Letter from the Director – December 2023


This Christmas season we hear again what the angel said to the shepherds, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy for all people: To you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  The fact that God would make an announcement like that to some shepherds helps us understand the true meaning of Christmas.  For no one thought much of shepherds.  Shepherds lived out in the fields – with animals.  Shepherds had no power and no prestige.  And yet God’s messenger-angel came with the greatest of announcements to some shepherds.  

A Savior was born for some shepherds.  The announcement of His birth was first given to shepherds.  What can that mean for us today?  I can think of three things.


The fact that the good news of the birth of Jesus was first given to some shepherds means that no matter how insignificant you may feel and think you are, still you matter to God.  All throughout the Bible we see God’s honoring and blessing and using people whom the world would overlook and ignore.

For example, five thousand men, plus women and children, had stayed all day to listen to Jesus.  At the end of the day they were hungry, but no one had thought to bring any food, except for one young boy who had five small rolls and two small fish.  It was not much, but it was enough.  Jesus took that small amount and from that small amount fed the many.  And God is always doing that, isn’t He?  He takes what we give to Him and then makes it into more than enough.

When God wanted a mother for His Son, He went to a small, insignificant village called Nazareth where he found a young peasant girl.  And when God’s Son was born, He was born not in one of the best of hospitals, surrounded by a team of the best medical professionals.  Rather He was born in a cave.  And then He was wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger.

And when God made His birth announcement, it was first made to some shepherds.  Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “If God cares about sparrows and lilies, then He certainly cares about you.”  If God values shepherds, then He certainly values you.

And we need to hear that, don’t we?  That God cares about us and values us.  That we matter to God.  People who are lonely and/or depressed during this holiday season need to hear that they matter to God.  People who are spending their first Christmas alone – without a certain loved one – need to hear that they matter to God.

We all need to hear that we matter to God, for we all have known feelings of rejection.  We all have experienced being put down and left out.  But at Christmas time God says, “I made My announcement to some shepherds, and I make My announcement to you.  A Savior is born for you because you matter.”


I can imagine those shepherds sitting around their campfire many nights wondering if their lives mattered and were worth anything.  “What difference does it make,” they might have asked themselves and each other many times, “whether we take care of our sheep or not?”

And maybe you also wonder, “What difference does it make whether I get up in the morning and go to work every day and/or do the things I do every day?”  Do you feel like your life is just one endless cycle of things that really do not matter?  Do you wonder whether your life is really worth living?

But when God comes and makes His announcement to some shepherds, He is also saying to you, “Life matters; your life matters; your life is My gift to you.”  Therefore, live every moment of it to the fullest.  Your life does matter to God.

And every life matters to God.  It is impossible to live – even for a few moments on this earth – and not influence somebody in one way or another.  We are all always influencing somebody – either for good or for bad. 

Life matters.  Your life matters.  Lives of kings and lives of shepherds all matter.  We all matter and are important to God.


I believe that these shepherds were men of faith.  In fact, I believe that they had a deeper faith than many of the religious leaders of the day who went to the synagogue or to the Temple every day.  I believe that these shepherds believed in and were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. 

When things got especially tough.  During times of poverty, enslavement, trial, and exile, I believe that these shepherds, along with many others in Israel, would think about the Messiah and would remember God’s promise that some day the Messiah would come.

And so they would pray over and over again, “God, may the Messiah come, and may he come today.”  They prayed that prayer for hundreds of years.  And many times they must have wondered, “Is our faith really worth anything?  Does God really hear our prayers?  Does God remember and keep His promises?  Is the Messiah ever going to come?”

Down through the years there must have been some who quit praying, who quit believing.  But when the announcement of the angels came to some shepherds, God was saying, “Faith matters.  Your faith is not in vain.  I am a God who hears and remembers and keeps His promises.  And now the Messiah has come.  I have kept My promise.”

And how about us?  Sometimes we grow weary.  Sometimes we wonder if it is worth it to go to church and to work so hard in the work of the church.  Especially when so many others, including many members of our own family and many of our friends and neighbors, do not go to and are not involved in church.

But then we think of the faith of the shepherds, and the faith of so many others of God’s people down through the ages and at the time of Jesus’ birth, and with them we say, “Amen, come, Lord Jesus.”

Yes, you matter, life matters, and faith matters.  The announcement of the angels tells us that, like the shepherds, we are important to God.  Hark, can you hear the angels sing? 

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Many thanks to ELCA pastor Kevin Haug for his review of Justin Brierley’s book, “The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God.”  Every day we are reminded of all of the chaos in our world and of the total inability of the human race to live in peace, so this video is a most needed and appropriate review for December, when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.  A link to Kevin’s video can be found HEREA link to our YouTube channel, which contains nearly four dozen videos, can be found HERE.

 Kevin writes – Host of the Unbelievable podcast on YouTube, Justin has noticed a change in those whom he invites on his show.  Very few militant atheists engage anymore, and they have been replaced with atheist/agnostics who are very sympathetic towards the Christian faith.  Not only that, many of them argue that the Christian worldview provides the basic foundation for Western Civilization.  Some have even converted to the Christian faith. These include scientists, artists, journalists, and scholars.  Brierley wonders if the outgoing tide of Christianity is about to change – that people will start returning to the church because it has the capability to provide what secular culture cannot: meaning, purpose, and a comprehensive view of reality.  Brierley ends with some pertinent advice for the church.

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May the Lord bless you with His hope, love, peace, and joy during this Christmas season.

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE