This post is a continuation of yesterday’s and was originally published in the Lutheran Ambassador, December 2008.
There is an analogy about God’s grace that goes something like this: we poor sinners are like swimmers drowning in a pool of sin, and we can only be saved by the life preserver of God’s grace that He throws out for us to grab onto. My husband, a pastor, like to take that example a step further. He maintains that we should not fool ourselves — we are not swimmers, we are drowned corpses lying on the bottom of the pool, unable to lift a finger to help ourselves. We are saved by grace alone. As Lutherans we hear it over and over again, but we still need to be reminded. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8).
The baby Jesus was the ultimate gift of grace. God chose an isolated, unimportant spot to reveal this plan. He chose shepherds, some of the most marginalized people in society, to witness His glory. They had nothing to boast about. They were not rich or intelligent or particularly religious. They had no resources for spreading the word. They weren’t the kind of folks people would listen to. But God was not looking for the most influential or the most deserving to experience His grace. He was looking for those who needed it the most.
The joyous message of the angels was “for all the people” (Luke 2:10). It still is. The angels appeared to the shepherds in a cold, lonely place, in the midst of their daily lives. They appeared during the night when the shepherds were tired and dawn seemed far away. Into this darkness, the glory of the Lord and the fulfillment of His promise shone out like a flare at the scene of an accident.
Most of us sometimes feel like the shepherds: forgotten, unimportant, worn down. The glitter and bustle of the secular Christmas season may depress us if we are alone, grieving, or without resources to celebrate in a worldly way. At these times, we need to remember what the shepherds learned that night: God is with us wherever we are. He breaks into our messy lives when we least expect it with a promise of hope and peace. Jesus says, “Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
This Christmas season, and throughout the year, take time to remember the shepherds.