was an ice storm. If you were here, do you remember this? I took a picture and I found some pictures from from that year. It’s so beautiful. Everything was coated in inches of ice. And then the sun came out and it showed. Look at that blue sky. Here’s another one coming up to my house. Look at all of that. It was amazing. It was astoundingly beautiful. It was also very distracting and very deadly. Over a million people lost power. We lost or about three days before, before Christmas Eve, and actually 29 people died. The government sent out messages urging people to check in on your family and friends. They were scared that people were going to literally freeze to death in their homes. It was it was a very interesting and difficult December. We lost power, but we had a gas fireplace. I did not have a generator and I couldn’t buy one. I went to Home Depot. Of course, they were all about there was no way to get one. So we turned that fireplace on. And here’s a picture of my youngest daughter, Hayley. There’s the fireplace. And I still remember bundling our kids up in their winter coats and bringing sleeping bags down to the first floor.

And we just kind of, like, hung out there so that we could stay warm. She is smiling because we decided, you know what? If we’re not going to have power, then I think we’ll just go visit my parents who lived in Pennsylvania at the time, right after the last Christmas Eve service on Christmas Eve night. So we opened our presents early. We opened our presence like three days early and they were very happy about that. Ironically, after that, we did we did services for three days at that church, so we did six services to a day over three days. While this was all going on. I remember I did not have a shower that whole time. That was weird. And and of course all the other confusion and then as we ended the last Christmas Eve service, the church had power, which was great. We came home and our power was back on, but we had already opened our gifts. It was great to have some heat. We just spent the night sleeping in our own beds and then we just took off for Pennsylvania and had Christmas with my parents. I was distracted. It was very difficult to keep the message of the good news in the front of my head. And here’s the thing. It’s not that urgent. Things aren’t important. Of course, it was important to keep my family safe and warm. Of course it was. Notice that the shepherds went back to their sheep. You know, the shepherds didn’t ignore the sheep. They. They just they just didn’t let the urgent matters of their daily life get in the way of what was important.

And I think sometimes that’s what we do. We just we let this message fade because we’re dealing with the urgent. Here’s another possible reason that we are not the messengers we want to be. The good news has to move from your head to your heart. The good news that Angels brought to the shepherds and that was eventually brought to us. That’s the move from our head to our heart. This reminds me of my friend Bob. My friend Bob was actually in the church that I was at at the time that I told the story about the ice storm. And he came to church and he was a little skeptical about Jesus and about church, but he kept coming and he was he was interested. He was also a drummer. So he was on our worship team once in a while. And so he kept coming. And he was, I think was about four or five months. And he came up to me after a service one Sunday and not just tears in his eyes. He had tears streaming down his cheeks and he came up to me and he said, Jim, I’m crying. And I’m like, I know, dude, I can see you’re crying. I said, Why are you crying? He said, I don’t know. He’s the last three weeks. This is what happens. I come to church, I sing the songs, I listen to the message, and I start crying, What’s going on? And to this day, I believe that God gave me words to say to my friend. I looked him in the eye and I said, Bob, I know it’s happening to you.

God is doing something in your life. The message is getting to your heart and it’s affecting you. And you need to open all those gifts that you have received from God’s salvation. It’s going from your head to your heart. When that happens, the message is so important. We can know it intellectually. We can even assent to it, and we can just let it stay there. If it penetrates our life, that’s when this message come alive. That’s what I think happened to the shepherds. They heard the message. And as amazing as it was to see all those angels, after it was over, they said, Oh, let’s go see, though. And then they went and they saw Jesus. And something happened there that changed them into messengers. They saw Jesus. It went from their head to their heart. Here’s another reason I think we’re maybe not the messengers that we always want to be. We have to recognize that we’re a sinner in need of a savior who is Christ the Lord. Just to be vulnerable for a minute here, this is, I believe, what happened to me when I was a young man.

I’m a I’m a Gen Xer. And you Gen-Xers out there come on, represent Gen Xers wouldn’t even raise their hand. Really? There’s one. They would just be like, Yeah, yeah. And so, yeah, you know, my generation, my generation got into addictions, alcohol, drugs. A lot of my, my friends in high school were into especially alcohol where I live. And I just I skipped all that. It never happened to me. And then I got in college, I went right to college and I was doing well or I was doing well in my studies. And I started thinking myself, you know, I’m I’m doing pretty good. I’m a pretty good person. I’ve kind of avoided these major sin problems and, you know, I’m kind of on track. And I just started thinking, you know, I’m pretty good. And in our culture, don’t we say that?\ Don’t we think that we think, well, if if my good outweighs my bad, then okay, I’m all right. And so much of our world works like that. If you work hard in school, you get good grades. If you’re, you know, hard working at work, you might get a a raise or a promotion. So a lot of our world does work that way, but the good news does not work that way. And it’s dangerous to think that way. And that’s where I was.

And I just I came to realize, fortunately, it got helped me realize that even on my very best day, there was still a gap between how good I was and a holy God, and there was nothing I could do. Sometimes we lose sight of that, and when we lose sight of that, the message is not as important. Because if we can be our own savior, then what do we need Jesus for? But that’s not the good news. We need him. It reminds me of this nativity set, which I if you were here last week and Tim, I think mentioned that this has been in my family and we we needed one for this series. I said, well, I’ll bring one in. So I asked my mom and she said it was fine. So she just said, be careful, because it really has been in our family for generations. So my grandma Jensen hand-painted this and and then so it’s been in our family and actually we had a tradition when I was growing up with my brother that my dad would read the Luke to passage. And as he’s doing that, we would take the Nativity from wherever it was. It was under the tree or on a table like this or something. And as he’s reading it and the characters would come up in the story, we then place them back where it was supposed to be until the whole nativity scene was assembled. Again. For those of you in the back that can’t see it, here’s a picture of of this that I took earlier in the week. And, you know, but boys will be boys.

My brother and I, we would goof off. We would do things slightly inappropriate with the cow as we placed him had not good And then, you know, they were all turned toward Jesus. And so we would bring them in and just kind of like, you know, turn one away slightly or something like that. Yeah, we were kind of goofing off. But one time there was an incident, and I’m just going to I’m going to show you Joseph here. I don’t know if you can see. So if you look at these, you know, there’s a really easy way to to to hold these. It’s almost like a handle. The head is almost like a handle and very convenient just in my defense. But I don’t know if you can see the little white line on his neck there. There was a moment where we were I think it really was me. I’m not going to blame my brother. It was me. I was holding it. And the head popped off and it was just not all is calm. I was bright that that night, but my mom had super glue. She put it she super glued that head back on there and he’s fine. It just from then on, we don’t hold them by the head. So that’s what I saw them.

I might go out for a second. Oh, I’m Becca. Okay, here’s the thing. As an adult, we’ve continued that tradition. And so it was my girls growing up that that put the nativity back together. And I was the one that read the passage. Only when I’m reading it. When I’m the one reading it, I can barely get through it without choking up. The message means something to me. Now it’s good news. It’s gotten from my head to my heart, and I know it’s important. And so I. And so I became the messenger. This the angels were messengers to the shepherds. The shepherds became messengers. And you can be a messenger. You can and I can want to end with the story of these two guys. So anyone know who these are? What they are? The Wesley’s. This is John and Charles. Charles is the one that wrote Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and he’s the one with the big hair. So I’m pretty sure they’re wigs. They wore wigs in the 1700s, I think, especially for portraits. The Wesley’s were the founders of the Methodist movement, the Methodist denomination. And it didn’t start out very well. The fact they started with Bible studies and they were so plodding and methodical with the way that they put their studies together that people would make fun of them. And they then they said, Oh, no, those guys, those Wesley brothers, they’re just too methodical, they’re Methodists. It was like a term of derision. They made fun of them with it, and it became it became the name of the denomination. Like so many of these things happen, they even to the mission trip to the United States, although it wasn’t the United States then, it was the colonies.

And so they came from England to the colonies, and they did a mission trip and it was awful. Nothing worked. No one would come to their meetings. They they finally just got so discouraged that they got back on a ship and went back to England and they couldn’t understand why was there no power here? Why is nothing happening? Something happened to both Wesley’s that changed them dramatically and launched the Methodist movement. It happened to both of them separately, but within a few days of each other. And we know what happened because they kept journals. Charles had a friend. They both had a friend named Peter. And when soon after they returned from the colonies, Peter and Charles were having a discussion. And I’m just going to read this journal entry. You can see it on the screen. Charles Charles was talking with his friend Peter, and Peter said, Hey, do you hope to be saved? And Charles said, Yes. Peter said, For what reason do you hope it?

And Charles says, Because I’ve used my best endeavors to serve God And Peter shook his head and said, No more. And Charles wrote, I thought him very uncharitable, saying in my heart, what are my endeavors? As if not a sufficient ground of hope? What do you rob me of my endeavors? I have nothing else to trust you. Interesting. A few days later, Peter invites Charles to his church and Charles reluctantly decides to go. And they’re sitting there in the church service and they’re actually reading from the writings of Martin Luther, specifically the idea that there is nothing you can do, no endeavor, that you can try to earn your salvation, that salvation is a gift from God by faith. That’s the good news. And something happened to Charles. It went from his head to his heart, and his mind was opened to all the gifts of salvation that the he had not yet received because he didn’t understand. A few days later, the same thing happened to John and the Methodist movement was born.

It was after this that Charles began writing hymns and carols. He did write Hark the Herald Angels sing soon after this, but he didn’t just write a few. Charles Wesley is credited with writing over 6500 hymns. It just poured out of them. He could not help but worship God and proclaim and be a messenger of the good news. It just poured out of him the rest of his life and he couldn’t stop writing. That’s what it’s like. That’s what it’s like when the message goes from here to here. Has that happened to you or are you distracted in this season? May we be those kind of messengers to the people around us? It is such good news. Let’s not let anything distract us like Charles. Let’s let it pour forth from our life at Shepherd’s Gate. We want to help all of you and all of us be messengers in this season. We do that every year by having wonderful Christmas Eve services. And I can tell you that our team is working very, very diligently and very hard to prepare this year so that they’re creative, excellent musical. It’ll be fun. The Gospel will be shared. We’re going to hold candles and sing Silent Night. I’ll have all the Christmas feels.

It’ll be great. I want to say to all of us watching in here, don’t come alone.Be a messenger. Even now, think who in your life, Who and you. Who in your life could you invite to bring with you to Christmas? The research is clear. There have been a lot of research on inviting to church and the number one time they very easiest time to invite someone to church is. That’s right It always is. And especially Christmas Eve There’s just something special about it It’s easy It’s more easy than it than ever at this time This will be the 27th Christmas productio I’ve been involved in as a full time church worker And I never get tired of them I have had two categories of responses from people that have see the Christmas Eve services that have been helpful in producing They’ll say a lot of things to me, but they’re always in two categories They’ll come up to me and they’ll both say the same thing They’ll say, Man, that was great I really enjoyed the service.

The first category person will say And then I brought my friends and I just loved that they were there It was so great to watch them light the candle and to hear the message of the gospel and just I felt better about the service And I enjoyed it more because I knew that they were here with m experiencing it together That’s one category The other category, people come up to me and they’ll say That was a really great service, same thing But then they’ll say, I can’t believe I didn’t invite somebody I missed an opportunity. It was so great I know some people that really would have benefited from being her and I didn’t invite them I want a challenge It’s not to be in that second category Wouldn’t it be amazing if this year we were able to share and be messengers, just like the shepherds were to all of the people around us our community, our neighbors, our coworkers, our family and our friends What would that look like this Christmas? I would love to see that. Don’t come to Christmas Eve alone.

Hail the Heaven. Born Prince of Peace Hail the sun of righteousness, Light and life to all He brings. Risen with healing in his wings. Let’s bring the light and the life of Jesus to everyone we can this Christmas Amen. Amen. Would you pray with me? God, Thank you so much for this message. You gave it to the angels They shared it with the shepherds The shepherds shared it with everyone they could. And 2000 years later, someone has shared it with us. Good news. The best news that humankind has ever received. And God, I pray that you would give us the courage and the opportunity to bring someone along with us this year to Christmas Eve that we too can be messengers of this wonderful news. Thank you God, for the opportunity to share this with others. In Jesus name, Amen.