Thursday, December 21, 2017

Commotion at Christmas

As if everything taking place in the inn, the barn, and the in-laws' home wasn't enough to mark the first Christmas as being so much like so many of ours, in come three shepherds from the fields. 

You might be asking, with a scene like the one already unfolding, what's three more persons? Honestly. But it would not have been just three more persons. Not if those three persons were shepherds.

Because shepherds in the first century did not just leave their flocks. It's not like they were watching over sheep in some nice, safe, fenced-in enclosure in the dead of night where there we no threats and no worries. Don't you remember what David said? He had to fend off both bears and lions to protect his sheep. No good shepherd, no matter what, just leaves the sheep in the pasture.

Which means that when the shepherds come strolling into Bethlehem, their sheep come with them. So now picture this. There's already commotion in the barn, enough that everyone is probably already wondering what is going on in there. Some of the guests from the inn have probably complained about the noise, and the innkeeper has probably sent a servant down to tell his other servants in the barn to keep things down out there. There's blood and animal waste and a woman screaming in labor, then a newborn babe crying His first breaths in a broken world, all amid the grief and the pain of being rejected by family when they shouldn't have had to stay at the inn in the first place, let alone in the barn. 

And now, in stroll some shepherds with flocks of sheep in tow. Hundreds, at least, if not thousands of sheep, doing whatever it is that groggy sheep do (because it was really too early to wake them up, but if you don't leave sheep alone in the pasture, you certainly don't leave sleeping sheep alone in the pasture). 

If this first Christmas wasn't crazy already, it certainly is now. If it wasn't making a scene, you can bet that by this point, it's a scene. And not that picture-perfect, golden-halo, silent night scene on our postcards. 

This was a real Christmas. 

Just like most of us celebrate. Because try as we might, we can't just shake off all the trappings of our day-to-day lives for Christmas. Try as we might, we can't just set it all aside, even for a day, even for a few hours. We know that at some point, we've got to go back to it, and we're still responsible for all the things we've always been responsible for, baby in a barn or no baby in a barn. Son of God or no Son of God. 

So our lives sort of just straggle in behind us, bleating and baaing and bringing all their noises and adding to the scene. Anyone who looks out the window from their comfy room in the inn and sees our Christmas will say it's a mess, and you know what? We'd probably agree with them.

But the only reason we bring our mess at all is because there's still something holy about it. The only reason we come, even when we can't shake the rest of our lives for even just one peaceful moment, one quiet day, is because there's this whisper in our hearts that tells us something beautiful is happening here, and we wouldn't miss that for the world. 

Certainly not for the sheep.

And so, we come - flocks and all, mess and all, noise and all - because we know how special this moment is. We know how incredible it all really is. We know that this isn't something that just happens every day, that the angels don't always let us in on their chorus. This is Christmas. 

There's just something beautiful about it. 

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