Beautiful Between

living fully in the now & not yet

Why The Shepherds Heard First: God Loves the Least

“And in that same region there were shepherds out in the field,

keeping watch over their flock by night.”

– Luke 2:8

They were caked the waste of an existence that could never quite be washed away. The filth of their work stained their souls as much as their skin. They were despised, deprived of the opportunity to meet with God in a culture obsessed with purity. Unclean, people whispered.

Their legal rights had been stripped away. It was a foregone conclusion that they would lie under oath, so they could never testify in court. It was assumed that any property in their hands was stolen, so they were unable to sell the products of their trade. Unreliable. Liars, people said.

They stood beside prostitutes and tax collectors on Palestine’s social ladder, the worst of the worst. “Don’t raise your son to be a shepherd,” the leaders said. “It’s the occupation of a thief.” They were outcasts, well-used to the sound of shaming.

Until a different sound split the night:

“…Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.”
– Luke 2:10-11, 14

The sky and their hearts were undone with that glory. How could it be? This Messiah was supposed to come to good people, to righteous leaders with a corner on the God-market, but He comes to the last and least? These dirty and disqualified men, never able to testify before, are now called witnesses to the greatest promise fulfilled: that God is with us, Immanuel.  And this message to the unclean and outcasts and ashamed is a microcosm of the gospel, of the life of Christ and his movement in our lives.

The Spirit of the Lord on this God-man,
coming first with good news for the poor,
the broken-hearted bandaged up, prison doors opened,
a promise of the very smile of God upon us,
and justice for sin
because He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf,
and all our hideous wrong can now become the righteousness of God.

The words echo again today: Unwanted. Rejected. Failure. Incompetent. Outcast. Empty. Alone. We will never be good enough. The grime we’ve waded through can never be washed away. God wouldn’t come close because of the bad things we’ve done and the bad people we are.  

But the message is the same for us as it was for the shepherds two thousand years ago:

You who are broken, hated, excluded, ashamed, this news is for you. This long-awaited Savior who has been promised since the day Adam and Eve left Eden, for thousands of years…this Savior is here for you. What’s more, God is bringing peace – security, safety, harmony, happiness, and the beautiful peace that is reconciliation with God.

On the first day of His life, the Savior wasn’t with the self-assured righteous, but with outcasts and thieves. And this moment would be echoed the last day of His life, when He would hang between outcasts and thieves. His life is bookended with, “I’m pleased with you” and “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

This is the grace that awes. This is the good news: love for the least likely. When we feel the emptiness, the brokenness, the lack, the message doesn’t change.  This Christmas, may we be arrested with wide-eyed wonder. May we find ourselves in the field and know this great joy is for us – even the outcasts.

Merry Christmas, friends.

5 Replies

  1. These words have touched my heart Sarah. In this noisy world where people seem to find the fault on others, the message of hope is given to the hopeless on this Christmas! Powerful!

  2. Sarah,
    So great to meet you tonight on Hangouts. A great post of love, redemption and that Jesus is for all of us – no matter what our lives “look like”.

    1. Thank you so much, Janis! It was wonderful to meet you, too. Looking forward to growing with you!

  3. This IS the good news! Dejected, despised, drunken with failure, and yet He calls me “son”. God of the prodigals! Praise be to God.

    1. Isn’t that the greatest news, Steve? The true gospel never gets old! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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