Monthly Archives: December 2019

“Shepherds Have Heard on High!”

I was privileged to teach adult Sunday school at Eastside Presbyterian Church on Sunday, December 15, 2019.  If you would like to read my notes from this Christmas series, “Shepherds Have Heard on High!” please read on. . . .

“Shepherds Have Heard on High!”

By Bob Stouffer

Adult Sunday School

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Sunday, December 15, 2019

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

Sunday school will not meet for the next two Sundays — December 22 and December 29.

 

On January 5th, we will begin a new adult Sunday school study — Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need, by David Platt, the author of Radical.

 

Each week will feature a short video by David Platt and study questions in response to that material.  [We played the trailer of this video series.]

 

INTRODUCTION TO TODAY’S LESSON

 

But, today, we again consider the Christmas narrative.

 

On December 1st and December 8th, Jeremy presented the narrative from the perspectives of Mary and Joseph.

 

Today, we consider another unique set of characters from the Christmas narrative —

 

The shepherds

 

In what esteem were shepherds considered in Jesus’ time?

 

Unclean, ignorant, inarticulate, POOR

 

What do shepherds herd?

 

Sheep, of course!

 

What do you know about the intelligence of sheep?

 

Dumb, dumb, dumb! Hold that thought!

 

Have you ever heard of the severe discipline imposed by shepherds on extremely disobedient sheep?

 

Shepherds broke a leg of the sheep, carried that sheep everywhere until the leg was healed, and by then the sheep had become dependent upon the shepherd, following him everywhere.

 

In spite of the low reputation of shepherds and sheep, shepherds did have an important responsibility near Jerusalem.

 

They herded the sheep which would be used as sacrifices for sin. Hold that thought.

 

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE

(the Christmas narrative involving shepherds)

 

Would someone please read Luke 2:8-20.

 

In my Bible, this section is entitled. . .

The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[a]

 

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 

Footnote:

 

[a] Luke 2:14 Some manuscripts peace, good will among men

 

DISCUSSION

 

Why in the world would God make lowly shepherds such prominent participants in the Christmas story?

 

Jesus came TO ALL, including the poor, disenfranchised, unclean. It makes perfect sense that God would direct angels to announce Jesus’ birth to shepherds. Christ was born UNTO THEM!

 

Jesus came to ALL. ALL — not just shepherds — we are ALL poor in spirit” due to sin.

 

Jesus was rich in heaven, but, for their sake, He became poor, so that, by His poverty, they might become rich. [Russ Ramsey]

 

How would you react to angels visiting you and making this pronouncement?

 

Same fear, confusion, bewilderment, disorientation

 

I might have thought I was delusional!

 

What would you have been thinking and feeling, if you had approached the manger in that stable?

 

Fear, humility, awe, joy

 

One devotional author calls shepherds “the first evangelists.” How so?

 

They went out from the stable to share the testimonies of their experience. And their genuine worship must have impacted others around them.

 

The Scriptures are replete with shepherding metaphors.

 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (Psalm 23).

 

Jesus said, “I am the Great Shepherd.”

 

Why or how is Jesus “the Great Shepherd”?

 

He never leaves nor forsakes us. His Spirit indwells us. He leads us when we are willing to follow. We know His “voice.”

 

In the Parable of the Lost Sheep, he leaves the 99 to go after the ONE lost sheep!

 

How is the physical breaking and chastening of the actual sheep a good metaphor for us as sheep and Jesus as The Great Shepherd?

 

We must depend upon Him, His strength, His Power — following His will!

 

As His sheep, how should we respond to the Great Shepherd?

 

Obediently following where He leads us, no matter how mysterious

 

CONCLUSION — THE GOSPEL

 

Jesus is the Great Shepherd. AMAZINGLY, also, John the Baptist declared Jesus to be “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

 

God’s original Creation was perfect —>

 

Adam and Eve committed Original Sin —>

 

The sin problem demanded thousands of animal, grain, and oil sacrifices —>

 

The ultimate sacrifice became JESUS born as a baby —>

 

JESUS, living a sinless life —>

 

JESUS, suffering the wrath of God and separation from God on the cross —>

 

JESUS, dying a substitutionary death for you and me —>

 

JESUS, CONQUERING DEATH, so we might know everlasting life WITH HIM!!!

 

JESUS, the sacrificial lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

 

The Great Shepherd who will one day lead us to still waters!

 

Rhetorical question: How will you — like the shepherds — approach and walk away from “his manger” during your Christmas celebration this year?

 

SINGING

 

Andrew Peterson sings a song featuring shepherds in a 2019 Christmas collection. (3:08)

 

“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”

 

But, to close, let’s sing two other familiar Christmas songs featuring shepherds.

 

Before we do, let’s “meditate” on the words of these familiar songs.

 

A week ago, my boss confessed his inconsistency in meditating on biblical truth.

 

Meditation can take a bad rap.

 

Believe it or not, my home state, Iowa, is a center for Transcendental Meditation (Maharishi International University).

 

Some think meditation is mystical. Yes, meditation can become too mystically centered on meditation itself, rather than God, but meditation is a good practice when focused on God and His truth.

 

Before singing each of these songs, let’s not take these familiar phrases for granted. Let’s be silent and meditate on the impactful phrases of “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

 

[Meditation]

 

In “Angels We Have Heard on High,” what phrases stand out for you?

 

[Take quick responses.]

 

Let’s sing “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

 

Let’s meditate on key phrases from “Joy to the World!”

 

[Meditation]

 

What phrases stand out for you in “Joy to the World!”

 

[Take quick responses.]

 

Let’s sing “Joy to the World!”

 

CLOSING PRAYER

 

“Please grant me the grace, fairest Lord Jesus, that someday. I might experience a spilling of heaven’s glory on the fields over which I watch. Grant me an echo of some angelic song amid the monotones of my day-to-day work. And grant me a heart to behold heavenly things in the humblest of places. . . .” [Ken Gire]

“We Long for the Shalom Jesus Brings!”

During High School Chapel at Southside Christian School on Thursday, December 12, 2019, Pastor Colin Urbanick offered very encouraging and appropriate words at Christmastime in his chapel message, “We Long for the Shalom Jesus Brings!”  If you would like to consider my summary of Pastor Colin’s message, please read on. . . .

“We Long for the Shalom Jesus Brings!”

By Pastor Colin Urbanick, Campus Pastor / Director of Discipleship

Southside Christian School

High School Chapel

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Summary of Dr. Bob Stouffer, High School Principal (All mistakes are mine alone.)

Brett Hutchinson, High School French Instructor (vocals and guitar), senior Lauren McCann (vocals), junior Rebecca Rinkliff (vocals), senior Justin Harms (keyboard), and freshman Eli Wayne (percussion) served as lead worshippers for a music set which featured Christmas songs.  

Chaplains William DeVaney (’20, Student Body Chaplain), Kelson Penwell (’23), and Josh Mackey (’20) read Scripture interspersed with the musical numbers.

Pastor Colin delivered the morning chapel message.

Don’t disconnect this morning.

This is one of my favorite topics.

When I was 21, I interned at a church, where I ultimately served as a Pastor with my friend Tim.  I worked with fourth graders during this internship.  It’s an age I don’t fully understand.  At a retreat, the kids were wild.  Tim and I decided to kick down the door and scream at the kids.  I’m not sure what possessed us to do so.  We really “got” those kids.  It was great.  One kid was homesick.  He longed to go home.

That kind of longing relates to “nostalgia.”  Smells, songs, and memories create sensations — an affection for things in our past.

I’m going home for Christmas.  It’s a longing I have.  This [a projected photograph] is my childhood home, where my parents have lived for 26 years.  I am extremely nostalgic about our Christmas trip this year, because my parents are moving, and this will be my last time celebrating Christmas in this place.

Christmas can be about busyness and commercialism.  Why are we celebrating Christmas?

I believe it’s because we long for peace.

Luke talks about the peace of Christmastime in his Gospel:  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (2:14)

Look at the news — school shootings, political divisions, people screaming and yelling at each other, gossip, divorce, brokenness, pandemics — anything but peace.

We all long for peace on earth.  But we do a bad job.

Jesus came to bring peace — SHALOM.

Shalom is a “unity, oneness, complete lacking in nothing.”

Luke 2:14 confirms that Jesus came to bring shalom to earth.

Think about Revelation 21:1-6.

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Footnotes:

[a] Revelation 21:3 Or tabernacle

[b] Revelation 21:3 Some manuscripts peoples

[c] Revelation 21:3 Some manuscripts omit as their God

This vision is what we all long for — shalom!

Jesus started this  work when he was born!

I want to make three points about shalom this morning.

#1, Shalom is resting in the created order.  At the time the Bible was written, the seas were chaotic.  That’s not shalom.  In Genesis, God brought order out of chaos.

#2, Shalom is unity with one another.  People don’t do relationships well.  There is brokenness between people.  Jesus came to earth to bring unity to disunity among us.  One day, He will bring people together in a big city.  He will bring unity and healing.  Everyone will invest in ALL others.

#3, Shalom brings unity between us and God.  You have not done too much, said too much, or thought too much [of a sinful nature] that you can’t come into unity with God.  Divorce is horrible.  My friend’s parent’s divorced.  Here [a projected photograph] is that family.  Jesus reunites people.  He will dwell WITH His people.  That’s amazing news!  My friend’s parents got married again — and became one.

We long for that restoration.

God wants to restore a world under a curse.

We have the responsibility for shalom.  We are “shalom-bringers.”  We must bring order to chaos.

You may be in disorder now.  Lean into the person of Jesus.  Lean into the presence of peace.

“A Church for God’s Mission”

Southside Christian High School small groups met from 9:40-10:20 a.m. on Thursday, December 5, 2019.  If you would like to consider their same points of discussion — parents, especially, who can engage their children with these questions — please read on. . . 

“A Church For God’s Mission”

Small Group Questions Developed by Pastor Colin Urbanick, Campus Pastor and Director of Discipleship

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Thursday, December 5, 2019
Ephesians 3:1-13

1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is[a] that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[b] God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Footnotes:

  1. Ephesians 3:6 The words This mystery is are inferred from verse 4
  2. Ephesians 3:9 Or by

Starting Off:

1. Highlights/lowlights since we last met?
2. How was Thanksgiving? Does your family have any weird Thanksgiving traditions?
3. How would you describe your Thanksgiving in one word?
4. What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
Discover (Head):

1. Read Ephesians 3:1-13 out loud together.
a. How would you put this passage in your own words?
b. What does this passage say about God and what He’s done?
c. What do these verses tell us about Paul — how he viewed himself and his work?
d. What do these verses tell us about who we are as the Church and how we ought to live?
Nurture (Heart):

1. In this passage, Paul talks about the privilege and honor it is to make the mystery of the gospel known to the people who are “far off.”  Does it feel the same way for you? Does carrying this message feel like a privilege to you?
2. What might make you hesitate to share the Gospel? Take time to brainstorm these hesitancies.
3. Are these hesitancies legitimate? What ways can you as a group speak into these hesitancies?
Act (Hands):

1. In v. 7-13, Paul talks about the role of the church, encouraging them to be bold, confident, and persistent to make God known to the world.
a. How can our small group embrace this calling better?
b. How can you be bold in making the grace of God known?
c. How can this message of Ephesians be for your friends?