How Am I Living Out all of my Joy in My Lord? Ordinary Shepherds being made Extraordinary Missionaries. Seeing all of our God’s Extraordinary Inclusiveness. Luke 2:15-20

Luke 2:15-20World English Bible

15 When the angels went away from them into the sky, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem, now, and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 They came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby was lying in the feeding trough. 17 When they saw it, they publicized widely the saying which was spoken to them about this child. 18 All who heard it wondered at the things which were spoken to them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, just as it was told them.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

David, the king who had led the nation of Israel to greatness a thousand years earlier, spent much of his boyhood as a shepherd in the outlying fields around Bethlehem.

While he was leading his father’s flocks into hills and valleys, he witnessed firsthand how a shepherd’s care is a fitting picture of God’s care for his people.

He summarized with imagery in a song he wrote, saying, “The Lord is my shepherd . . .” (Psalm 23:1).

Ten centuries after David, other shepherds were in those outlying fields outside Bethlehem, and one night they were met by a chorus of magnificent angels!

One of the angels spoke of a baby, born in the town of David, a child who was Christ the Lord.

The other angels, with voices that exploded into the night, cried out: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

God had found favor with these Shepherds. God was still shepherding his people! And now God would begin doing that through these Shepherds and a newly born baby lying in a manger who would become a Savior of His People.

Later, after seeing the child, the shepherds at Bethlehem became the Lord’s first missionaries, declaring, spreading the word about all that had happened.

God sent to the citizens of Bethlehem, simple shepherds—people trained in the not so glamorous art of tending clueless, helpless animals, not so glamorous art of defending and protecting those clueless helpless animals against predators, and thieves whose intent is clearly to cause great discomfort and harm.

With this new found purpose, the Shepherds rose up from the ground and with a newfound determination and passion and God given, God driven plan for life.

Perhaps they were inspired, pushed by God into finally believing in themselves.

Being pushed by God to finally believing they could move beyond the ordinary;

With a new found confidence in themselves, with the strength of God in them;

Perhaps they remembered the most timely words of their ancestor King David:

Psalm 18:31-35World English Bible

31 For who is God, except Yahweh?
    Who is a rock, besides our God,
32     the God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect?
33 He makes my feet like deer’s feet,
    and sets me on my high places.
34 He teaches my hands to war,
    so that my arms bend a bow of bronze.
35 You have also given me the shield of your salvation.
    Your right hand sustains me.
    Your gentleness has made me great.

Psalm 144World English Bible

By David.

144 Blessed be Yahweh, my rock,
    who teaches my hands to war,
    and my fingers to battle:
my loving kindness, my fortress,
    my high tower, my deliverer,
    my shield, and he in whom I take refuge,
    who subdues my people under me.
Yahweh, what is man, that you care for him?
    Or the son of man, that you think of him?
Man is like a breath.
    His days are like a shadow that passes away.
Part your heavens, Yahweh, and come down.
    Touch the mountains, and they will smoke.
Throw out lightning, and scatter them.
    Send out your arrows, and rout them.
Stretch out your hand from above,
    rescue me, and deliver me out of great waters,
    out of the hands of foreigners,
    whose mouths speak deceit,
    whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
I will sing a new song to you, God.
    On a ten-stringed lyre, I will sing praises to you.
10 You are he who gives salvation to kings,
    who rescues David, his servant, from the deadly sword.
11 Rescue me, and deliver me out of the hands of foreigners,
    whose mouths speak deceit,
    whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

12 Then our sons will be like well-nurtured plants,
    our daughters like pillars carved to adorn a palace.
13 Our barns are full, filled with all kinds of provision.
    Our sheep produce thousands and ten thousands in our fields.
14 Our oxen will pull heavy loads.
    There is no breaking in, and no going away,
    and no outcry in our streets.
15 Happy are the people who are in such a situation.
    Happy are the people whose God is Yahweh.

Lowly ordinary shepherds of Bethlehem, mightily, extraordinarily stirred up by God began to stir up their latent much suppressed curiosity, their hearts, souls and vocal cords to now announce the arrival of the Good Shepherd from heaven.

Whenever we read the story of Jesus’ birth or attend a church Christmas play, we expect the shepherds to play a prominent role.

Every nativity scene includes a cute “little angel” and “gentle shepherds.”

They are just an ordinary, traditional part of the seasonal Nativity package.

We may easily embrace shepherds as key characters in the story, but a Jewish person 2000 years ago would have found this echelons beyond incredulous.

For the birth of the Messiah, surely God would invite kings or chief priests, political influencers, scribes or religious insiders, but never shepherds.

God would not “stoop so fully, and completely, utterly low,” invite shepherds.

Shepherds were social outcasts.

They were poor, uneducated, uncultured, filthy in their hygiene and uncouth.

They were rough characters in a small town on the furthest fringes of society, so much so their testimony was not even admissible in court.

If you were with your family, walking through town, and took even minimal notice of you would very likely go to the other side of the street to avoid them.

Shepherds were religious outsiders.

Because of the incredibly disagreeable work of caring for the sheep made them ceremonially unclean, they were just not allowed into the temple courts or the temple community, no expectation to be an active part of synagogue worship.

Religious leaders often considered them on the same level as prostitutes.

When it came to religion, they were always kept on the outside looking in.

Into this most disagreeable scene of exclusion, God has just invited a group of guys who had been labeled as outcasts and outsiders by everyone, and placed them at the tip top of the invite list for the most important birthday in history.

This early in Luke’s Gospel Narrative, this introduces our ordinary existence to an extraordinary theme we will see continue throughout the story of Jesus’ life:

An extraordinary theme we should know today as extraordinary inclusiveness.

  • Jesus dines with and hangs out with religious outsiders, social outcasts, and “sinners” so much that He is accused of being a glutton and a drunkard.
  • Jesus casually crosses across the path of the much hated tax collectors, to offer them something extraordinary, which no one had previously dared: Salvation!
  • Jesus heals a man with leprosy—considered contagious and religiously unclean— by touching him. Most people would have avoided lepers altogether.
  • Jesus “crosses borders” previously, traditionally, left uncrossed, intentionally, directly, decisively walking His disciples into “no man’s land” – into Samaria.
  • Jesus chooses an inner circle of followers that includes uneducated fishermen, a former tax collector who has sold out countrymen, a zealot who wants to kill the Romans, and even a former prostitute.
  • Jesus consistently looks beyond hindrances, the shouts of the gathered crowds to see those who would otherwise not be recognized, to their needs for God.
  • Jesus sees those whom we would ordinarily push away, not associate with.
  • Jesus consistently seeks out all those who are considered social outcasts and religious outsiders and invites them all to be at the very center of His ministry.

Those who have been relegated to the outside, excluded for one rationale or reason, are not only focus of His rescue mission—they become its leaders.

The shepherds had nothing to offer Jesus.

They were not religiously trained or socially polished.

Unlike the wise men who would arrive later, they did not have exquisite gifts.

These guys lived under the stars with only the clothes on their backs, a staff to guide the sheep to still waters and meadows for food, and a rod for protection.

They had nothing of ordinary value to bring to Jesus except for themselves.

That’s exactly what He wanted, and what He still wants today.

Who are “shepherds” in your community— social outcasts and religious outsiders?

Do you believe God can use them to impact your community, point people to Him?

Can God use your “ordinary” to invite them to extraordinarily join Him in mission?

Bringing the light of God’s extraordinary inclusiveness into the not so extraordinary darkness of man’s exclusiveness – creating extraordinarily extraordinary disciples?

Edifying the Kingdom of God – that His Kingdom is the ONLY one being Revealed?

Imagine all the extraordinary “GOD” possibilities which await us ordinary people!

All of those God sized possibilities for all other “ordinaries” just made available!

Are we too, tired of our ordinary?

Are we, too, tired of the extraordinary finding another reason to pass us by?

Seeking something or someone who is a wee bit more extraordinary?

Seeking an awareness of a glory infinitely more purposeful than our own?

This close to Christmas, feeling strangely warmed by a baby in a dirty trough?

Stirred, to engage in the extraordinarily extraordinary works of the Lord God?

The Word of God for even the most extraordinarily ordinary among us says;

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Psalm 16World English Bible

A Poem by David.

16 Preserve me, God, for I take refuge in you.
My soul, you have said to Yahweh, “You are my Lord.
    Apart from you I have no good thing.”
As for the saints who are in the earth,
    they are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight.

Their sorrows shall be multiplied who give gifts to another god.
    Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer,
    nor take their names on my lips.
Yahweh assigned my portion and my cup.
    You made my lot secure.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.
    Yes, I have a good inheritance.
I will bless Yahweh, who has given me counsel.
    Yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons.
I have set Yahweh always before me.
    Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices.
    My body shall also dwell in safety.
10 For you will not leave my soul in Sheol,[a]
    neither will you allow your holy one to see corruption.
11 You will show me the path of life.
    In your presence is fullness of joy.
In your right hand there are pleasures forever more.

Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen!

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Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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