Well it’s almost Christmas, which is absolutely crazy. I’m not quite sure where December went, or the year for that matter.
So this past week I sat down and watched a few of the old Christmas classics – Frosty the Snowman, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation and Rudolph.
I have seen Rudolph almost every year that I can remember – but for some reason one of the songs struck me this week, more than it has in the past.
Rudolph and the non-conforming elf Hermie are in the forest singing the song Misfit.
The last line of the song they both sing:
We’re a couple of misfits. We’re a couple of misfits. What’s the matter with misfits.That’s where we fit in!
Do you ever like a misfit?
Not the band the misfits…or a reindeer with a bright red nose, an elf with a funny hat, or jack-in-the box named Charlie – but do you ever feel like sometimes you just don’t fit in – no matter what you do, where you go, or what you say – you are stuck on the island of misfit toys.
You’re the only one of your friends who isn’t in relationship – or the only ones of your married friends who don’t have kids – or you got your notification from work that you are now a loyal member of the jelly of the month club.
Maybe your Christmas tree is the smallest Christmas tree ever (according to my nephew) and only four foot tall, instead of 6, or 8 – or 25 feet.
Maybe you don’t have the right animal on your shirt – you got a duck that is quacking the wrong way, not the green alligator or the horse and polo rider.
Your car has a little more rust than the one you parked right beside.
You can’t go to the work party everyone is talking about because you have to go to your other job – you recently hit a rough spot with your finances and you have bills that are piling up.
You are a single parent – just trying to make it through the day – and you look around and all you see are moms and dads having fun with their kids – you worry…
Or maybe you are like me and just enjoy wearing mismatched socks – in a matching socks kind of world.
I think this song struck me this time because there are moments I feel like a misfit whether by my own choice, or because society says I don’t fit the mold.
However, regardless of the reason for being a misfit, I know I’m in good company. There were other misfits that came before me – and these misfits just happened to lead the procession to the manger, one night so very long ago.
Have you ever asked Why the Shepherds?
Why are they in the Christmas Story?
There has got to be more of a reason than they make a good Christmas card or sound good in Christmas songs.
If I were writing the perfect Christmas story – one with presents, trees, pageantry, lights, perfect moments under the mistletoe, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, sleigh rides, snow and cozy nights snuggling on the couch…putting smelly shepherds in the mix would not be my first choice.
Probably why I’m not God – among other reasons I’m sure…
So why then, did these guys who watch sheep all day and night, get chosen as the first ones to hear about the birth of the most important baby in history?
Check it out – the angels reserved their most significant and most incredible birth announcement ever – to the least likeliest of recipients. They reserved their message for a bunch of misfit shepherds watching over their sheep.
Why the shepherds?
Luke 2:8 “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby…,.”
The shepherds were not just out in the fields, they were living out in the fields – like pitched a tent, type living. Which is one reason they were not often invited to many high dollar parties. Without much access to a nice hot shower, very few people wanted them around.
The shepherds were often ignored, outcast and despised. Due to their lack of a bathing, they were often considered unclean most of the time and unable to participated in the Jewish religious life.
They were not any Celebrity A List, or any List for that matter, except the outcast and unwanted list.
In fact, the life of a Shepherd was as far from glamorous and star-studded as one could get.
Needless to say if you wanted to make a name for yourself, being a shepherd was not the profession you wanted to go into.
So these nomads just kept to themselves, and were “keeping watch over their flocks at night.”
Now a little note on this flock of sheep. They weren’t ordinary fluffy sheep that roamed the hillside making a good scenery picture.
These were more than likely Bethlehem sheep, which meant these sheep were ones that would eventually be used for the sacrifices in the temple. These were sacrificial sheep raised for only one purpose, to one day be led to the altar of God to shed their blood and give their lives for the sins of God’s people.
These shepherds – these misfits – this group of men whom no one wanted to associate with – are living out in the fields keeping a very close watch on the future Passover lamb – fitting this wouldn’t be the only future Passover lamb they would encounter that night.
Interesting to see how God puts his story together.
Luke 2:9 “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and the shepherds were…terrified!”
Imagine for a moment – being out on a hillside, it’s dark. The only light was the moon, the stars, and a dim light left from the burning fire. Then all of a sudden – literally out of nowhere – comes a bright light, with angels. Cue the music – we have now entered the twilight zone…
We also need to realize that some of these shepherds were sleeping. They would take turns watching sheep during the night. This isn’t exactly the wake-up call they were expecting.I can imagine some of them were wondering if they were still dreaming, and maybe other were curious as what kind of mushrooms they just ate…
And we know this had to be a crazy – deer caught in the headlights – totally freaked out type of moment because the angels’ first words were NaNuNaNu…I come in peace.
No not really, but that would have been fun…
Luke 2:10 Rather the angel said, “Do not be afraid I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Take a deep breath – calm yourself down – we ain’t got time for you to be terrified.
Don’t be afraid – I have good news of great joy – this is key – news that will be for ALL the people.
All people, not just a small few – not just for kings and queens, the in-crowd, A-listers, and millionaires, but EVERYONE.
This child has come for ALL people – This message has come for ALL people. Can you imagine how the shepherds felt when they heard that this message was for all? They were never included in ALL – they were the stinky misfit shepherds, no one wanted them included in the ALL category, and yet in a message for the ages, the shepherds were the first to hear it, and were the first ones included.
We ask Why the Shepherds? Because God likes to shake up the ordinary and replace it with the unordinary.
Which is exactly what He did. God shook up the ordinary, and replaced it with an unordinary cast of misfit characters – why? Because God is God of the misfits – and because he SO Loves Us.
The message from the angels is one of the most important messages in this entire Christmas story – they tell the misfit shepherds, you are wanted, you are highly valued, and the grace, love and mercy that the savior brings is for you too – because in God’s Story, the Misfits are the first and among the most important.
So if God chose to reveal his glory to the shepherds first and tell these misfits no one wanted on their friend list about the greatest baby ever, then you and I will never be too lost, too insignificant, too unimportant, too unwanted, too forgotten, too much of a misfit, for God not to literally move heaven and earth for us, find us, extend grace to us, love us, forgive us, and welcome us back home.
The shepherds help us see that no one that is “TOO…ANYTHING” for God.
There is no one that is TOO ANYTHING for God.
Luke 2:11-12 “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
No super hero – no Captain America, No Superman or mighty warrior like you probably have imagined. Rather, this savior is small and fragile, Innocent, helpless, vulnerable, and dependent. You will find a baby wrapped in a tattered blanket to keep warm, and lying in a feeding trough.
Not exactly the way we would have written the Christmas story huh. Yet – we need to remember that God shook up the ordinary and replaced it with an unordinary cast of misfit characters, because he so love us.
Luke 2:13-15 “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off…”
The shepherds leave as quickly as they can to go check out this event that happened. They get out their GPS and locate Jesus at the stable and hurried…
Maybe they hurried out of curiosity as to what the angels were talking about. Maybe they were still slightly terrified that if they didn’t go the singing angels would show back up. Maybe they had remembered the promise that was made 600 years earlier from the prophet Isaiah –
For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Maybe they wanted to see the promise fulfilled – first hand…regardless we know that they left in haste to see what had happened.
Luke 2:17 “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
They found him – the savior of the world, the king of kings and lord of lords – they found him, lying in a manger. I love what happens next. Again the shepherds could have said, Yep – that’s a baby alright. Well boys those angels weren’t lying. You folks have a good night, we got sheep to get back to. They could have just gone right back into the same old routine of watching sheep, but something happened to them – they experienced Jesus. When these misfit shepherds experienced Jesus they were never the same.
In fact the shepherds could not keep quiet about what they had seen, heard and experienced that night. So they got out their phones, opened up Facebook – first checked in, at the stable letting everyone know where they were – then posted a message – HE’S HERE! THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD HAS BEEN BORN IN BETHLEHEM! They tweeted – Little Baby JC was born tonight. #SinsForgiven #HolyKid #AngelsRockedTheMessage. A few of them SnapChatted the whole thing, sent it to all their friends. Then got on Instagram and took a group photo – with the perfect photo bomb by the cow.
Luke 2:20 “The Shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the thing they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
So why the shepherds?
The shepherds show us that our idea of the Christmas Story is way different than that of Gods. Every single person in God’s Christmas Story, saw first hand that God has a different way of doing things. They all received new revelations about who God is and what God is about.
The shepherds remind us that God is a God of the misfits, the outcasts, and the nobodies. God challenges the conventional ways of life, he challenges the norms of culture – he challenges the ideals of what we think should happen – and who we think needs an invitation to the party. God challenges us individually and as a church to look at others through his lenses – ALL are welcome, Regardless – no one is TOO ANYTHING for God – his invitation of grace and love is for ALL.
Think about this – had Jesus been born in a palace, with fine linens, nurse maids and servants – the shepherds probably would have never been permitted to see him. What palace guard would let a shepherd in the front door? But Jesus was not born in a palace, and there was no hospital where things need to be clean and germ free, nor pristine house or luxury hotel – but a stable, where other animals lived, filled with dirt and germs – interesting how even as a baby Jesus was in the midst of the mess, the imperfect and unordinary ways.
What a perfect place for the shepherds to come and visit – they were welcomed that night – no guard turned them away – no one saying they had to wipe their feet and clean up – they saw Jesus as they were – just a couple of dirty stinky misfits in the only place they ever needed to fit in.
That night – when the angels came to those shepherds in that field, God shook up the ordinary ways of life and replaced it with his unordinary style and cast of misfit characters – so that you and I would never have any doubt of His love for us and His desire to have us in his Kingdom.
Finally the shepherds remind us that when we experience Jesus – our lives are changed and that alone is reason to celebrate and share the good news of great joy. So go ahead post your message, send out that tweet or text – write your emails – and make those phone calls. Celebrate the good news.
We’re a bunch of misfits. We’re a bunch of misfits. What’s the matter with misfits? In God’s Story is exactly where we fit in.