When we talk about the faithful shepherds visiting the baby Jesus and going straight to the manger, it's important that we also talk about what didn't happen: the shepherds didn't leave the baby Jesus and go up into the inn.
Oh, they probably heard that the inn was full. They probably asked Mary and Joseph what in the world they were doing down here in a stable (besides, of course, saving the world). They probably heard the story of how Mary and Joseph searched all night for somewhere more suitable, but this was the only place that was offered to them.
Yet, they don't take off to talk to the innkeeper. They don't go knocking on doors to try to find someone who is willing to cram three more human beings into their room. They don't even go upstairs to see if anyone else wants to come down to meet this newborn baby Jesus, savior of the world.
No. Once these shepherds find Him, they stay with Him. And then, they go back to their place, taking their story with them.
We, on the other hand, are a people who would leave the manger in the blink of an eye, turn away from the very presence of Jesus Himself, and tell ourselves we're doing the Lord's work by going up into the inn and making a scene for Him.
That's what we're best at, isn't it? Making a scene for Jesus. That's what the world can't stand about us. It's the way that we storm into the conversation and make our presence known, not just knocking on doors but knocking them down. We call it something like "righteous indignation," where we claim to be righteously upset that the world doesn't care more about a baby in a manger but let's face it...if we really cared about Him, we'd be down there ourselves.
Too many of us have walked out of the church intending to become vigilantes for Jesus. Intending to make sure, by whatever force necessary, that everyone knows about this God in our church. Knows about this Jesus on the Cross. Knows about this baby in the manger. We are mercenaries on a mission for God, surprisingly lacking in...mercy.
And the world just looks at us and asks, "If the baby in the manger is so great, then why aren't you with Him?"
That's what the world most wants to know about us. Why have we, as a people of God, left Him in order to tell others about Him? Why have we gone away from holy places to enter into the profane and tell ourselves it's the mission?
The truth is that too many of us are not spending time at the manger. We are not spending time at the Cross. We are not spending time with Jesus. This is what we were talking about last week, right? We have traded our love for God for a love for the things of God.
And it's because somewhere, we got the idea that the brightest star in the night sky was placed there to lead us to the inn, where we're supposed to shout and scream and wake everyone up until they all know how selfish, how blind, how foolish they are for sleeping comfortably in their rooms while there's a baby being born in a manger...a baby who is God Himself come to be with us and yet, it so rarely seems to occur to us that the star has actually called us to be with Him.
We started this series by asking what if the shepherds were more like us, but maybe the real question ought to be...what if we could be more like them? What if we could be a people who just go to the manger...and stay there?