Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name. Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.
(words from the prophet Micah in the Book of Micah 5:2)
“And thou, Bethlehem in the land of Judah……from thee shall come a prince — one who shall be the Shepherd of my people Israel.” Matthew 2: 6 WEYMOUTH BIBLE
“Now after the birth of Jesus, which took place at Bethlehem in Judaea in the reign of King Herod, excitement was produced in Jerusalem by the arrival of certain magi from the east, inquiring,
‘Where is the newly born king of the Jews? For we have seen his Star in the east, and have come here to do him homage.’
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled , and all Jerusalem with him.” Matthew 2: 1-3 KJV
The shepherds were told of the birth by angels. Coming to the stable to worship from their watch over the flocks in their worn clothing, probably soiled and smelly, they had no gifts to present, nothing to offer other than awe and amazement.
The wise men were guided by a star in the sky to Bethlehem. Learned and scholarly, they traveled probably with a caravan of support staff and supplies. Being kings from the Orient, they were surely well attired and adorned. And they brought valuable gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Which would I be? Shepherd or king? What would I have to offer in the presence of a Lord and Master? What gift could I give to honor His presence in my life? How about you, what could your gift be?
My answer is easy. I am the shepherd who, from the surrounding hillsides, has seen opulence in society but never participated. I am the man who has suffered the condescension of the villagers who believe themselves better than me, more moral than me, more worthy than me. I am a simple man, not so much because I love simplicity, but because I can only afford a simple lifestyle. I do not ride in caravans with jewel-bedecked kings on camels. No, my ride is more akin to that of the adult Jesus – a borrowed donkey. I do not speak to governors for information when I arrive in a strange town. I have to use the tourist center and a google search. Yes, I would be the one sleeping in a barn on a bed of straw because I could not afford a room at the inn. I am Joseph. I am Mary. I am all people who put their trust in a Savior, unseen and indescribable, seeking a life of meaningful spiritual experience.
There is great comfort in the story of the shepherds and the wise men. Do you see it, too? God came to the shepherds protecting the flocks on the hillside. They were not seeking God. God sought them to make the announcement. The angels stood round about and proclaimed the good news. The shepherds did not have to travel across a continent, they did not have to follow a star. They did not have riches to bring. No, God came to men who were common, unrefined, and poor announcing the birth of acceptance, equality, compassion, righteousness and tolerance among all mankind in the body of baby Jesus.
I love this story because that night in Bethlehem means that I, too, can participate in the Kingdom. I qualify for membership. My spiritual poverty, my human depravity, my brokenness in need of healing are qualifiers. The only dues for membership are surrender and unconditional love.
Too high a price, maybe? What’s the alternative? Cold nights sitting on a darkened hillside guarding a flock of smelly sheep? Spending an eternity separated from the graces of a Lord and Savior? It’s my call, yours too. The invitation is there waiting for us to accept.
“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.” step 3, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS