A daily, Bible-based perspective of hope, encouragement and exhortation.
Thursday, December 24, 2020
Nativity scene in Willow Street, PA two years ago.
(The innkeeper is Joe Sherer, the pastor of the church and a longtime friend of ours.)
"Shepherds and Garbage Collectors"
Message summary: Whenever you may question your worth remember who received the first announcement following Christ's birth; the lowly, unesteemed shepherds. Or if it helps you, place it in a modern context, and consider the message being to the garbage collectors!
Listen to this message on your audio player.
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night" (Luke 2:8).
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
We are blessed with some faithful, conscientious, and hard-working garbage collectors (sanitation engineers, is the more sophisticated title). In our neighborhood we set our trash out the night before collection day. Several weeks ago it was still dark when we left for work and as we pulled out of the drive we noticed a critter had gotten into a bag and scattered garbage around. We were on a timeline for work so I figured I would have a mess when I got home unless Ester got to it first. After questioning Ester as to whether she did the clean up when we got home we learned she did not, but the area was all cleaned up! This morning I had wanted to greet them with an early morning Christmas thanks and gift but they had already been through.
Garbage collection is mundane but necessary. Day after day these men (and I suppose some women) get up very early to make a valuable contribution to all of us. Last week we had a storm and collection was postponed one week. So they had an extra hard day today. After two weeks I placed six kitchen sized bags and two recycle bins out by the road last night. I am not sure how they took care of trash in the Bible times. But they surely didn't have as much!
Most wouldn't consider garbage collectors having a desirable job let alone a prestigious one. That's the way it was for shepherds in Bible times. Randy Alcorn writes,
"In Christís day, shepherds stood on the bottom rung of the Palestinian social ladder. They shared the same unenviable status as tax collectors and dung sweepers. As we gaze on nativity scenes and smile at those gunnysack shepherds, letís not lose sight of the striking irony. A handful of shepherds, marginalized by the social and religious elite, were chosen to break the silence of centuries, heralding Messiahís birth."
Indeed it was shepherds who received the very first angelic pronouncement of the birth of Christ in one of the best known Christmas passages in Luke 2. To put the story in a modern setting it would be like the angels appearing to the trash collectors in the dark early morning hours as they went about their work!
The shepherds were just going about their duties, "keeping watch over their flocks at night" when they heard a startling angelic announcement: "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. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:10-12).
It's interesting that the shepherds are the ones chosen to witness the heavenly announcement of Christís birth and the very first to see the infant child apart from Mary and Joseph.
Let's examine two elements of the angel's message to the shepherds that can greatly encourage each of us:
1) The message was for "all the people". "I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people." If you have ever wondered if you are included this should settle it!
2) The message was personalized just for the shepherds "for you". "For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." What a blessing that we can correctly speak of having a personal Savior, that He came and He died for my sins!
Whenever you may question your worth remember who received the first announcement following Christ's birth; the lowly, unesteemed shepherds. Or if it helps you, place it in a modern context, and consider the message being to the garbage collectors!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, how grateful we are that You did not withhold Your only Son, but instead You gave Him up for all of us. The angels declared that glorious Christmas night Jesus came for all the people. That includes us, 2000 years later no matter our station in life, our ethnic background, or the humble setting of our lives. In fact You commissioned angels to first appear not to kings but to lowly shepherds. Jesus arrived not on a throne but in a straw, dirt and dung filled stable, covered not in royal wrap for a prince but in ragged strips of cloth, laid not in a padded cradle, but in a straw filled animal trough. I'm so thankful that Jesus entered the dark, rough and foul setting of a stable which is symbolic of the dark, rough, and foul hearts He enters everyday to those who pray, "O come to my heart, Lord Jesus! There is room in my heart for You."
Special Year-end Financial Appeal
We want to thank all who have financially supported our ministry this past year (and some for many years!). We realize there are many fine ministries and causes requesting support at this time but if the Lord would lead you we surely need and appreciate the financial support from our readers and listeners. Like many ministries, we typically see a spike in giving at the end of the year for which we are most thankful.
Our ministry labor is comprised of approximately half our time to Daily Encouragement and the other half to our chaplaincy ministry to companies for which we receive compensation. 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 would provide half of our ministry expenses and income.
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Stephen & Brooksyne
The Eve of Christmas Eve - Last night we attended a candlelight "Christmas Eve" service at our church. Well, actually it wasn't Christmas Eve but the desire is growing for people to get back into a church setting. They initially had scheduled 3 services on Christmas Eve but due to the large response they added two more services on Wednesday evening. Due to Covid every other row is left empty making it harder to seat those who want to attend.
The entire service is not posted yet but here is one of the songs: "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" Video Calvary Church Choir Director, Pastor John Frye along with Cellist Amber Bensing from our orchestra, beautifully accompany a video from "The Chosen" that highlights dramatic events of the Christmas story. This scene is especially heartening in light of today's message as the shepherds rush in to see the infant Jesus. (Video cued to scene)
This evening we will join the Lapps, at the Old Windmill Farm, for supper and a celebration of Christmas. With seven children it makes for a lively and loud setting, which will be a delightful time for all of us!
Our little Sadie Willow has been invited to the farm since her origin is from the Old Windmill Farm and after all, that's what humans do - head home for the holidays, though this time it's a canine! Ester will clothe her in her Christmas dress and the children are excited about her coming. Ester is baking homemade dog biscuits not only for Sadie and Mollie but for all the dogs on the Lapp farm - there's lots of them, including Sadie's dad, Rusty! New puppies too but they'll have to settle for Mom's milk. Ester gave Mollie a sample as she was baking since she'll be staying home for the night - she's a great dog to us but she's not so good around children.
Last night before our Christmas Eve service we stopped in to visit a few minutes with Jim and Dorothy Schmidt who live at Calvary Homes. They like so many in senior settings have been enduring nine months of lockdown in its various forms so we pray often for their safety and sanity (if you will) as they endure deprivations of visitation and getting out. Dottie sent us a video that you will thoroughly enjoy, especially if you like trains and music!
"O Come All Ye Faithful" on a Steam Train in Summerland B.C. Video
We had a nice background at church for a family photo last night!
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" Video Andrew Peterson
"Away In A Manger (Forever Amen)" Video Phil Wickham We sang this last night along with this new verse. What a powerful expression of worship!
I worship You Jesus for all of my days
The highest of praises be unto Your name
My God and my Savior my King and my Friend
Yours is the glory forever amen
Yours is the glory forever amen
Yours is the glory forever amen
"Away In a Manger" Video Selah Another version with some newer lyrics as well.
"Shepherd's Status" by Randy Alcorn (A quote from this article was used in today's message)
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 you, your family or church 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 page was first posted in 2005 soon after my Mom passed away.
Christmas Knowledge Test
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLEģ, 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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