Christmas is about lights, angels, glory, giving, warmth, and good news. Of course.
Our celebrations and music and gift-giving and eating seem exactly right for our festive, month-long celebration of the birth of Jesus.
But Christmas is also about smelly shepherds who were uninvited to any church service or life event. For the most part, first-century shepherds slept outside. They were ostracized outside of community circles. The shepherds outside of Bethlehem raised perfect sheep for spotless sacrifices in Jerusalem. The shepherds of those without-blemish sheep couldn’t use the sheep for their own sacrifices in Jerusalem. The shepherds were so smelly, they were not allowed inside the temple or anywhere near other more fragrant people. The shepherds smelled like sheep. Who wants that. Of course.
But what’s this have to do with the good news of Christmas? The good news is only as brilliant as the bad news undergirding the occasion.
The bad news of Christmas is that we desperately need a Savior. Of course. We are so messy and smelly with sin, there’s no possible way to save ourselves. Our problem is not political, although impeachment hearings seem to reflect it’s our only problem. Our problem is not financial, health, or relational. Our biggest challenge is not outside of ourselves, it’s inside. We have a sin issue inside us all that we can’t escape. Our hearts are captured with allegiances other than the one who pledged allegiance to us with His life.
Our terminal sin disease renders us unable to live the way we were designed to live. Of course, do people know this? Paul David Tripp writes, “It is either the height of arrogance or the depth of delusion to think that you are okay. Be encouraged to accept the bad news of the Christmas story, because, if you do, the good news becomes all the more comforting and glorious.”
On Sunday, we’ll be taking a closer look at those smelly, marginalized shepherds. They were unlikely and very messy — and this is precisely where God with skin shows up after 400 years of intentional silence. Who are the smelly and marginalized among us? Who are the most unlikely and very messy where God has a propensity and history of showing up?
Of course, I’m excited to be taking this Gospel Works trek through Christmas with you on Sunday. Our text will be Luke 2:8-14. You should bring a friend to see how a familiar Christmas scripture comes to life with smells of sheep and nods to the unlikely and very messy.
It’s a busy season, and we’ll have coffee waiting for you at 9 & 11… of course!
Blessings & Merry Christmas,