Christmas with a Purpose: The Listening

Have you ever been tired?

I believe it is very easy to become tired in life. Especially in the Christmas Season. There is so much going on that we can quickly get warn out by the shopping, cooking, cleaning, kids, snow, work, self-centered people. Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but also it is a time when we can feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day!

By the way Christmas is 5 Days away!!!!

Don’t worry you have plenty of time to go shopping! When I was growing up I loved going to the store on Christmas Eve with my dad. Like most dad’s mine worked and found himself too busy to buy all the Christmas gifts until that Christmas Eve. I loved going to the store when there were thousands of people there all looking panicked hoping to find that perfect gift for someone. In that moment there were so many noises and voices filling the air. It can be a very tiring situation and can often leave us in a place where we stop listening to what is important. Instead of listening we begin running through life trying to get things done that we believe are the right things to do or decisions to make.

In life we get tired from the normal to-do’s, but I didn’t realize how tired my dad really must have been. At the time he was working nights. It wasn’t until I began working nights that I found out how hard and tiring that can be. Unlike sleeping at night; sleeping during the day is not as restful and often not as long. This is where I want to jump into the Christmas story. With men who were probably very tired, but help us understand the purpose in listening.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at nightAn 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 Lord12 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 manger17 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. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:8-20

The shepherds give us a great example of what it means to truly listen. Proverbs says

let the wise listen and add to their learning,

    and let the discerning get guidance—

for understanding proverbs and parables,

    the sayings and riddles of the wise.

Proverbs 1:5-6

When we are willing to listen even when we are tired we are like the shepherds and find the first purpose in listening.

1. For Understanding

The shepherds where working at night living in the fields. If you have ever worked at night you know it is very hard to sleep in the day time. Even when we have the windows blacked out and ear plugs in. It is hard to truly get enough rest. Imagine these shepherds living in the field trying to sleep when it was light. We can all imagine their job would have been tiring.

But in the tiredness they were able to listen to what the angel said. Zechariah was the priest we talked about last time and he had grown tired of waiting and was not able to listen for understanding.

We can see the shepherds are listening for understanding because two main things that happen that are small, but play a vital part of the plan and purpose Jesus was born.

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.

Luke 2:10-12

The angel told the shepherds three key things about the Messiah’s birth. First He was born in the town of David. Listening to understand is not just about hearing the words someone says, but it is about understanding what those words mean.

The shepherds after the angels left said to each other,

Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They understood the town of David was Bethlehem. This may not have been a suspire because if someone said to you they had to go to the “Steel City” and you live in western Pennsylvania you would probably understand that means Pittsburgh. However, if you weren’t listening to understand you could miss what is being said.

Zechariah asked, “How can I be sure of this?”

The shepherds did not allow their tiredness or weariness to determine their ability to listen. When we listen we must seek to understand before we speak.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

James 1:19-21

We should be quick to listen and slow to speak; this gives us the ability to process and understand what is happening around us and how God is speaking and directing us. When we don’t do that we fall into anger if we are not fully understanding what we hear.

On those Christmas Eve shopping days; I can remember couples arguing in the store. For whatever the reason, there is a good chance it stemmed from a lack of listening with understanding.

The second and third thing we see the shepherds heard and understood is the description of the Messiah Child: Wrapped in swaddling clothe and laying in a manger. On that night with so many extra people visiting Bethlehem the shepherds could have found a few babies that were just born and swaddled. However, only one would be lying in a manger.

When we are tired and not listening to understand we miss details that guide us to where God designed for us to be. We can miss the small details that make a huge impact on what God is speaking about our situation and future.

These shepherds knew the purpose of listening is to understand. They understood who was born, the Messiah, they understood where, Bethlehem, they understood how to find him, laying in a manger. When we like the shepherds don’t allow the tiredness of life to get in the way of our understanding then when GOD speaks…Because He IS speaking…We will listen and undertsand.

This leads to what the shepherds did next which is the second purpose of listening.

2. For Action

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. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:16-20

The shepherds listened and it turned into action. The purpose of our listening is to gain understanding so we are equipped for action. God is speaking to each one of us and if we don’t understand we will never act on His voice.

Let me give you an example:

Have you ever been asked to pick something just to hear no, nope, no…Until you pick the thing the other person wanted to pick?

When we don’t understand we can never make a decision to act. God has so much He planned for you to do, but when we don’t listen and understand we will fall out of the plan He has for us.

Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.

Isaiah 55:3

He is faithful to love us, but we must listen to understand so that we can live how He has called us to live. That means following the shepherds example in understanding then finding the Messiah and celebrating Him.

The action of the shepherds help us to understand our purpose in listening this Christmas season. They saught truth and when they found it; they shared it.

Have you found truth? Have you Shared it?

James writes to be quick to listen and slow to speak. He finished that thought with the purpose for desired result of listening for understanding.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:22-27

God speaks because He desires to bless what we do, but we will only be blessed in what we do when we are listening to understand and resulting in action. James give a easy first step in action on God’s word. “To look after the orphans and widows.” James understood that it is hard sometimes to understand so he cleared it up for us.

If we are attempting to act righteous or holy, but haven’t even spent time caring for those who are less fortunate our religion or faith is worthless.

The shepherds could have heard and understood the message about Messiah, but did not act. But their actions confirmed in Mary what God had told her. Your action can make the world of difference to someone.

Over the next week as we near Christmas; spend a few minutes every day reading God’s asking for understanding then spend a few minutes in the silence to listen for understanding. Then act on your understanding of what He spoke to you.

In my life, I have enjoyed those Christmas Eve shopping trips, but I have found the thing I love the most on Christmas Eve is sitting in the dark and silence after the shopping is done, the services and parties are over. Alone in the silence is where we find the true purpose of listening.

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