Shun the Shepherds

“…nothing to do with shepherds.”




“Joseph said this because Egyptians will have nothing to do with shepherds.” (Genesis 46:34)


“Look out Mary, it’s the shepherds!  Hide your purse!”  What do you think Joseph might have said to Mary when the shepherds showed up at the manger?  If I understand correctly shepherds were not always considered to be the most highly respected citizens in the land during the time of Jesus’ birth.  Some considered them ruffians and even opportunistic thieves.  The quote from Genesis is part of the other Joseph’s story (Joseph with the coat of many colors).  When that Joseph was about to bring his family to live in Egypt he gave them some words of warning about what to say to the Egyptians because he knew Egyptians didn’t have a very good opinion of shepherds.  I guess they weren’t the only ones…

Maybe by the time Joseph (Jesus’ earthly father) saw the shepherds come straggling up to the manger his world had already been so rocked and turned upside down by the events surrounding the birth of this child that he actually looked at the shepherds and thought, “Shepherds?  Why not?  Everything else about this kid’s arrival has been topsy-turvy.  Come on in guys!  I certainly wouldn’t have invited you to the party but I guess I’ve figured out by now this is not my party.  I know who sent you!”

When I walked by this particular nativity scene (created by my wife when she was a junior in high school) and saw the shepherds it got me to thinking about all the holiday gatherings of family and friends.  Christmas has become one of the most important times for uniting in fellowship.  The thought of being alone or not being able to be with family and friends for the holiday can be very painful.  We look around the room or table at our gatherings relishing the joy of seeing those present while simultaneously feeling the stab of pain from the memory of those absent.  We have definite ideas about who we want to be there with us for our Christmas gathering and make sure those folks are on our list to invite.  What about the list of those we want to make sure we don’t invite?

Don’t you have one of those lists?  I’m uncomfortable to have to admit it, but I know I could come up with one of those lists pretty easily.  There are folks who make me uneasy and uncomfortable.  There are folks I don’t really know but have heard negative things about them.  There are folks I know enough about to tell me that I really don’t want them near me.  Just give me a few moments and I can give you a pretty long list of people I don’t want to invite.

We must not forget that Christmas is a radical event.  As schmaltzy as we try to make it, Christmas at its core is the celebration of God’s radical loving.  Maybe that’s why God invited the shepherds – to remind us that radical loving means working on loving not only those who are more difficult to love, but also the ones that we’d rather not even try to love.  Here’s what I think I’ll try this Christmas.  As I pass by a nativity scene and see a shepherd instead of saying, “Ahhhhhh,” I’ll say, “Ouch!” because I’ll picture on the face of that shepherd someone I’d rather not invite to the party.  I pray that God’s radical love in Christ will help me move from “ouch” to “Okay, come on in.”  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church
Cross Lanes, West Virginia

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~ by revgenelson on December 12, 2012.

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