Tag Archives: shepherds

The Father’s First Birth Announcement Goes to . . .

 

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This Christmas I find myself wondering, yet again, about those Bethlehem shepherds.

It’s possible, of course, that the Almighty chose these particular sheepherders as recipients of the angelic birth announcement of his Son because they were a sheep-shearing cut above the other sheep guys in the region.

Maybe they were better-dressed than most, draped in new camo robes ordered from Zimfela’s Catalog complete with Velcro-secured mesh pockets for their ZX-7 night vision sheep-finding goggles.

Perhaps they were unusually prosperous shepherds, the sort who could afford a clean-robe-a-day laundry service; hence, if you were downwind and one was headed your way, your first clue would be visual or auditory, never olfactory.

Maybe, before entering any respectable domicile following their shepherd shift, they were careful to switch from their field sandals to high-dollar Habakkukstock footware lest they track in . . . something.

It’s even possible, I suppose, that the Lord God chose these particular fellows because they were unusually educated and articulate. Perhaps a couple or three of them were actually Aramaic majors who’d had a hard time finding lucrative employment after college but at class reunions, even though they were less well-sandaled than their Business major classmates, could take solace in the fact that they understood more about the meaning of life.

Or maybe the Creator chose them because they were, against all stereotypes, remarkably religious sheepherders. Sure, their work made it hard for them to attend worship services in town, but they never failed to hold regular devotionals during each of their shepherd shifts. Granted, it had been a bit more complicated since zealous young Zebulun, on vacation a couple of months ago, had wandered into a trendy mega-synagogue in Jerusalem. Now they were holding two devotionals an evening, one traditional and the other contemporary.

I suppose all of that is possible. But if you’re selling it (which is unlikely), I’m probably not buying.

What I really think is that our Father who brazenly, scandalously, seems to prefer ordinary folks over the boring and tedious, plastic and air-brushed, hang-your-own-halo, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, super-spiritual crowd (always religiously first at the scene of any crucifixions)—chose these guys to be first at the scene of his Son’s birth precisely because they were . . . wait for it . . . ordinary.

I have no beef with these shepherds. Far from criticizing our Father’s choice, I find it laugh-out-loud delightful.

The heavens were torn open. The angel announced. The heavenly host sang. To an audience of guys who smelled conspicuously like the south ends of north-facing sheep, to gents whose manners and language were far from genteel, who were quite capable of describing recalcitrant sheep in colorful terms, and who’d heretofore been most likely to find angels only at the bottom of a wineskin.

For that Bethlehem birth announcement, God chose shepherds! Ordinary folks. Like us. Can you imagine anything more extraordinary?!

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! And . . . Merry Christmas! 

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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What Happened to Those Christmas Shepherds?

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Christmas is over. Not just the day, but the real twelve-day season. (It’s actually January 6, Epiphany–that points to God’s light, the star, Gentiles, and Wise Men–as I’m writing.)

Last night at home our decorations started coming down. This evening we’ll pack away more of the seasonal beauty as our sweet, warm little church will be undecorated and, for a few days, uncharacteristically depressing.

Last evening I packed away the electric train that journeys around our tree. My wife took the lights and greenery off of the mantle. The Christmas cookie jars are headed off to wherever Christmas cookie jars go “in the bleak midwinter.”

The midwinter is never bleaker than after Christmas. I’m a winter guy in love with snow (not blizzards) and fireplaces, good books and sweaters. But I always hate it when the Christmas lights go out.

I plugged in our tree this morning for its last hurrah. When I pull the plug, I will be officially, once more, as far as I can get from Christmas. Rats.

My thoughts now, not very “Christmasy,” are nonetheless about Christmas events. I’ve been thinking about those Christmas shepherds.

“Christmas” shepherds they certainly were. It’s not hard for me to imagine other shepherds who might have found illusory angels at the bottom of wineskins. But these were, I’ll wager, the only shepherds this world has ever seen whose eyes were blinded by angel light and whose ears were filled with angel song. The only shepherds angel-sent to find God’s baby Son cradled in a feed trough in Bethlehem.

I wonder what they did with the sheep, but when these sheep-herders paid attention to the angels that lit up the skies, they traveled light to Bethlehem, unburdened by any need to be the most religious of the religious, or more “right” than is healthy or happy. They were not power-dulled CEOs of the corporate sheep pen. Just run of the sheep mill shepherds. Good for them. These guys are easy to like.

To Bethlehem they went. To the stable. Look in the manger they did, and they found the wonder-full thing they were seeking.

What I wonder now is what came after. What happened in the hearts of the shepherds when the angel skylights faded, when that first Christmas was over, and when they went back to their fields? They’d seen, heard, received, experienced, “good news of great joy.” What lasting difference did the Light of that one night make in their lives once they were back for days and months and years watching witless sheep in the dark?

I’m asking about the shepherds and the difference Christ’s coming made in their lives. It’s far too daunting a question for me to ask of the mothers of Bethlehem whose baby sons King Herod would murder when he heard of that same coming of the real King.

Somehow, if the angels’ message really is good news of great joy, it has to be such deep and real joy that it lasts when decorations go back in the box, angel lights in the fields fade out, shepherds get old, and even—it breaks my heart to think of this—when babies’ mothers mourn.

If the Light that shines is real light, it has to shine brightly in the darkness, as far as you can get from Christmas. If it does, and only if it does, God’s coming is never as far away as it sometimes seems.

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

  

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Even at Christmas, the Circle of Life Is Often a Whirlwind

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By the time you read this, the Christmas “mini-pageant” our church kids are presenting this year will be history.

But although this church is definitely a non-prophet organization, I can already tell you, as I’m writing two days before the event, it was cute and sweet, beautiful and full of meaning.

Right now, pageant practice is in the morning. If you walked through our church fellowship hall today and took a look at the stuff on the tables, you’d think a flock of Wise Men had molted.

Bethlehem didn’t see those wise fellows every day. Their appearance in our fellowship hall is a little unusual, too. We don’t do the pageant every year. Though, come to think of it, when we remodeled the sanctuary a number of years ago, straw still lurking in the crevices of steps up to the pulpit bore mute witness to more than a few past Christmas nativity plays!

It’s good to be encouraged to think about what that first Christmas must have been like. Some little wise “men” (one-third of whom is a wise girl, my granddaughter) who’ve not broken into double digits age-wise, but still look wise for their age, help our minds start mulling. As do some shepherds in bathrobe attire, a few sheep, a donkey (my grandson), and some sweet angels who’d never have to say, “Be not afraid!” because just looking at them makes folks smile.

Of course, if the wise folks had been a little wiser, they’d have told the shepherds that herding little siblings dressed up as sheep is uphill business.

But it all “works,” drawing our minds slowly but steadily away from bathrobes and escapee sheep; it points us to Bethlehem.

My mind needed some focusing this week. The week was promising to be a bit challenging schedule-wise even before it got started.

Some of the “busy-ness” was wonderful! One grandson was to be born on Monday (and he was!). Another was due on Wednesday. (Still holding, at this point.)

Then I got the call that a church member, dear friend, and amazing lady—91 years old—had passed away. I officiated and sang at the service Monday morning, jumped in my truck and made it to my newest grandson’s birth 100 miles away by early afternoon. He and I arrived at the nursery at almost the same time, a sweet meeting.

The “circle of life”? More like a whirlwind! My head was spinning. Even before the new fellow’s siblings—later cast as wise gal and cute donkey—came down with the flu. Then another granddaughter got bit by a stomach bug. (Two other grandchildren were still okay.) And one little grand-guy-to-come was still putting off his appearance.

Oh, well. It was into a world far from calm that the Babe of Bethlehem made his own entrance. It was a sinful, needy world. That’s why he came. And it’s into a heart, not a stable, that he wants to be welcomed again today. Yours.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne! Some of the music of the season is there–and even a potential gift or two!

 
Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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