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The Shepherds, Charter Members Of The G.N.T. Club

December 24, 1996 | First Presbyterian Church Orlando

Do you know the name Tom Bodette? If you don’t recognize the name, you would certainly recognize the voice. He’s the fellow who does those home-spun “Motel 6” commercials which always end with these words: “So drop on by…we’ll leave the light on for you.” Well, Tom Bodette in his down-home country way, recently announced that he has started a new club. He calls it the “G.N.T. Club”. G.N.T. stands for “The Group that Notices Things.” He says that one member of the G.N.T. Club is a young woman he encountered in a grocery store check-out line. She had a basket full of groceries. He had a package of Beech-Nut gum. She noticed, and she said: “You have just one item. Please go ahead of me.” Tom Bodette says, “That made her eligible for the G.N.T. Club, the group that notices things and does something in response.

He then tells about a man he saw directing traffic around an icy spot on a busy Alaskan highway. He wasn’t a policeman or a city official, he was just an ordinary citizen who saw a potentially dangerous situation, pulled his truck over to the side, got out, and did something about it. He is a member of the G.N.T. Club.

He then goes on to mention others, like the young girl who sees a banana peel on the sidewalk and picks it up and puts it in the trash, or an older couple holding hands while watching a beautiful sunset, or a group of teenage boys working together to rescue a frightened cat from a tall tree, or a mission team from a local church who just show up one day to refurbish the home of a lady in her 90’s. All are members of the G.N.T. Club— the group that notices things and then does something about it.

Well, it strikes me that in the Christmas story, the shepherds ought to qualify for membership in Tom Bodette’s Club. They noticed things and acted. They noticed things and responded. They noticed things and did something about it. In fact, it seems to me that those shepherds ought to be considered charter members of the G.N.T. Club. Look at their story.

They noticed the angel of Christmas, and they followed the angel’s direction.

I know what you are thinking. Of course, they saw the angel. How could they miss that? The angel appeared dramatically. The glory of the Lord shown around them. The angel spoke to them about the baby born in a manger in Bethlehem. And then a whole multitude of angels began to sing: “Glory to God in the Highest.” You couldn’t miss that, could you? And yet, I want to remind you that as powerful as that must have been, as glorious as it must have been, no one else noticed. Think about that. According to the Bible, Bethlehem and the surrounding regions were jammed packed with people that night, however only the shepherds saw the angel; only the shepherds took notice. Angels, you see are messengers from God, and only those who have faith can see them or hear them. Only those who have faith can sense and feel their presence. Only those who have faith can respond to their directions.

Some years ago a military airplane crashed at Sondrestrom Air Force Base in Greenland. Twenty-two people were killed. The runway and the nearby fields were strewn with bodies. It was a tragic and horrible moment. There was only one chaplain on the base at the time, and the entire burden was laid on him to bring comfort and the Word of Christ to a shocked community, stunned by the accident. But there was little time to mourn that day, for the grizzly task of gathering and identifying the bodies was still to be done. And so the chaplain, along with a young lieutenant who had been assigned the duty of mortuary officer, together with some volunteers from the chaplain’s congregation, went about the awful business of picking up the mutilated bodies and identifying the dead so that loved ones back home could be notified. Heart-breaking, exhausting work. They worked in shocked silence long into the night until they almost dropped from fatigue. Finally, when the terrible task was done, each returned home to rest. After midnight, there was a knock on the chaplain’s door. Outside stood the young lieutenant, the mortuary officer. He was weeping. After a few moments, he spoke through his tears. He said: “Chaplain, as we were picking up the bodies today, I realized something. I realized that the only people out there with us were the people who go to church here. I’ve always been an unbeliever. I used to ridicule those same people who were out there today. Yet, they are the only people who would, or perhaps could, do what had to be done today. It must have been their Christian spirit which helped them to see beyond the horror to the hope.

That incident that day changed the young lieutenant’s life, and he went on to become a strong and effective witness for Jesus Christ. Listen, my friends, this world around us is filled with all kinds of hazards and horrors, and yet, the angels of Christmas are all around us as well. The messengers of God surround us every day. The question is, do we have the eyes of faith to see them, the ears of faith to hear them, the hearts of faith to sense them, and the lives of faith to do what they call us to do to bring hope in the midst of the horror? Yes, those shepherds in the Christmas story are charter members in the G.N.T. Club because they noticed the angels and they did what the angel told them to do.

Also, they noticed the Christ child and bowed to honor Him.

W.E. Sangster, the great British preacher, once told a true story about being invited to a party one day to celebrate a wedding. He arrived late, and did not know anyone there except the friend who had invited him. Everyone seemed in high spirits. There was dancing and laughing and singing and eating and visiting, and everyone was having a wonderful time. As the evening progressed, however, Dr. Sangster noticed a beautiful young woman sitting at a table all by herself. No one was paying much attention to her. When Dr. Sangster asked his friend who she was, his friend replied: “Oh, don’t you know? I must introduce you to her. She’s the bride.” The great preacher concluded his story by saying: “Can you imagine being left alone and unnoticed at your own wedding party? Can you imagine being ignored on your big day?” And yet maybe that’s how Jesus sometimes feels at Christmas. For there are so many people who come to the Christmas party but ignore the guest of honor. William Sangster may be right. But the shepherds never made that mistake. They had their priorities right. They dropped everything and rushed to the manger to honor the newborn king of kings. And then they continued to share the good news of what Christmas is all about. Remember how the Bible puts it? “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” Ah, yes, they are charter members of the G.N.T. Club. They noticed the angel of Christmas and they did as they were told. And they noticed the Christ child of Christmas, and they told everyone they could.

They noticed the good news of Christmas and they responded. They did something about it in their lives.

On this Christmas Eve, 1996, may we do the same.

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