"And it came to pass in those days...that Joseph went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David..."
You know the rest of the story as well as I do. You know the cadence of the words and the inherent poetry and beauty of the language itself and the special way that the story tells us at once so very much and so very little of what really happened that night.
I learned something new about the story today. Our pastor was talking about the shepherds, and he likened their social status at that time to that of the gypsy, the migrant worker, the undocumented immigrant, or the homeless. The shepherds existed within Jewish society as a people without a voice. They had no legal status whatsoever and were considered so unreliable that they were forbidden by law to give testimony in court. They were never allowed to worship at the Temple because their occupation rendered them ceremonially unclean. In the pecking order of the Jews, they were the lowest of the low. In fact, they did not count, and they did not have to participate in the required census. They were quintessential nobodies.
Now here comes the irony.
The first witnesses, the first to receive the message, the first to come and worship, the first to spread the Good News, the first to "see" the Messiah were the very least of all in the kingdom of heaven.
Think about it.
Christ brought a revolutionary gospel, a revolutionary upheaval to the old order, and He taught us a revolutionary way to love and to live.
And he began with the nobodies. He did not begin with those in authority: the kings or the priests or the rulers. He did not seek out the rich and the powerful. He did not even seek the Wise Men. They sought Him.
I am just beginning to work all of this through in my head...and it is leading me to ask myself who and what do I worship when I am not engaging my head and my heart with the Lord? What draws my heart? What occupies my thinking? What else besides the gospel captivates me?
I am afraid it is not very pretty. I am afraid it is petty and selfish. I know the things that charm me most when my heart is not immersed in the gospel are things that are really of little value at all.
I so want to be a shepherd. I so want to be willing to leave it all in the field of my life and say to my family and those with whom I am in community ..."Let us now go even unto Bethlehem,and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us."
I want to kneel on that rough and filthy floor and offer to Him all that I am and all that I have. I want Christmas made new in my heart.
This is my Advent prayer.
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