Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Smelly Way To Save the World

It's the third Sunday in Advent, and I have come to a realization. I am obsessed with shepherds...

Each year at Christmas one of the grand traditions of the Church is to read the birth story of Jesus from Luke 2. I have read it so often (and heard Linus recite it so many times on A Charlie Brown Christmas) that I pretty much have it memorized. Some of it almost seems normal now, when in fact there is not a single normal thing about the story. And the part that always gets me is when the angels appear to the shepherds. The big announcement that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was coming to earth was delivered in a field outside of a no-name village to a bunch of stinkin' sheep-herders. Absolutely ridiculous.

I mean, if God really wanted to make a splash with this birth you would have thought the angels would have appeared to the Roman rulers or the Jewish high priests. He might have tried a huge fireworks display and sky-writing event over downtown Jerusalem. That would have gotten the word out big-time. That could have made the rich and the powerful head for the stable that night, bringing honor and glory to the newborn King. Heck, they probably could have even gotten Joseph and Mary a room! But shepherds? Scripture tells us that they were "abiding in the fields" when the Heavenly Host (Is it just me or does that sound like a jazz band to anyone else?  Gabriel on trumpet, of course...) showed up. Of course they were! You know why? Because they smelled so bad no one wanted to be anywhere near them. Shepherds weren't even allowed in the temple in those days, because they were too nasty to go through the ritualistic purification required to worship there. They spent all of their days and nights in the field with sheep because no one else would have them! But when it came time to announce to the world that He was sending His only Son to save us, God turned to this smelly bunch of uneducated Hebrew rednecks. And they obeyed. They went to find the baby in a smelly barn, surrounded by smelly animals and laying in a disgusting manger- no doubt with animal slobber all over it (as a side note, I hope moms everywhere will note that Jesus and millions of other kids lived very healthy lives BEFORE the invention of the disinfectant wipe.  I'm just sayin...). And in the midst of all of this smelliness, hope was born. The world was saved, though no one knew it yet. When those stinkin' sheep-herders bowed to worship that baby, they represented us all. We are all totally unworthy of being in the presence of God, and yet because of the man that baby became we are all invited. How ridiculous!

The Jesus Revolution was going on right from the very beginning. God used a no-name girl from the least respected town of a pitiful little province to bring His Son into our world. He had him born in the most humble of circumstances, and sent His angels to the least likely witnesses anyone could think of. Before ever speaking a word, Jesus told the world that everything was about to change. Power, wealth and prestige were going to give way to the weak, the poor and the smelly. And yet so many of us have still not heeded that message. I encourage you today to be willing to get a little smelly for Jesus. Find ways to connect with those who are "abiding in the fields" and are being ignored by our society. They have much to teach us. For the Jesus Revolution to take hold in this world, we all need to be more like the shepherds. My friends, it is time to get out there and stink, because God has shown over and over again He will use the smelly to change the world. How totally ridiculous. Just as ridiculous as sacrificing your only Son to save a bunch of sinful humans...   Amen and Amen.

Jesus- the only hope for me is you- and YOU alone!

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