Here’s what I love most about Christmas (and I love a lot of things about Christmas!): it’s a story about God coming alive in flesh and blood, as a fully human being (a baby, no less!), which is not announced with dizzying fanfare in Times Square with a crystal star’s viewed-by-millions descent. No, it’s an astonishing act of divine love that is first announced in the dark, out in a remote region, to a very sparse crowd of rough characters quietly minding their own business “watching their flocks by night.”
Which was the only way to get things started off on the right foot, actually.
Because Christmas is not about a spectacle, not about the noise or glitter or biggest-bang-for-your-buck marketing scheme that will guarantee you your biggest audience. It’s about quietly starting something so fantastic that the few who learn of it first believe so passionately about it that they can’t help themselves as they generate wild and exciting inertia about this (almost) unbelievable thing that has happened!
Now, the shepherds weren’t the most credible lot in society. They weren’t popular individuals, not the in crowd, not your typical next door, let’s just hang out kind of people.
Unless you wanted someone incredibly solid, someone completely well-skilled to their calling, someone you could trust with dedicated, dogged purpose. Like watching over your sheep, which weren’t pets back then, but were typically the livelihood of a family or families. They had to be protected, cared for, managed. People trusted shepherds…to be who they were, to do what they and no one else could do. It was a special calling.
But, this too: shepherds were, literally, ones who lived on the outskirts, who were on the outs because very few wanted to do what they did. They were on the periphery of life, doing a hard and dangerous thing, living in scant conditions.
And that’s where God decided to begin it all, to announce the Good News that life is, despite appearances too often, grand and worth living, that unconditional love for all of life is what saves us all, and that it’s worth sharing with all of who you are.
So when you feel on the outs, like no one cares, like life is barren or hard or rough, then believe this: that’s where God begins. Every time. Which means it’s Christmas every day, somewhere, for someone. Maybe you.
So, count me in! God is love…loves me, loves you, loves all!
Which makes for “good news of great joy for all the people.”
MERRY CHRISTMAS! And peace, goodwill to all.