Luke 1:46-48  (CEB)

Mary praises God

46 Mary said,

“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
47     In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
48 He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored

 Luke 2:8-12  (CEB)
Announcement to shepherds
Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.”

Gospel of the Nobodies – The Nightshift Workers

During football season, Ed and I end up at waffle house a lot of Friday nights after games.  And if you’ve never been at Waffle House at midnight, you really should try it sometime.  One of my favorite things about Waffle House besides the bacon, is watching the people who work there.  They are working the night shift.  And I know it must be really long, trying, tiring and even boring to work through the night cooking food and serving all the off the wall folks like us who show up to eat in the middle of the night!  Because of the set-up of the restaurant, it feels like you are right in the kitchen with them, right?  And the waitress calls out the order to the cook, right?  And so you get to see how they interact with one another, and it’s fascinating.  Sometimes there’s drama going on among the crew, and sometimes they work as a well-oiled machine.  But nine times out of ten, they provide fast and friendly service.  And I think it must be a thankless job.

Jacob Armstrong is a UM preacher in Tennessee, and he has his own Waffle House story that he tells.  He talks about taking his 8 and 6 year old daughters to waffle house before school at their request.  They went to bed early and got up early enough to get to Waffle House and eat and not be late for school.  He writes that he was expecting the adventure to be a magical bonding time between a father and his daughters.  But when the alarm went off at 5 that morning, there was no magic in the house and the girls did not want to get up.  When they dragged out of bed, they told him it just didn’t feel “normal” to be up when it was dark when usually they’d be sleeping.  And Jacob came up with a good response – “Sometimes when you do something you don’t normally do, you see something you don’t normally see.”

So as the little family sat by the window watching the lights of the cars zoom by, one of the girls asked, “Where are all these people going? Who are they driving around in the dark?”  and he said, “they are people going to work or coming home from work.  In fact the ladies serving you had to get up really early to be here.”  And the waitress overheard the conversation and said, “Sugar, I’ve been here since 10:30 last night!”  And so it caused the family to think about all the people who work while they normally sleep.  They talked about nurses, truck drivers, police officers, moms who stay up all night with kids, and they talked about the servers who had been at Waffle House all night long.

“Sometimes when you do something you don’t normally do, you see something you don’t normally see.”

This Lent, we are going to do a few things we normally don’t do, and we are going to practice seeing things and people we don’t normally see.  This Lent, I encourage you to read through the book of Luke; if you haven’t gotten a bookmark do that – it has a reading plan for each week.  One of the ways we are going to doing some different things is to do a mini-mission project each week or have a focused time of learning.  You can get a sneak preview of all those plans on the mailer.

Today, I want to introduce you to some basic information about the book of Luke, and then we are going to dig right in to the scripture and start to see what we can see.  So if you have your Bible, keep it in front of you because we will be looking at several things today.  First of all, you can learn right away from Luke chapter 1, verses 1-4 what Luke’s purpose is.  He tells us that many people have already taken the task of writing an account of Jesus.  Luke is not the first Gospel that was written, and scholars think Luke would at least have had a copy of the Gospel of Mark.  And so Luke says it is his goal to use the original eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus that have been handed down and to write his own account.

There are some unique things about Luke, and this sermon series will focus on one of the truly unique characteristics of Luke.  You could say that the book of Luke is the Gospel of the Nobodies because one of the major themes of Luke is to showcase the special concern that Jesus had for outcasts, for victims of oppression and for people who appear to be disadvantaged in society.  Luke highlights the attention that Jesus gave people who would have been considered nobodies.  In fact, if you would turn to Luke chapter 4, I want to show you the story Luke uses to describe Jesus’s mission for his ministry.  Luke 4:18 – this is at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry.  He stands up in the temple, and he reads the scroll from Isaiah, saying:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
19     and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.[e]

In Luke 19:10, we will read that Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  Jesus’s entire purpose according to Luke was to show God’s love to the people who were overlooked and ignored; to care for the people who suffered and who were taken advantage of.

Luke chapter 1 opens with the story of Jesus’s conception.  And yes it is Lent and not Advent or Christmas!  But I want to keep you on your toes, and we’re even going to sing a Christmas song in February!  However, we can’t read the book of Luke without reading chapters 1 and 2.  And we can’t learn about outcasts without thinking about the humble beginnings of Jesus.  So turn to Luke 1, and we are going to look at verses 46-55.  I’ll remind you that Mary would have been considered a nobody in her time and place.  She is female, and so she has no social status.  She is an unwed teenager, and she lives in a nowhere town.  It would have been a shameful thing for her to be unmarried and pregnant. And yet, here in chapter 1 we have Mary praising God after the angel informs her that she is to be the mother of God’s son.

Mary praises God

46 Mary said,

“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
47     In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
48 He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.

Mary recognizes her low status – and admits she is God’s servant.

Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
49         because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
50     He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honors him as God.

And then Mary’s song takes an interesting turn.  Listen to what she says……..

51 He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
52     He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
54 He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
remembering his mercy,
55     just as he promised to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”

Right away in the book of Luke we see this idea that God sees and cares for those that society might see as nobodies — Mary talks about the lowly and the hungry.  Now I would say that each of us can identify with feeling like a nobody.  We’ve probably all felt invisible, worthless and small before.  And honestly, some of us even feel like our lives are a living hell before.  And so the message we are going to find throughout Luke is that if you are suffering, if you feel like a nobody, if you feel like you have no value in this world – you are exactly the person that Jesus came to show God’s love to.

But we also read about the somebodies – Mary talks about the arrogant and the proud, the powerful and the rich, doesn’t she?  There’s another part of the message, here.  Because some of us are somebodies.  Some of us have been lucky enough to become what the world thinks is successful.  We were born into the right families or we had the right breaks, and we got an education, or the right job or maybe we inherited our start.  Some of us have power and riches.  But in Mary’s song, we realize that what the world values is not necessarily what God values.  Mary talks about the danger of pride and arrogance.

Pride is a dangerous thing, isn’t it?  Proverbs tells us that pride goes before the fall.

C.S. Lewis writes that “Pride is the complete anti-God state of mind.”  The idea is that pride leads to every other sin.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with pride.  I’m motivated by people giving me attention and compliments.  And when I get all puffed up on myself, I can’t focus on loving and serving others.  Pride is the anti-God state of mind because I’m making myself more important than other people, and I’m making myself more important than God, too.  That’s a scary thing.

And so the second part of this message from Luke is this: If we are a somebody by the world’s standards, it doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t the salvation of the somebodies, or that God doesn’t love the somebodies.  But what it does mean is that it’s the somebodies’ job to help those who feel like nobody to know the truth.  It’s the job of the somebodies to help the nobodies figure out in reality they are somebodies.  It’s the job of the somebodies to lift up the nobodies, and to help them experience the love that the Almighty Creator of the Universe has for them!

Turn on over to chapter 2, let’s look at one more group of nobodies – our night shift workers, the shepherds.  Look at Luke 2:8.

Luke 2:8-12
Announcement to shepherds
Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.”

The shepherds had been living in the fields.  Did you hear that part of the scripture?  Can you smell that part of the scripture?  They’ve been living outside.  With sheep.  Without running water.  And their occupation was very lowly, in fact I’ve heard it described that sheep herding was a despised occupation.  I learned that they shepherds would not have owned their own land, and so they would have basically trespassed on other people’s land to feed their sheep.  So you can imagine how you would feel if some strange shepherd had his herd of sheep on your land, eating up the grass and leaving droppings all over the place.  The shepherds would not be the most popular characters in town.

And yet, in the middle of the night, the angel comes to these scraggly characters and shares the good news of great joy.  The shepherds are the first to hear the good news.  The shepherds are the first to go to Bethlehem and see the newborn king.  This is a detail most of us have heard about our whole lives!  But it takes on new meaning to think about God first announcing the birth of his Son to the night shift workers – the disrespected – the frowned upon – the lowly shepherds.

God makes a clear statement.  God makes a strong statement.  God did indeed come to earth to share good news of great joy for ALL people.

People the world considers to be nobodies have a special place in God’s kingdom.

But I want to take you back to the Waffle House and tell you the rest of Jacob Armstrong’s story.  Here’s how he tells it:

Waffle House was everything we had hoped for—waffles, sausage, hash browns, scattered, smothered and covered. And it was then that I saw something I don’t normally see: God’s people living and working at night.  It hit me that the first people who got the news about the baby – the Messiah, the great Reconciler who would come and save us —  the first ones were a bunch of shepherds, guys working the graveyard shift in the middle of the night.  God wanted them to know that the good news was for them, so much so that God chose them to be the ones to hear the news first.  The baby was born and wrapped in swaddling clothes, and God told the shepherds first.  He didn’t tell the kings of the Great Empire first or the priests in the temple.  The Bible says there were shepherds working at night, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.

And I wondered, if the grand announcement came tonight, would God go to Waffle House while it was still dark and tell the ladies who work all night?  (Sent: Delivering the Gift of Hope at Christmas, 14-15).

God wants you to know that the good news is for you.

“Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today. He is Christ the Lord.

Let us pray.

Loving God, with all our hearts we give you glory and praise.  With our very beings we rejoice in you.  Holy God, during this season of preparation, help us to experience your presence in our lives in new and profound ways.  Give us boldness to do things we might not normally do so that we might see things we normally wouldn’t.  Open our eyes to truly see those who are suffering; help us to lift up those who are overlooked and ignored.  Walk beside us as we resist our pride, and give us your eyes to see your beloved children, Holy God.  And then may your Spirit stir us to speak and act in love.  In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.