Sunday December 17, 2017 | David Morrow
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.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
As we continue our Christmas series, "Do you See What I See: Looking at How to See Christmas Through God’s Eyes," we focus on the shepherds. As with most of Luke’s Gospel, being centered on Jesus’ interactions with the marginalized (including the shepherds as a key part of the birth story) is no accident. In Jesus’ day the shepherds as a people group were one of the more despised, untrusted, unclean, & judged people in society. In this message we learn how to stop automatically categorizing who’s in and who’s out based on superficial judgements of worth, and how to recognize the marginalized peoples in our own society and what God might have to say through them.
Luke is the only gospel that records the shepherds as part of the story of Jesus’ birth. This is no accident as much of Luke’s gospel is geared around Jesus’ interactions with the marginalized people of His society. It’s important to note Luke’s placing of where God shows up is with those on the underside of power and privilege in the society. There would have been a clear connection for the shepherds with the Star of David as he was likely one of their heroes, moving from a shepherd boy to a King – so also a clear connection is being made in their instructions to find the baby in a manger given their interactions with sheep. The gentleness of God always finds common ground to connect with us.
The culture of judging and looking down upon shepherds was pervasive in Jesus’ day. Throughout society they were viewed as unclean, untrustworthy, outsiders who were not fit to participate in the life of the culture. There angels’ invitation to the shepherds counters everything the society around them was telling them. When God speaks He reverses all the language of insiders and outsiders making the proclamation that “who they say you are is not who God says you are.”
Although God spoke and showed how inclusive His Kingdom truly is, at the end of the day after the birth of Jesus the shepherds were still shepherds and still left on the outside looking in. This begs the question for us today, who are the marginalized people in our society that we have written off and made assumptions about many times without even knowing why? Many times the perception is not the reality, but yet it still exists unless it is confronted. What’s in our head is where the journey to collapse judgements begins.
David introduced a helpful diagram called the circles of affection:
The walls between our groupings seem so large, until we actually meet people who are strangers and let them confront our misconceptions and help tear down the walls that we think so neatly separate us. Many times the walls are much thinner and smaller than we think they are.
In general the walls are much higher metaphorically speaking to go from the outside to the inside. Jesus could have come to the insider and tried to give them an experience of being an outsider, but instead He chose to show up among the marginalized. He brought the edge of society in to the spotlight. Which makes us ask the question, who have we marginalized. We are sent to the margins not to make a difference, but rather to be made different. A few closing thoughts to help us: