There’s something about Christmas and cold temperatures and oversized sweatshirts that makes me contemplative. All three criteria are met at the moment: we are under 2 weeks from Christmas, there’s a chill in the air, and I am wearing the incredibly soft and cuddly hooded shirt that my Aunt Lisa gave me Saturday. It seems like a good time to write.
I’ve been mulling over a few wonders lately. Here’s one; I’ll share the others over the next few days.
Major Wonder #1: The baby Jesus attracted shepherds AND wise men. I am no Biblical scholar, but I think we can assume that the shepherds were a dirty lot. Tending and herding animals must have been labor intensive and messy and probably stinky. At the very least, they were outside day and night, sleeping on the ground and what not. And yet these were the men (or boys) to whom the angel of the Lord appeared with news of a Savior. These guys did what we might call realistic work; they dealt not with signs and symbols but tangible entities. Sheep they understood; celestial beings, not so much. And as the Bible says, when an angel appeared, “they were terrified.” So I think it’s beautiful that the angel immediately tries to calm them down—“Do not be afraid!”—and then gives them a direct message about the Savior and what they are to do about it. It’s very simple: The Savior is born, and this is where you’ll find him. I guess the angel could have been a little more specific; “you’ll find a baby in a manger” isn’t quite as helpful as “second inn on the left, in the stable out back.” But God was sure of their faithfulness and knew they would take what they saw in Bethlehem and spread the word. The lowly shepherds had the privilege of sharing the good news first. I think that’s marvelous.
The wise men just had prophecy and a star to guide them; it may seem a little less beneficial, but this was a language that they could understand. The shepherds may have needed a direct message, but the wise men were comfortable with symbols and in fact required them as confirmation of truth. God knew what they needed to feel assured that the Savior had come. But out of the two groups, God chose the shepherds to find out directly and immediately. God’s voice spoke straight to them through the angel. Isn’t that crazy? So typical of what we learn about Jesus as he grows: that he came for those who were low of station just as he came for kings.
I’m still really wrestling over Christianity; I have been for a while now. But I’m telling you, I love that the shepherds get the big announcement, that they are so overwhelmed with what they see and hear that they can’t help but spread the word. What a beautiful way to usher Jesus into the world. I don’t know why it’s taken so long for this wonder to start percolating in my brain. Maybe it’s because we tend to lump the shepherds and wise men together as figures in a nativity scene. Yet we do this story a great disservice if we disregard their differences. These were two groups of men who would never mix in daily life. (And of course, they don’t actually mix in this story; their visits to Jesus don’t occur at the same time.) But despite these differences, the baby Jesus attracted both groups to him as Savior. Wowee wow wow!
I hope you too are having a contemplative Christmas season. I’ll write more soon!