Sunday, December 25, 2011

Where the Lambs are Kept

Merry Christmas to you!  This year's efforts for a simpler, more Jesus-focused Christmas have in some ways been successful although the living room was still full of boxes, wrapping paper and new things by 10 a.m. We found great joy in Levi unwrapping things and he found greater joy in wandering around the house exploring.

To start the morning right we read a new reflection on all that happened so long ago.  Hope it can be deep encouragement that the celebration is not over today.  That it is indeed the happ, happiest season of all because of this baby who sacrificed so we could belong to God.
     Down through the ages and around the globe, groups of people joined together by their poverty of reputation have formed communities within their communities in order to work and live out the days appointed for them by their Maker.
      Such were the shepherds of Bethlehem.
     The shepherd's life was ironic.  Their job was to care for the animals that would be sacrificed to atone the sins of the people.  Yet because of their handling of these dirty creatures, they themselves were unclean and thus prevented from keeping the ceremonial law...  The shepherds' lives were, in effect, sacrifices.
     On one particular night, in the pastureland skirting Bethlehem's northeast side, some shepherds sat like sentinels at their posts, keeping watch over their flocks, unaware of the angel regarding them from the skies overhead...  A sudden, glorious light shone in the darkness as the angel of the Lord appeared among them.  The shepherds were terrified.  Of course they were.  So wide was the gap between God and man that whatever information an angelic messenger was dispatched to deliver seemed more likely to be bad news than good.  They were afraid because they knew they had reason to be afraid.  But the angel said, "Don't be afraid.  Listen, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people!"
     The angel's words painted a picture of the glorious presence of the promised Redeemer.  He used names to describe the coming Messiah to these shepherds -- names that spoke to the Messiah's purpose.  He called him the Savior, meaning that he would atone for the sins of the people.  He called him Christ, distinguishing him as their deliverer.  He called him the Lord, identifying him as divine.
     The shepherds might have wondered why the angel chose to reveal this to them.  This sort of news seemed to belong to people of influence or nobility.  It was hardly the kind of report they ever imagined would be exclusively for men of their vocation, let alone reputation.  But then the angel used one more expression that brought overwhelming clarity to this moment.  He told them Christ the Lord had been born "unto you."  The divine Savior and Messiah had been born unto them.
     Though they lived most of their lives on the outside looking in, they would not be outsiders to this gift.  They were the recipients of it... But as soon as he announced Jesus' birth, "suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God" saying, "Unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!"
     For the poor, helplessly earthbound shepherds, this was a lot to take in...  But why had the glory of all glories appeared to the lowest of the lows?  Why had the angel chosen to reveal this message to mere shepherds, unclean as they were?
   Because poverty is relative.  Could it be that from the perspective of heaven, the poor shepherds outside Bethlehem were no more or less poor than the rest of the world sleeping under its watch?  Could it be that the poor of the earth were in fact all the people of the earth -- poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness?  Could it be that the Savior's coming was for them as much as it was for anyone, and for anyone as much as it was for them?

     The angels gave the shepherds a sign that left them speechless.  Their Messiah and Savior could be found where the young lambs were kept.  He would be the one not covered in wool, but wrapped in swaddling clothes.
     Where the lambs are kept?  This they needed to see.     When they found Jesus in the manger as the angel said, the very location of his birth was drenched in significance.  The Savior had been born into their unclean world in the same manner as a lamb.  The symbolism was not lost on them.  When the shepherds saw Jesus there, they not only saw that he had come, but they also got a hint as to why.  He came to be the perfect lamb, the ultimate, lasting sacrifice.
     This baby's coming was to accomplish and establish peace between the God of all creation and his image-bearers who habitually rejected him.
     And so it would be all his days.  From the manger in Bethlehem to the cross on Calvary, Jesus moved among the people, came into their homes, touched their blind eyes, and permitted their unfaithful hands to touch him.  He taught them profound lessons from ordinary events.  He defended the defenseless and opposed the self-righteous.  He ate at their tables, laughed with their children, and wept over their grief.  Never did he abandon his purpose for coming, which was to die for a world of spirit-poor outsiders as the Lamb of God who takes their sin away.  Jesus was born poor.  He lived poor.  And he died poor for the sake of his people.
           -Behold the Lamb of God:  An Advent Narrative by Russ Ramsey

From our family to yours, merry Christmas and blessings in the new year.

1 comment:

The Frisk Five said...

I recognize those people ;P. Miss you all. I hope you had a Merry Christmas.