Unlikely People (December 19, 2012)

…Opening To…

God’s glory, now, is kindled gentler than low candlelight
Under the rafters of a barn:
Eternal Peace is sleeping in the hay,
And Wisdom’s born in secret in a straw-roofed stable. (Thomas Merton)

…Listening In…

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. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12; context)

…Filling Up…

While Mary and Joseph were searching for shelter in Bethlehem, shepherds lived out in the open in the fields nearby. They built sheepfolds by extending the mouths of shallow caves with rocks and branches. There’s a good chance that Mary and Joseph, rather than stumbling into a barn as I presumed yesterday, found their way to one of these caves in the rocks, which functioned as a stable. So, it’s possible that Mary and Joseph were roughing it the night Jesus was born – roughing it like shepherds, which means the “Good Shepherd” might have been born as one.

The shepherds weren’t homeless exactly, as their livelihood kept them outdoors all the time. But the local populace didn’t look on them with much favor. People viewed shepherds with distaste and distrust. The shepherds cast themselves out into the fields to tend the sheep, and the people in the town then cast the shepherds out of the circle of worthwhile company. Suffice it to say, if a young woman brought a shepherd home to mommy and daddy, her parents would not be pleased.

To these people, God chose to send the angels to disclose the message of Jesus’ birth. Rather than entrusting those in the inner circle or upper echelons of society with this news, the angels went to an unlikely group. Two chapters into the Gospel, and we are seeing a pattern: God uses unlikely people to proclaim God’s message. Elizabeth gave birth to Jesus’ herald, though she was thought unable to bear children. Mary gave birth to the Incarnation of that message, though she was still a virgin when she became pregnant. And now the outcasts of society are receiving the breaking news.

This teaches me a lesson. If you don’t want God to use you to proclaim the Gospel, you better become perfect right away. Of course, none of us can be perfect. So, we are all consigned to be God’s unlikely messengers. We’d better get used to the idea.

…Praying For…

Dear God, thank you for sending your angels to unlikely folks like shepherds. Help me to rely on you to receive the giftedness that turns me from an unlikely messenger to a vessel of your proclamation. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, as living vessel for holding the light of your son, as was the manger on that holy night.

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