The online Bible teaching ministry of Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
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Tuesday, December 20, 2016
We pass this quaint old farmhouse in rural Lebanon County. Brooksyne said it looks like a house where Grandma and Grandpa have decorated and are waiting for the children and grandchildren to come home during the Christmas holidays.
Message Summary: This week we are considering a singular portion of Scripture that is at the heart of the Christmas Gospel. Today let us consider the very first part of the message of the angel to the shepherds, "Do not be afraid".
Listen to this message on your audio player.
"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:10-12).
While shepherds watched their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around, and glory shone around
What events can you recall in your life that caused you acute fear? By this I mean a fear that startles you, that is immediate, and normally short in duration but can leave you breathless at the time.
An event that comes to my mind happened about 30 years ago when I was with a friend, Tom Schatz, taking down some large trees on our church property in northern Pennsylvania. Tom was a capable woodsman but one tree felled the wrong way and onto a high voltage transmission line resulting in the loudest boom I've ever heard. We were both very startled but were unhurt, although due to the electricity grounding through the tree, we could have been killed.
Just over five years ago Brooksyne was driving our '99 Town & Country van when a car rammed into it from behind (the driver was texting) pushing her vehicle into the oncoming lane which left her and Ester totally defenseless. As a black Cherokee was coming at 40 MPH toward them Brooksyne had only a couple seconds to fearfully cry out, "Jesus!" The 18 year old driver swerved into a resident's front yard avoiding a head on collision with our van, though her side mirror grazed the driver's door of the van. Angels, though invisible, were surely sent to protect Brooksyne, Ester and the oncoming driver as they were saved from a potentially fatal accident.
In our text today we read of an angel that was commissioned not as a protective guardian but as a heavenly messenger to the lowly shepherds: "In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened" (Luke 2:8,9).
Shepherds were the first profession mentioned in the Bible, "Abel was a keeper of sheep" (Genesis 4:2). Interestingly, this first shepherd was also the first blood sacrifice!
The source of the shepherds' fear was two-fold:
1) "An angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them." Their silent and dark night was pierced by a brilliant light radiating from the visiting angel.
2) "and the glory of the Lord shone around them." Just as they're trying to grasp the reality of being visited by a heavenly messenger they suddenly encountered the Shekinah glory of God.
This is a passage many of us have read and heard since we were children and many will recall the KJV rendering "sore afraid". In its simplest understanding this could be understood that their fear actually hurt them physically making them "sore". Other versions state "filled with great fear", "terror-stricken", "absolutely terrified" (see here for a nifty comparison of many versions).
We can only imagine the fear of this moment. In the stillness of the dark night, the angel appeared unto the shepherds, revealing the glory of the Lord. It seems very unlikely that these men had ever encountered such an event and were unsure what was about to transpire. Fear was a natural and understandable response to such an amazing encounter.
On the plain physical level the shepherds were fearful at what surely was a most unusual phenomenon. Sensing their fear, the angel responded with words of comfort to them, "Do not be afraid", seeking to calm their fears before he shared the best good news in all of history. I wonder how this angel was selected, out of all the heavenly host, to convey the good news of Christ's birth to the common people on earth? Prior to this passage Luke records two other instances of a message by the angel to fearful humans: "Fear not, Zacharias" (Luke 1:13) and "Fear not, Mary" (Luke 1:30).
The angel didn't just state "Do not be afraid" and then disappear into heaven, but he gave the first Gospel announcement following Christ's birth which has been referred to as "The Christmas Gospel".
The shepherds were the first to hear the Christmas Gospel!
The shepherds were the first to believe the Christmas Gospel!
The shepherds were the first to proclaim the Christmas Gospel!
"So we have Royalty clothed in rags; Majesty emerging in the midst of the mundane; Eternity stepping into time; and the most prominent event of all human history being noticed by no one but…a handful of outcasts." *
"Fear not," he said, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind, to you and all mankind."
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we rejoice in the message conveyed to the frightened shepherds that Christmas night over 2000 years ago. The good news announced by the angel was not only for the shepherds but for "all people", that a Saviour was born to us that would redeem us from our sins. Like the shepherds, may we hear this message, believe this message, and proclaim this gospel message to all people for all time to prepare them for all eternity. Amen.
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Stephen & Brooksyne
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
* I found this quote on an online sermon that didn't include the author!
"While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" Video I, Brooksyne, hope you will listen to this delightful arrangement of a traditional Christmas carol written in the 1600's. We selected it because V. 2 especially affirms today's message: In the spring of the year, the lambing season, shepherds in ancient times would sit all night beside their flocks, watching for wolves or other dangers and even feeding orphan lambs with milk on a soaked rag..... It would be natural for these humble men to be fearful, not only for themselves but also for their flock, when the brilliant light and the voices of the angels pierced the silent night. But with what wonder and exultation they must have heard the astounding news! Are we surprised that they forgot their duty to their flocks and hastened joyfully, though perhaps doubtfully, to see the Holy Babe in the manger with their own eyes? This clearly written, colorful narrative of the angels' announcement to the shepherds was written by Nahum Tate, the son of an Irish clergyman. Educated in Trinity College, Dublin, he was appointed Poet Laureate of England .....No doubt the popularity of this carol has been enhanced by the tuneful melody, which has been adapted from a work by master composter George Frederick Handel, most famous for his masterpiece work, "Handel's Messiah"!-
Hymn background taken from "Amazing Grace" by Kenneth W. Osbeck
Regarding our photo yesterday of Mervin and Lois who bake cookies together to share with others. Brian writes, "I love your mention of the couple that bakes cookies together. We know a retired school administrator from a suburban Rochester district who is known as 'The Bread Man'. He used to bake small loaves of bread to spread kindness and love to his staff. Once he started he continued to this day (in retirement) and has baked 80,000 loaves and does talks to school groups, seniors, etc. He demonstrates God's love and grace with each loaf he bakes."
Resources for Christmas Celebrations
(We will leave these resources posted below our daily messages through Christmas)
Each year we share several online resources that we have used over the years and that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season.
"In Remembrance of Me" pdf This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services over the years. We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling. Here's a great Communion Hymn for Christmas (Video)
"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with and love the tune.
Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18 pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him" pdf
My First Christmas In Heaven This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year. This is the poem that Brooksyne read and wrote about in this message.
Christmas Knowledge Test
We have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down).
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We want to thank all who financially support our ministry. We realize there are many fine ministries and causes requesting support but if the Lord would lead you we surely need and appreciate the financial support from our readers and listeners. Our ministry labor is comprised of half our time to Daily Encouragement and the other half to our chaplaincy ministry to companies for which we receive a fee (of course this percentage of time varies week by week). Each of these ministries essentially is the same as a part-time job (20+ hours weekly) for each of us. Our goal for many years is that each phase would provide half of our ministry expenses and income. If you would like to make a donation to our ministry see here for more information. Donations through my chaplaincy endorsing ministry are tax deductible and will be receipted directly by them. Thank you!
Please Note: Our chaplain agency is unable to provide a receipt if the donation is made through PayPal. However we provide this option due to the convenience, international supporters, and for those who may not be concerned regarding receiving an official receipt. Click here to donate using PayPal.
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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