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  • Adam Schell

The Shepherds




If there was ever a person who needed a miracle, it was Kevin McCallister. And why did Kevin need a miracle? Well, Kevin accidentally got left behind when his entire family went to France for a Christmas vacation. So Kevin, who was only 8 years old at the time, found himself home alone while his parents and siblings, his aunts and his uncles and cousins were all in the city of lights.


And if it wasn’t bad enough that Kevin was missing out on visiting the Eiffel Tower or trying escargot – although most of us wouldn’t be too upset if we were stuck eating microwavable mac and cheese instead of snails — things were about to get worse. And that’s because almost as soon as Kevin’s family headed off to the airport, a couple of bad guys — who called themselves the Wet Bandits — started plotting how they could rob the McCallister house while they thought everyone was away on vacation.


Now, when Kevin realizes that these crooks are casing his house, he goes into defense mode. And he comes up with some pretty elaborate plans to keep the Wet Bandits from robbing his home. But what else was he supposed to do, right? His family was over 4,000 miles away and a winter storm had knocked down all the phone lines so he couldn’t call for help. So he had to take matters into his own hands to keep these goons from ruining Christmas.


Between heating up door knobs, slinging around paint cans, and wielding his brother Buzz’s tarantula, Kevin managed to inflict some hilarious harm on the Wet Bandits. But the bad guys kept coming back for more, determined to get inside the McCallister house. 


The stakes couldn’t have been higher. Kevin was alone and afraid, and he was facing a terrifying threat that no 8-year-old should have to face. So he needed nothing short of a miracle to survive his holiday home alone. 


But if there was ever a person who didn't deserve a miracle, it was probably Kevin McCallister. I mean, let’s be honest – there was a reason why Kevin ended up missing his family’s flight to France. The night before their big trip, Kevin had an epic meltdown during dinner just because he couldn’t believe that his older brother ate the last slice of cheese pizza. So he got in a fight with Buzz, which caused drinks to spill, which caused an airline ticket to accidentally end up in the trash.


After his outburst, Kevin got sent to bed early. But because he was upset about having to share a bed with one of his younger cousins, he ended up sleeping in the attic all alone. And right before he goes stomping up the attic stairs, Kevin’s mom breaks out one of those all-time famous mom lines. She tells him, “I don't want to see you again for the rest of the night.”


And Kevin, in true smart-aleck form responds, “I don't want to see you again for the rest of my whole life. And I don't want to see anybody else either.”


And Kevin gets his wish. When the family woke up the next morning and had to go racing out of their house to make it to the airport, Kevin was still sound asleep in the attic all by himself.


So based on the way that Kevin acted in the opening scenes of the movie Home Alone, he didn’t deserve a miracle. But a miracle is exactly what Kevin McCallister got. Despite not really deserving it based on his actions, Kevin’s family made it back home to Chicago on Christmas morning. And in spite of the grief he caused them, they were thrilled to see Kevin safe and sound. 


Now, you might be wondering why I’ve spent the first few minutes of our time together on New Year’s Eve talking about what happens to Kevin McCallister in a Christmas movie. 


Well, even though Christmas Day has officially come and gone for another year, we’ve all found ourselves in a situation like Kevin’s. Now, I don’t mean that we’ve literally had to fight off bad guys with the stuff we could find in a toy box. What I mean is that we’ve all had moments where we needed a miracle.

We’ve all had moments where we’ve needed a miracle.

Which is just a fancy way of saying that we’ve all had moments when we’ve needed God to reach down into our lives. But even though we’ve all had moments where we’ve needed God to reach into our lives, we’ve also all had moments where we’ve felt like we didn’t deserve a miracle. We’ve all had moments where we’ve felt like we didn’t deserve to have God reach down into our lives.


And this reminds me of the way that some of the characters we meet in the Christmas story felt about themselves. And, remember, over the last few weeks at Melbourne Heights we’ve been working our way through a series of sermons called “The Characters of Christmas.” And each week during this series, we’ve been looking past the figurines we find in our nativity sets and taking a closer look at the real people we meet in the Christmas story to see how the first Christmas changed their lives so we can understand how Christmas changes our lives.


And, believe it or not, Kevin’s story actually reminds me of some of the most overlooked characters in the entire Christmas story. So which characters from the Christmas story does Kevin McCallister remind me of? Well, he’s actually a lot like the shepherds who were watching over their flocks by night when an angel of the Lord appeared to them.


Now I know that the first image that pops into your head when you think about the shepherds probably isn't a kid trying to protect his house from a couple of bad guys. When you think of shepherds, you probably think of a bunch of young men out in the fields protecting their flocks from wolves. When you think of the shepherds you probably don't think of a kid breaking out Micromachines and Christmas ornaments to fight off home invaders. When you think of shepherds you probably think of a kid using a slingshot and stones to fight off the biggest warrior in an invading army when David fought Goliath. But believe it or not, the shepherds and Kevin McCallister actually have a lot in common.


You see, if there was ever a group that needed a miracle, it was the shepherds. Shepherding was once a noble occupation for the people of Israel, a calling passed down from the fathers of their faith. Everyone from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob all the way down to Moses had been shepherds...but something happened to this once proud profession while the people of Israel were enslaved in Egypt. Egypt was an agrarian culture that saw shepherding as a waste of good land that could be used to produce better foods. So shepherds were forced down the social ladder of the ancient world and forced into the far corners of every culture around.


And that's exactly where the shepherds found themselves that “cold winter's night that was so deep.” They found themselves lying in the fields, keeping their sheep far from the minds of practically everyone else in Israel. As a matter of fact, the only time that most people were even aware of the existence of these shepherds was when the shepherds led their flocks onto someone else's land to graze, forgetting the distinction between mine and yours. This dishonest streak in shepherds caused a Jewish legal stance that forbid buying wool, milk, or a kid – as in a baby sheep or goat, not a human child – from a shepherd on the assumption that it was stolen property.


But the shepherds didn’t need a miracle that would simply save Christmas like Kevin McCallister did. The shepherds needed a miracle that would save them. They needed a miracle that would bring them some hope, in a world that could care less if they even existed. They needed a miracle that would bring them some peace, in a culture that treated them with contempt and from a profession that led them into danger. They needed a miracle that would bring them some love, in a time where they were hated simply because of their profession. They needed a miracle that would bring them joy, in a life that offered them little to be happy about.


But if there was ever a group of people who did not deserve a Christmas miracle it was the shepherds. The shepherds were less than nobody. They were crooks and criminals living on the fringes of society. They were denied basic rights and treated as less than human. Or to put it another way, there were so many other people who deserved a miracle more than the shepherds did. There were kings and queens, emperors and rulers that were more worthy of a miracle. There were religious leaders and devout priests who deserved a miracle more than the shepherds. There were wealthy wise men in the east, elderly men and women gathered in the temple, and even a young family preparing to welcome a child who had the right to a miracle instead of these shepherds.


But a miracle is exactly what these shepherds received as they were out in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. So let me show you what happened. If you’ve got a Bible close by or a Bible app on your phone, go ahead and open it to Luke 2. Luke 2. And, as you’re finding it, let me just remind you that the book of Luke is essentially a biography of Jesus. So let’s take a look at Luke 2, and see what happens to the shepherds the night Jesus was born. We’ll start reading in verse 9, which says:


9 The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.


10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, 14 “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”


Luke 2:9-14 (Common English Bible)


So what gives? How is it that a bunch of rag-tag misfits living on the fringes of society are the very first people to find out that Jesus Christ was born? I mean it's one thing for a a kid like Kevin McCallister to be granted a Christmas miracle by the folks who wrote the screenplay for Home Alone. But it's another thing altogether for these shepherds, who were on the bottom rung of Israel's cultural ladder, to be the first to hear that God had become human.


Surely Luke got it wrong. Surely the angels showed up in the palaces of Rome to announce the arrival of the newborn king first. Surely messengers were on their way to all of Rome's various governors to tell them about Jesus’ birth long before the angels appeared to the shepherds. Surely the religious leaders were already out shopping for gifts off of baby Jesus' registry at Target while the shepherds were still busy watching over their flocks. I mean, it just doesn't make sense that God would tell these shepherds before God told everyone else.


I mean, that's how we would’ve done it, right? When Ashley and I were announcing the future arrival of our daughter, we went out and shared the good news with our family and friends. We shared it with church members and on social media. But we didn't walk up to the busboy at Cracker Barrel or the cashier at Kroger to tell them that we had a baby on the way.


But that’s exactly what God does. But why? Why are the shepherds the very first people to hear the good news that Jesus – the long-awaited Messiah – has finally arrived? Why does God share the good news with the shepherds first? 


Because the shepherds needed the good news the most. They needed to be there because they lived in a world that couldn't care less if they even existed. They needed to be there because they lived in a culture that treated them with contempt. They needed to be there because they lived in a time where they were hated simply because of their profession. They needed to be there because they lived a life that offered them little to be happy about.


But that night when they met Jesus, it didn’t matter if the world knew they existed…because God knew they did. On that night, it didn’t matter if everyone else treated them with contempt…because God treated them like honored guests. On that night it didn’t matter if the rest of the world hated them…because God showed them how much he loved them. And on that night it didn’t matter if they had anything to be happy about…because the shepherds were there when joy came to this world.


On that night there may not have been anyone in all of Israel that needed to be at baby Jesus’ side more than the shepherds. And there may not be any other person in the nativity scene that we need to be there more than the shepherds.


Because when God invited the shepherds to be the first ones to see his son, God delivered the greatest promise of Christmas. When God invited the shepherds—people that didn’t belong in the rest of the world—God declared that we all belong. Christmas shows us that we belong.

Christmas shows us that we belong.

And that means that you belong. You belong. God didn’t just come for kings and queens. God came for you. God didn’t just come for priests and pastors. God came for you. God didn’t just come for wise men and angels. God came for you.


And that’s what Christmas is really all about. Christmas reminds us that God loves you enough to come into this world and become one of us. God loved you enough to experience all the ups and downs, and joys and sorrows in this life, so that God can really understand what it’s like to be you. God loved you enough to experience the worst that humanity has to offer—when Jesus was crucified on that cross—so that God could forgive you of anything and everything that separates you from him.


And God did it all because God wants you to belong to him. So even though Christmas has come and gone for another year, I hope you never forget what Christmas is about. It’s about how much God loves you.


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