Don't misunderstand what I am saying - although we know that the shepherds did not go to the inn and wake everyone up and knock on every door and make sure that everyone knew about the baby in the manger, we are not saying that they just went back to their regular old lives and never told anyone and never talked about it or anything.
What I am not saying, then, is that we should keep the miracle of Christmas to ourselves.
But what I am saying is that we should only be looking for ways to express that miracle in our own context. That is, in our own fields.
This is what gets us in trouble. We are a people who realize how many in the inn that night that we would consider 'unchurched,' and we'd think that would be just a great spot for the pickin's. We'd rush upstairs, thinking that this is where we're going to get the most bang for our buck. This is where our evangelism is going to be so easy. All of these folks are already here, right here; they can hear the sound of the baby crying. How much easier can this possibly get?
What we fail to realize is that these folks...don't want to hear from a shepherd. They don't want to hear from someone who has no standing with them. Who is this guy, this laborer who just came in from some far-off field and wants to tell us what's going on in our inn? Who does he think he is? Go away, shepherd; no one here wants your "good news."
We run up against this very thing all the time, right? And it's because we're in the wrong place. It's because we've stepped into a context that isn't ours, a place that God has not called us into. We think we are meant to just go into all the world, but remember Jesus's prayer in John 17 - God calls us into the places He's put us and to go to those He's given us. Not everyone and everywhere, but those in our context. Those in our circle. Those who might value the testimony of a shepherd on a starry night.
When we don't listen to and understand this caveat, this is where our witness becomes a grating annoyance rather than the bearing of good news. To say that the shepherds should have gone up into the inn is to say that we would be justified standing in the public square shouting all the great things that we know about Jesus. Sure, some folks are going to hear us, but no one is going to care. We're just crazy men, just nuisances.
Without context, the good news goes nowhere. Without relationship, many may hear, but few (if any) will listen.
No one in the inn that night was going to listen to some random shepherd, crying baby or no crying baby. If the baby intrigued them, they would have been down in the manger already. But those on the mountain, those in the fields, those tending their sheep in places where maybe they had seen the star but not recognized it...those are the folks who are going to be interested in what the shepherds have to say. That's where their witness is going to be. That's where their story is going to have the greatest impact - in the places where God has put them among those whom God has given them.
So what I'm not saying is to keep Christmas a secret. That's not what I'm saying at all. Rather, what I am saying is, well, go tell it on the mountain. Go tell it where it's likely not just to be heard, but to be listened to. Go into the places God had put you among those God has given you and start there.
The inn may seem easy, but it's fruitless. The real testimony is out in the fields.
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