Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas reflections: the extraordinary to the ordinary

Shepherds, though viewed positively in Scripture, were ordinary, everyday people in the workaday world of the nativity event (Darrell Bock). The world divides the ordinary people from those considered extraordinary. As in the elite, educated, sophisticated extraordinaires, as opposed to the rest, in many places, including America. The church has often succumbed to this (see James in his warning in chapter 2) kind of thinking. Through the centuries its divide of "saints" from the rest, as well as the clergy/laity divide has not been helpful to God's bringing in of the new Israel in the new creation and new humanity in Jesus, one in which these divisions between rich and poor, slave and free, learned and illiterate, etc., dissolve, and are no more.

It is interesting that Jesus, called the good and great Shepherd, was not a shepherd himself during his earthly life. But he worked a humble trade (either as a carpenter or with stone) in the midst of people in a small village, not far removed from rural life. Jesus himself lived as an ordinary person who astonished all, especially, it seems, those who thought they knew him, and in some ways did know him best. But this is like God, and his work in our world.

Shepherds, abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Yes, they are there. But not really in the mainstream and ebb and flow of society that much. But it's a regular night.

Suddenly! There are gasps. Rods and staffs fall to the ground. Then the shepherds either fall down, or get down, as they look up to the sky. Hands on their heads to partially guard their eyes from the sudden blaze of light, and to bend their ears, so they could catch the wondrous event, occuring right before them! (I think of how it may have occurred)

An angel of Yahweh, no doubt! "Fear not! Behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which is for all the people. Today, in the city of David, a Savior has been born for you. He is the Messiah, the Lord. And this will be a sign for you. You will find a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."

Then suddenly the sky becomes even brighter. A choir of angels appear, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heavens. And on earth, peace, good will towards all those on whom his favor rests." Breathtaking.

Just as suddenly as it began, the sky is back to normal. But the shepherds, yes these ordinary shepherds are not the same. They are strangely filled with a kind of peace and inward joy, and at this time are in "a rush". They tell each other that they should hurry to Bethlehem and see this event that has come to pass, that the Lord told them about.

So they hurry off. They find Mary and Joseph, and the baby Jesus. And then they begin to tell this good news as it had been given to them by the angels, amazing their listeners. Mary treasuring this in her heart.

The shepherds return to their "ordinary" world and work. Glorifying and praising God in light of all they had been told and witnessed.

The extraordinary from God, appears and is revealed, time and time again to us ordinary people. Many times we may not express what we've seen all that well. But those who hear us know we've seen something. They know something extraordinary is there, even though we're just ordinary people. God seems to delight in making himself and his works, and from that, his ways, known to any of us who will just be open to hear, see, learn from that, and tell others. Isn't it wonderful? Some of the best and closest times I've had with others in God, were times with uneducated folks who loved God wholeheartedly and had a faith that was contagious. They could learn nothing from me, as I did from them. I learned to be content as one of them, this being an important part of what God was doing in forming me towards the Eikon of God I am to be.

What about us? Do we realize this as one of the ways of God? That he reveals himself in his greatness and goodness to just ordinary folk, who are nothing special in the eyes of the world? Do we believe he wants to make himself known in Jesus, to us? And through us to others?

4 comments:

L.L. Barkat said...

Funny, isn't it, that we often desire to be extraordinary instead? And, maybe in all that longing and striving, we miss the ordinary opportunities to bless and to bathe in God's blessing.

Anonymous said...
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Ted Gossard said...

L.L.,
Excellent point. Yes, the "miracle" of God in the Incarnation is really seen in the everyday, ordinary. That then becomes extraordinary. Just as you well say!

Ted Gossard said...

Anonymous,
If you will say something we can understand, we will look forward to that. But I'm sorry. I can't accept comments that seem meaningless.