Welcome to the Christmas week.  It is such a special time of the year.  If you stop and think about it, God entering earth in the form of a baby is still impacting the world.  During this Christmas season, people genuinely want to give and help others.  People are filled with an unusual joy.  There is just something exciting and refreshing about the next few days, you can feel it.  What is that all about?  Think about it for a second.  God entering earth in the form of a baby is still impacting the world.

With all the excitement and joy around Christmas, you might think it’s odd that we would talk about fear.  Sam said it well last week, this past year gave us a lot to deal with and we are still swirling in it.  I think a lot of us are dealing with some kind of fear.  And that fear can steal our courage.  It messes with how we live life.

In all of the unknown that we are walking through, we want you to focus on the words of Jesus.

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” NLT John 14:27

We started walking through the Christmas story and we read about Mary.  After Gabriel told her the most stunning news of being pregnant with the Son of God, Mary began to feel the fear of not being enough for what was about to happen.  What did she do?  Mary, this 12 or 13-year-old girl, fully surrendered her life to God.  We asked you if you are facing something that is overwhelming.  Something so big you feel the fear of not being enough to walk through it.  What is it for you?  Whatever it is, we encouraged you to fully surrender your life to God.

Sam last week talked about Joseph.  Imagine what life was like for Joseph.  Sam brought out the fact that no angel visited Joseph to give him a heads up on what was about to happen.  Joseph hears it from Mary.  Mary told him that she was pregnant and God did it.  Ya right Mary, that’s how it always happens.  Joseph had to feel betrayed and he felt the fear the scandal of his pregnant fiancée.

My favorite part of Sam’s talk last week was how he explained what Joseph had to walk through.  It wasn’t a one-time event.  For Joseph, he had to walk through four huge moments.  Life changing moments filled with fear and questions.  Remember how Sam walked us through that?  “Hey Joseph, I want you to marry your pregnant fiancée.”  “Hey Joseph, I want you to go to Egypt now.”  “Hey Joseph, Herod is dead, you can leave Egypt and go back home now.”  “Hey Joseph, you need to move to Nazareth.”  Sam said last week, in all these huge moments, wouldn’t Joseph have more follow up questions for God?  What does Joseph do?  He obeys.  He overcomes his fear as he obeys God.

Today we talk about the shepherds.  Let’s jump into the story in Luke 2.

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 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.”  16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. NIV Luke 2:1-18

The shepherds were terrified and for good reason.

What is interesting about this story is who heaven decides to tell that Jesus, the Messiah, was born.  Heaven decides to visit nearby Shepherds.  I need to ask you, what is your mental picture of the shepherds?  Chances are you have the nativity scene at home with little wooden characters that include shepherds.  Or, you have seen Christmas cards that have shepherds around Jesus in a manger.  When you see the shepherds, you probably don’t really think too much about who they are.  They are just cute add-ons to the nativity scene.  And when you hear that angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds, you might think, it sounds normal.

We need to briefly talk about the shepherds of Jesus’ day.  They didn’t have the greatest reputation.  Shepherds in those days were known as unreliable.  So much so, they were not allowed to give testimony in a court of law.  They were known as thieves.  They would spend months away from town and they would be on their own.  No boss, no manager to keep them accountable.  Because they were alone, they would allow their sheep to wonder onto other people’s property to eat their crops.  They were known as dishonest.  So much so, people assumed, whatever they were selling, it was probably stolen.  So, everyone and anyone knew, stay away from shepherds, their outcasts, their sinners.

Now, please don’t go home and throw out your little wooden shepherds in your nativity scene, don’t do that, they were a big part of the story.  We aren’t done yet.

Think about this, who does heaven chose to announce the birth of Jesus to?  Shepherds.  Why?  They are exactly who Jesus came to save.  Outcasts.  Sinners.  The ones pushed to the side.  Heaven in this moment was sending the world a message that night.  I have come to save you.

And notice who heaven did not announce the birth the Jesus to that night?  The religious people who thought highly of themselves.

Back to the story, imagine being a shepherd.  It’s a peaceful night like every night.  You have never been to New York City.  You have never seen July 4th fireworks.  It’s finally dark, it’s finally time to chill out from the day.  And suddenly, heaven opens-up and the sky is filled with angelic beings.  You are now experiencing the glory of God as angles sing.  It’s unexpected and it’s terrifying.  You have no context for this moment.   You are not prepared for this.  What was their fear?  The sudden and radical change from a peaceful night to experiencing the glory of God.

Let me ask you.  Have you felt the fear of a sudden change?  Job change?  Health change?  Financial change?  Relationship change?  Maybe, something happened and it’s not something you can control.  Maybe, something happened and it wasn’t fair.  And because of this sudden change, life now will forever be different.  You have lost control and fear grips your heart.

What did the shepherds do?  “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  They ran to see Jesus.

When you experience the fear of sudden change, the best thing you can do is run to see Jesus.

Have you experienced a sudden change?  You certainly didn’t expect it.  You weren’t prepared for it.  It comes out of nowhere.  And maybe it wasn’t even fair.

What did you do?  Did you run to Jesus?  If you haven’t, this fear of sudden change can cause tremendous worry and stress.  If you don’t deal with it properly, this fear can grow.

What did you do?  Did you first run to friends and facebook to share your thoughts and maybe complain?  How did that work out for you?  I bet it briefly felt better but it didn’t help your heart and you are still holding on to that fear.  Did you run to too much alcohol or eating?  Those things don’t help.  They might help you temporarily ignore the fear while at the same time doing nothing for your heart.  Did you tap out of life?  That means you pull back from relationships and family and get lost in something else so you don’t have to deal with the fear.  Again, that doesn’t help your heart.

Just real fast, I didn’t say any of those things are wrong.  Friends, food, taking time to pull away?  No.  However, they aren’t what you run to first because they don’t fix the fear, they only temporarily cover up the fear.  When we feel the fear of sudden change, we need to run to Jesus first.  If we don’t, that fear will continue to control us.  We may panic.  We may stress.  We may loop in what it could all mean and all the possible bad outcomes.  Please hear me, if the fear doesn’t get dealt with, it will grow.

So what does it look like to run to Jesus first?  I want to read what King David wrote.  As a king for around 40 years, David dealt with a lot of sudden change and fear from his enemies.  This is what David wrote.

15 The Lord gazes down upon mankind from heaven where he lives. He has made their hearts and closely watches everything they do.

16-17 The best-equipped army cannot save a king – for great strength is not enough to save anyone. A war horse is a poor risk for winning victories – it is strong, but it cannot save.

18-19 But the eyes of the Lord are watching over those who fear him, who rely upon his steady love. He will keep them from death even in times of famine! 20 We depend upon the Lord alone to save us. Only he can help us; he protects us like a shield. 21 No wonder we are happy in the Lord! For we are trusting him. We trust his holy name. 22 Yes, Lord, let your constant love surround us, for our hopes are in you alone. TLB Psalms 33:15-22

David is sharing something huge here.  He is the leader, the king of Israel.  Every country around Israel wants to take Israel out.  If you are the king and your country is being threatened, what do you look to for strength and security?  The normal answer would be, your army, your war horses.  David looks over his years of experience and says, ‘No.’  ‘Don’t do it.  Don’t look to your army as your source of strength and security.  Look to God and God alone.’  And I think David understood this because he was the shepherd boy who faced down the warrior giant – right?  He didn’t need an army, he just needed God and five smooth stones.

What’s the point?  When you feel the fear of sudden change and you feel completely out of control, run to Jesus first.  The place where you will find strength and security is Jesus.  Feeling the fear of sudden change and running first to friends, facebook, drinking, eating, or tapping out in life are not good options at all.

If David was here and we have a question and answer time with him, I think David would say, ‘No, don’t do it.  In all my years of King, the biggest mistake you could make is rely on what you think is the obvious solution, like an army.  There is one thing that you should do in your worst moments of fear.  Run to God for your source of strength and security.’

I want to close today and I hope you remember the story of the Shepherds.  They were the outcasts, the sinners, the ones people stayed away from.  And who does heaven announce the birth of Jesus to?  The very people Jesus came to save.  The shepherds.  As heaven announces the birth in a spectacular way, the shepherds are terrified.  What did they do?  They ran to see Jesus.

What does it mean for us to run to Jesus?  The quick and obvious answer would be to immediately run to Jesus in prayer.  The less quick and obvious answer is to live in a way that you put your trust in God, not your army or war horses.  For relief, you don’t run first to friends, facebook, food or checking out.  You first run to Jesus which means you live a life where you first put your trust in God.  We don’t look at what we have and what we don’t have.  Not our wealth, not your health, your 401k, your insurance, your house, who you know, your education, but Jesus.

Do you remember what Jesus said?

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” NLT John 14:27

That gift can only be given to you when you run to Jesus first.