A Linus and the Shepherds Christmas

Rev. Dr. Richard Meyer

 

DECEMBER 24, 2014

            

            Im sure you have seen A Charlie Brown Christmas special.  Charlie Brown is feeling depressed due to the over-commercialization of Christmas.  His little sister Sally has written to Santa Claus asking for cash, and his beagle Snoopy has decked out his doghouse in the hope of winning a Christmas decorations contest. Lucy recommends that he direct the school's Christmas pageant in order to lift his spirits.

            Charlie Brown arrives at the rehearsals, but try as he might, he cannot seem to get control of the situation as the uncooperative kids are more interested in modernizing the play with dancing and lively music. Charlie Brown, on the other hand, is determined not to let the play become commercial and to focus on the traditional side of the story.

            Thinking the play requires "the proper mood", Charlie Brown decides they need a Christmas tree, so Lucy dispatches Charlie Brown to go get a "big, shiny aluminum tree". Accompanied by Linus, Charlie Brown heads off to the Christmas tree lot and finds a small baby tree which is the only real tree on the lot. Linus is not sure about Charlie Brown's choice, but Charlie Brown is convinced that after decorating it, it will be just right for the play.

            When they come back to the auditorium Charlie Brown says, Were back.

            The kids gather around, astounded at the sad little tree.

            Violet says, Boy, are you stupid, Charlie Brown.

            Patty asks, What kind of a tree is that?

            Lucy says, You were supposed to get a good tree. Can't you even tell a good tree from a poor tree?  She says, You've been dumb before, Charlie Brown. But this time, you really did it.

            Charlie Brown turns to Linus and says, I guess you were right. I shouldn't have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don't know what Christmas is all about.  Then he asks Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

            Linus says, Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about’” and he walks to center stage, dragging his blanket and says, Lights, please.The auditorium lights dim and a spot shines on Linus, and he recites the familiar Christmas story from Lukes Gospel,

 

            In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night.  Then an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for see - I am bringing you news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on each peace among those whom he favors!

 

            As you may remember, in Jesusday shepherds were not high on society's pecking order even though their livelihood was vital to the economy. The wool and meat from the sheep were essential. And yet like so many of the people involved in essential services today, they were looked down upon. They were like the trash collectors or sanitation workers or the cleanup crews of their day. Nobody ever took the time to get to know them. And because their job smelled, most people thought they did, too.

            They were looked upon as untrustworthy and thought of more like we think of griftersor gypsies,and worst of all, they were unclean. It was just a blanket statement about all shepherds, no matter how faithful or how deeply committed to serving God they happened to be. They were unclean by virtue of the job they performed.

            You may be asking, So what? What difference does that make?" I just think its interesting that God chose the last in society, the Shepherds, to be the first to know.  Of course, something similar would happen again at the end of Jesus' life.  Women were definitely second class citizens in Jesusday and to whom does the Risen Lord first appear? Yep, women.

            And like the women on Easter Sunday, the shepherds were ready to hear some good news. What they needed most was hope and faith. When they received that message of hope, they dropped everything to see this new born baby lying in a manger. They rejoiced and they couldn't wait to tell anyone who would listen.

            Lets fast forward to today, to a modern day shepherd.  He lived in New Mexico, and he related that in the sheep country of New Mexico, the shepherds were having trouble with losing lambs in the late winter and early spring.

            It seems the ewes would take their lambs out to graze, and late in the day it would start to snow. The temperature would drop, and the ewes would continue grazing. The lambs would lie down on the frozen ground and before long would freeze to death.                        The shepherds got together to discuss the problem. They determined that the ewes, covered with wool, didn't feel the temperature change, and they came up with a rather unique solution. They took shears and sheared just the top of the head of the ewes. The ewes could feel the change in the weather, and head back to the barn. That solution saved many of the lambs.

            Sometimes our hearts get all warm and woolly. It's not wrong; we like that warm fuzzy feeling, But maybe, we get a bit too comfortable, a little too contented with our good fortune and the blessings of life. And when that happens we get to a point that we can't feel what others are feeling.

            Maybe the Holy Spirit needs to shear our hearts of some of that wool this Christmas Eve so that we too can feel the hurts and the pains and the needs of those around us. We need the Gods Spirit to shear the wool of our hearts so we can feel and see who needs a words of hope and encouragement.

            Of course the good news for all of us this night is that whether we identify more with the shepherds or more like the well-dressed, respectable folk in town, this birth is for all of us.  Amen.