Saturday, December 21, 2013

When God welcomes the outcasts


I'll never forget the look of surprise on their faces when the angel appeared to the young shepherds two dialog pages early. The angel was nervous and jumped ahead of his cue.  

It was a Christmas program that I will never forget.

The shepherds were costumed and ready in place waiting for the heavenly greeting that they and their angelic counterpart had practiced Sunday after Sunday afternoon.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’” -Luke 2:8-12

Those young lads were certainly terrified.  They didn't know what to do.  Should they stop the production with their hesitant-so-well-rehearsed lines or just pick up where the premature participant had propelled the program earlier than planned.

I have to wonder if that is what the real shepherds felt on that hillside in the dark.

Frightened.

I don't know about you but an angelic greeting of this nature would certainly be a surprise.  No....I would have been terrified as well.

Can't you feel your heart pounding right now as you read about this holy delivery?

It just seems to make sense that you are on the hillside, watching for ravenous prey, when all of a sudden in the 4th watch of the night, on your shepherd watch, something freaky like this happens.

A brilliant chorus singing praises, a display of God's magnificent glory displayed in the heavens...

I would've been shocked, all the while pinching myself, wondering if I had died and gone to the feet of Jesus.

In Luke 2, when an angel appears to shepherds, the glory of the Lord is upon the outcasts.  

God even sees the lowly shepherds.

His glory surrounds them and calls them to be the messengers for the most important announcement of this world.  

"Unto you is born a Savior...."    

The angels depict the glory of the Lord so well.  Talk about an "O Holy Night"!  This had to be the most brilliant of all nightly light productions.  The mother of all light shows, and one heavenly billboard that would leave a lasting soul print.  

Life-changing.

This scene has become so familiar to us.  We have rehearsed it year after year, lyric after lyric, program after program.

But I hope you see everything changes with this glorious delivery.  

The glory of the Lord rarely appeared to people. And from what we read, it was indeed very frightening to say the least.  When the glory of the Lord appeared in the temple, the priests dared not even enter. When the glory of the Lord appeared on the mountain, the Israelites compared it to a consuming fire.

And now these appointed hosts, these heavenly beings, God's glory, was surrounding some stinking low-life outcasts of society, the untouchables, a left out group of people, the ones that handled the dumbest animals.  Most of the religious sect wouldn't have given a holy nod to.

Maybe you feel like the one of them right now.  

Their profession made it virtually impossible to follow the oppressively detailed religious laws. A shepherd is on duty 24-7, always in the field, and their duties keep them away tied to their low-paying job. 

They didn't get to participate in the normal Old Testament religious festivals.

I imagine their responsibilities took true grit and manly rugged skills.

I am struck by this part of the Christ story.  The most important news of all of time goes to the shepherds first, the most ordinary of mankind.

With the birth of Jesus, God tore the curtain between heaven and earth and ripped apart human expectations of who was worthy to be in His presence.  
God sent His glory to outcasts to tell the world from their mountain top that the Savior, a King was born.  

The Light of the World started with the most dim. Glory pierces the darkness.  What was kept only for the most practiced religious people, came for us all.

The news is indeed brilliant.  

Hope, the message that the world needs, is God's brilliant message.

Come and join the heavenly chorus, for even the outcast proclaimed the news.


Glory pierces and warms our hearts with the most heavenly chorus.

My prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for your loving reminders of how Christ broke through the divide. Bring us into Your presence. Help us know how we are loved and welcomed by your grace, no matter how we feel.  May we see your Glory this advent season.  Empower us to spread the birth message like a fire within us.  Bring those who are feeling outcast, or unloved, or left out this Christmas into our lives and churches so that they may see their place in Your story too. Amen.

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