Series: Angels Among Us: #DoNotBeAfraid – Flying in the Face of Fear at Advent
Title: This will be a Sign: #morelove
December 23, 2018
Rev. Sandy Johnson
Click here for sermon video
Prayer: Gracious Lord, open our hearts and minds to hear the message today. Lord I pray that my words are thine. Amen.
Signs…we are surrounded by signs. Some large, some small. Some make perfect sense, some can be super confusing. Take a look at a few…
Now, most signs help make things clearer, these signs just make things more confusing.
When we’re lost, we appreciate signs, pointing us in the right direction. Signs can be a warning, telling us to go in a different direction or to turn around. Signs are an important part of our day to day life, giving instruction, direction as well as caution.
Some signs are visible like street signs, they’re right in front of you when you need direction most. Some signs come in the quiet time alone with God, listening to God as God directs our lives. “I just need a sign God…is this the right path for me?” Ever prayed that prayer?
This week I met with Sandy Cooley, her husband Don passed away last week. Sandy hadn’t prayed for a sign that Don was with God, but she received a sign, nonetheless. A good friend of hers called to tell her that shortly after Don passed away, she had the overwhelming feeling that Don was with her and she heard him say, “tell Sandy I’m ok, I’m in paradise.” Sandy said that paradise was Don’s word for heaven. A sign…send from God…just when she needed it most.
It is those signs we seek most often. Signs that our loved ones are ok. Signs of approval from God that we are on the path he desires for us. Signs drawing us closer to Him and His purpose for us, serving God while serving our neighbors. Signs that we are loved, cherished and forgiven.
Our angelic visitor in this morning’s scripture, brought an unlikely sign to the shepherds. The shepherds were sitting outside, probably around a warm fire; doing their job, keeping watch over the flocks. Protecting them from danger. Suddenly the sky became bright!
You would have thought that all that “glory” shining would have been “the sign. That’s what most of us look for–great big obvious clues about God’s presence.
God, if you’re going to send a sign, send a BIG one! For the shepherds, this was one, big sign! The sky had lit up like it was daytime.
The angel says that a baby… a newborn, helpless, baby in a feeding trough, was it– that was the sign. In a flash, the message was that #morelove is found where you least expect it and perhaps is already there, residing in the ordinariness of your life.
These shepherds weren’t royalty. They were not part of the “in” crowd and the place the angel said they would find this new king was not the Four Seasons either. An angel interrupted an otherwise quiet night outside of Bethlehem to tell these uneducated, underappreciated, and somewhat smelly shepherds, that God had delivered the Messiah, the long-awaited ruler who would change the world forever.
And God delivered him to a stable, where the animals slept; this baby would be found, the angels said, “wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
No wonder the shepherds were terrified. First, this was a surprising turn of events for these marginalized folks. No one paid any attention to shepherds, except maybe to yell at them for bringing their sheep onto their land. Most shepherds didn’t own their own property and grazed their sheep on others’ fields.
“Shepherds were tolerated, but not always esteemed by their neighbors. When Luke tells us that the shepherds were the first to be invited to see the Christ Child, first-century hearers would not have found this endearing, in fact it was quite shocking!” Why would anyone come to give them a sign, to deliver a message from God?
It’s curious that even though “shepherds were considered among the lower-ranking members of society, God referred to himself as a shepherd and to his people as his sheep. And when God chose a people for himself, God choose sheepherders. When God chose young David to be the great king over Israel, God was choosing a shepherd boy.
And when God promised one day to send a new king, like David, God described that coming king as a shepherd who would search for the lost sheep. When the child born in the stable became a man, he would describe himself as “the good shepherd” who would lay down his life for his sheep.
The message that the sign of God’s presence in the world was to be found in a newborn in a
feeding trough, shows us how powerful vulnerability is. When God offers God’s self in this form rather than that of might and force, we recognize that love is what will save us, if we but open ourselves to each other. We then discover that God does and will use the so-called “lowest” or marginalized to bring the real message of love to the world.
That tells me that God will use us, you and me to share the love of God, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The fact that the angels first appeared to the shepherds and said, “do not be afraid,” shows us how everyone matters. This message, this sign was for all of us. True power and the possibility of loving deeply comes with simply being open and vulnerable and being truly yourself. God can work with that!
The angels played the important role of “story-tellers” and after they declared what had happened, the shepherds didn’t waste any time checking out the angel’s story. There was no going back to sleep that night!! They went to the place the angels had said and saw with their own eyes, the baby, laying in a manger, wrapped in a blanket.
As a result of having heard and seen these things, the shepherds themselves become messengers as they return home “praising God”–mirroring the songs of the multitude of angels. The shepherds shared the story with everyone they met. Imagine receiving news that was so amazing, you went immediately to check it out, I mean you must verify it, right?
Once we know it’s true, we are so transformed, so turned upside down by a message or situation, that we can’t help but tell everyone we met! I know you know what I’m talking about?!
What acts of love have we witnessed in our lives that compels us to proclaim that love wins? What actions of others have inspired us to do great things? One of our church members shared a story with me last Sunday. She’s asked that I not share her identity but gave me permission to share this story. I hope I get it right!
A while back she heard about a need someone had for a new bed, for a friend who was hopefully moving into Lakeview Terrace. While she was at Country Store this year, over at Grace Community Church, she came across the perfect set up – bed, mattress, sheets, pillows. The whole package. She bought it all and brought it home.
It turned out that the man ended up going somewhere else with family, so the bed wasn’t needed. She put a sign up at the credit union so that someone could use the bed. She got a response and was arranging to get it to the woman when they had a heart attack and was very ill, in ICU. Another friend of theirs came and picked up the bed and things last Sunday, so that when she comes home from the hospital she will have everything she needs.
Our member was an angel among us, she saw the signs of need and stepped in to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. She heard the call of God for mercy and she provided just what was needed. Maybe it wasn’t for the person she originally thought, but the gift eventually went to the person God intended.
God wants us to see the sign. (put power point slide on screen)
And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12
God wants us to see the baby, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. God wants us to receive this precious gift of life and love and then share it with others, just as the shepherds did.
“Yes, I believe there are angels among us. We can be messengers of love, flying in the face of fear, for we are the Body of Christ.”
 Adapted from Marcia McFee, Angels Among Us, www.worshipdesignstudio.com
 Luke 2:12
 Hamilton, Adam. The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem. Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN. 2011. 113
 Ibid, 114