For the Lord has redeemed Israel from those too strong for them. They will come home and sing songs of joy on the heights of Jerusalem. They will be radiant because of the Lordâ€™s good gifts
The average temperature, that night, outside Bethlehem is forty-two degrees. Not exactly summer picnic weather. Shepherds never had an easy life. The average salary of a shepherd â€“ while in that day there wasnâ€™t any â€“ and Iâ€™ll get to that â€“ is today only $26,200. That is less than half of the median household income. It is barely enough to cover housing and a little food. It is the definition of poverty.
I mentioned that shepherds in Jesusâ€™ day did not really make a salary. They were typically elderly or younger family members who couldnâ€™t be trusted in any other role. So they got to watch the sheep.
Cold, in poverty, unwanted and thought useless. They are who we celebrate today. We celebrate them because they were the first to see and get the message. They were the first to tell of it, to spread the Good News. God has entered the world to bring to fulfillment what He spoke through Jeremiah: I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.
This has been a strange Advent and Christmas season for me. A movie, a song â€“ Iâ€™d find myself getting emotional. This holds a deeper meaning and lesson. God was teaching me a lesson.
We must never let the cold of the world, the constant just above freezing forty-two degree spiritual environment around us shut down the warmth of our hearts. If the cold of the world has gotten to us â€“ today we must recognize and acknowledge that Godâ€™s got it. He will not let the cold win.
Are we impoverished and weakened, poor for want of physical, spiritual, or intellectual gifts? Today we must recognize and acknowledge that Godâ€™s got it. He will not let poverty win.
Are we unwanted, estranged, facing deep loneliness, rarely thought of, shuffled into the elderly corner or to the kidâ€™s table? Today we must recognize and acknowledge that Godâ€™s got it. He will not let separation win.
We long for so many gifts, as did the shepherds on that hill. We long as individuals, a community and neighborhood, and as Church. Suddenly, life was different and it IS different now because Godâ€™s promise is fulfilled- He has us.