Luke 2:8-18

God didn’t choose people like you and me. God chose people who didn’t go to church, who couldn’t make it to church, to announce the coming of the Messiah. This was pretty big news. So why would God choose such obscure people to hear it first?

In the first sermon Jesus ever preached, he said, “Blessed are the meek.” Maybe that is why God chose shepherds. These are not the kind of people who would ask God if God knew what he was doing. Had the angels gone to theologians, they would have first consulted their commentaries. Had the angels gone to the elite, they would have looked around to see who was looking. Had the angels gone to the successful, they would have first checked their calendars. So he went to those who made their living on the hills outside of town warding off wolves or thieves. This also meant that they couldn’t make it church.


Not that the rest of us would have wanted them here anyway. Not because shepherds were peasants and would be compelled to wear the only clothes they owned, the ones they slept in. Not because they were the lowest of the social classes and couldn’t have put a dime in the collection plate even if they wanted to. And not even because to survive they had to be crafty-(insert the word dishonest here). They often grazed their sheep on land that was not theirs.

The reason we wouldn’t want them sitting beside us in the pew is because they looked as woolly as their sheep and after many nights of sleeping with them, well…. they smelled like sheep dung. So this is why God made the least the first to hear of the greatest gift ever given.

These were men who had no axe to grind, or any ladder to climb, or a reputation to protect. These were men who didn’t know enough to tell God that angels don’t sing to sheep, or that messiahs aren’t found wrapped in rags sleeping in a feed trough.

Blessed are the meek. Not so blessed are those who think they know more than God and think they know how things are to be done; those who won’t allow themselves to believe in miracles.


The song the angels sang that night came out like one loud alleluia’ hurled through the earth’s darkness, lighting up Bethlehem’s sky. Some people, those not so meek, say it was the wrong time for such alleluias. It happened in a foreign place with a ruler imposing a new tax; on a hilly place, when an old woman well beyond her child bearing years nourishes her new son she has called John; when an older ruler senses a new threat, and the place was too busy for people to take notice. Some say the shepherds were too crude, the carpenter father too rough, the girl was too young. The wrong time. The wrong place. The wrong people.

If only God had sent the Messiah in a blaze of glory with legions of angels wielding golden swords, maybe the world might have taken notice. But God keeps blessing the meek but not so much those who have taken this announcement and turned it into a time of the year, those who have diminished it to a cute baby in a manger, who have defiled it by making the giving of gifts a commercial obligation, who have turned it into a cozy feeling of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, who soothe their conscience with a few coins thrown into the Salvation Army bucket. Those who turned the alleluias to lyrics on a page taken out for a time and then returned to the choir folder until next year. Those who are not so meek have changed the proclamation to all the earth from a Messiah given to the world to Messiah owned by Handel.


Who hushed the alleluias? It was not the meek. Who brought violence and took away the angelic voices? Who brought despair and took away hope? Who brought barrenness and crushed the flowers? Who stole the music and brought silence? What Herods lurk within still seeking to kill our children? Not the meek because, even now, they expect to face the world armed with nothing but love. Such sweet sounding words but how simplistic, how naive. They would be if they were the human words of politicians and kings. But they are God’s words, words written in the undefiled, words scripted in an act that can be seen as nothing else than a mystery. That God so loved this world, that God gave to it her only begotten son, laid him in a manger and said to a brand new father and mother, “Take care of him.”

“Behold, I declare unto you a mystery.” God loves to dance with the common, the meek, because they join her in the dance. God does not see that anything God has created as common or meek. God dances among ordinary sheep; some fat, some scrawny, some barrel-bellied, some twig-legged. There is no fleece of gold here. No history makers. No blue ribbon winners. Just sheep; lumpy, sleeping silhouettes on a hillside. Just ordinary shepherds. You won’t find their staffs in a museum nor their writings in a library. No one will ever ask them their opinions on social justice or the application of the Torah. They were nameless and simple.

But they are the meek who are willing to dance with God because no one has ever told them they shouldn’t be dancing this omnipotence. Those who are ready to dance considered mad by those who can’t hear the music. But God dances and that night God does a waltz. The black sky explodes with brightness. Trees that had once been shadows jump into clarity. Sheep that had been silent become a chorus of curiosity. One minute shepherds are dead asleep and the next they are rubbing their eyes and staring into the face of angels. The night is ordinary no more. The shepherds are ordinary no longer but are now the proclaimers of glory. The world is never the same again.


So blessed are the meek, the simple, the ones who don’t need to explain the mystery of God’s love but just dance into it, who go away from the stable declaring to all the world what they have seen and heard. The meek who are simple enough to believe that the mystery of God’s love can overcome any atrocity. Those who naive enough to believe that there is no Herod strong enough, no hurt deep enough, no curse shocking enough, no disaster shattering enough to stop the singing of angels. That if angels can sing in the dark days of Joseph and Mary, then their choruses can still be heard today. At least by the meek, the ones who believe that peace will only come from the goodness of God, not by any diplomacy of our own making. Because it is the meek, the simple, who shall inherit the earth.






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