An invitation to ‘outsiders’

nearDo you ever feel like an ‘outsider?’  As conversation swirls around you, do you ever wonder, “where do I fit into this scene?”  I do!  I can connect in social settings that are shaped around my role as a pastor where I know where I fit and generally understand the expectations of other people. However, if you put me at a Christmas party my anxiety will rise as I deal with that old question for me, “Do I really belong here?”

There were some men at the manger where Jesus was born that naturally did not fit in. What were shepherds doing there? Sheep herding was a menial job in Judah. They were rough, men who lived outside of regular society. The work was constant and kept them from the synagogue and from observing Jewish rituals so the smug Pharisees sniffed that shepherds were all sinners. But God chose to bring them into the scene.

Strangely, to our understanding, God chose these outsiders, these simple men to be the first to hear about a new era for humanity. “And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” (Luke 2:9-10, NKJV) “So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:15-16, NKJV)

There’s a real lesson in His choice of an audience that night. God still seeks those marginalized, those pushed to the fringes, those without power or wealth. Unlike us, His creatures, He is not enamored with beauty, captivated by celebrity, or impressed by shiny gold. Our titles and resumes do not mean a thing to Him. Make of it what you will, there were no Pharisees (people admired for their devotion to religious detail) at the manger!  But, there were shepherds.

The faith of those men is implicit in the story. They did not form a study group to determine the authenticity of the  angelic appearance. They did not consult the local leadership guru about the best long term response. They received an invitation, exercised faith, and took off running. Luke tells us that “They came with haste.” Men who normally avoided society, who were used to rejection, who were obligated to make sure their flocks were safe, offered their hearts and witness to God’s amazing news of Earth’s redemption.

  • Perhaps you are feeling a little marginalized by others?
  • Perhaps it is just a thing inside of you that insists you are not worthy of God’s love or His goodness?
  • Does some past sin haunt you and whisper to you that you are beyond the reach of grace because you are too bad, too sinful?
  • Do old rejections rise up to tell you that you are too old, too sick, too poor, too unattractive to come to worship the King of kings?

People have lots of reasons (excuses) for not responding to God’s invitation to come to Jesus.  The shepherds standing around a new born baby sleeping in a manger of Bethlehem reminds us that we are never “too anything” to be beyond His love and grace.

Jesus Christ is ’ good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’

Throughout His ministry, Jesus found common people – fishermen, laborers, social outcasts, street people – and He invited them to “Come, follow Me.”  When they did, He changed them, included them, and made them a new community which came to known as the Church, ‘the Ekklesia’ – the called out ones.

Are you a reluctant disciple (an oxymoron, really)? Are you eager to follow Him?
Are you a captive of fear, believing the lie that God does not care about you?
Are you tangled in the troubles of life, convinced by circumstances that you’re outside of the circle of God’s grace?

Here is a word from the Word. Silence the voice of rejection and come home to your Abba.
“But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has brought peace to us.” (Ephesians 2:13-14, NLT)

 “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness.” (Colossians 3:12-15, The Message)

Come running!  Don’t stop at the Manger.  Continue to the Cross where love spilled forgiveness, then move to the Empty Tomb that assures us of our final victory over sin, death, and Hell.

________________

O Come All Ye Faithful

O come all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him
Born the King of angels.

Yea Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning.
Jesus, to Thee be all glory giv’n.
Word of the Father
Now in flesh appearing.

O come let us adore Him.
O come let us adore Him.
O come let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord!

Frederick Oakeley | John Francis Wade
Public Domain

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