Why the Shepherds? Part 2

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.

Why the Shepherds? Part 1

This article was originally published in the Lutheran Ambassador in December 2008.  It seemed appropriate for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

As a naturally curious person I can spend hours just thinking and wondering about things.  Recently I was reading the Christmas story in the book of Luke, and one aspect about it had me puzzled.  Why did God send his angels to the fields outside of Bethlehem to announce the news of Christ’s birth?  Why did He choose a few shepherds to be the first hearers?  Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the angels to appear in the Temple in Jerusalem?  Shouldn’t the priests who prayed daily for the coming of the Messiah be first to learn that He had arrived?

Or why didn’t God tell the angels to go to the Magi in the east?  There men were wise and learned, they had figured out on their own that a great king was about to be born.  Didn’t they deserve this heavenly confirmation of their theory?  Even the courts of King Herod would be a plausible choice.  Herod was not a good man, but he was powerful.  The sudden appearance of  “a great company of the heavenly host”  might well have persuaded him to fall in with God’s plan and spread the news of this miraculous birth far and wide.

I thought and thought.  I read some commentaries and the notes in my big study Bible.  Finally I prayed (which I should have done first and saved myself some time).  Immediately this verse from 1 Corinthians popped into my mind:

“God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;  God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things –the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.”

The Christmas story is not about what we can do for God.  It’s about God’s gift of grace to us.  God purposefully chose to come to the “nobodies”  living in the “no-places”  so that there could be no doubt–the power, the action and the results are all His.

For more about being “nobody” go to these posts:

I’m A Nobody

I’m Nobody, too

To be continued ……