“Now, where would you send your splendid choir? To a big concert hall maybe? Or a palace, perhaps? God sent his to a little hillside, outside a little town, in the middle of the night.”
The words of the Christmas story as written by Sally Lloyd-Jones in The Jesus Storybook Bible grabbed most of my attention. (The rest, I necessarily allowed to remain on the task of driving.)
Through my driver’s side window, I caught a fleeting glimpse of a bearded homeless man as I propelled the vehicle from the freeway access road onto the overpass.
He stood at the corner with his sign. His eyes, listless and pained, were fixed, not following the passing traffic. His beard was matted and greyish.
I once heard someone equate first century shepherds in the Roman Empire to today’s homeless. The accented voice agreed, “You see, people thought shepherds were nobodies, just scruffy old riff-raff.”
Another face flashed into my mind’s eye. It was a photo Steve took in India while visiting a rural village where the Lord is moving our partners, Paul and Molly, to extend their ministry.
Then another. And another.
A realization was materializing.
The “untouchable” men, women, and children living in countless villages in India, just like the one Steve and Paul visited, are like the shepherds in the Christmas story.
Rejected. Thought to be worthless. Pushed out. Valued less than many animals by society.
“But God must have thought shepherds were very important indeed, because they’re the ones he chose to tell the good news to first,” the story continued.
When He sent his angels to the oft-referenced shepherds from the classic story, He was declaring the value He places on those rejected, cast out, and oppressed. On those overlooked and thought not to matter.
They are so important to Him. SO. VALUED.
“But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.” Psalm 9:18
Of all the important people in the grand Roman Empire, it was the ones who seemed not to matter, who seemed to have nothing to contribute, that He chose to tell first.
It was those who had no clout, no influence, no power who the Proud Father made sure to share His exuberant news with. First. Once they got the news, they had no power to do anything with it. What was the point of telling them?
It was precisely that they had no power, nothing they could do to react to this news...except rejoice and receive.
It was because these - the downtrodden, ridiculed, excluded - these are the people this King would mean something to. This King was sent because they were shoved aside, tread upon, and pushed down.
At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus proclaimed in Isaiah’s words this about Himself,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he
has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the
prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And the realization finally solidified.
If Jesus were born today, God might have easily sent his “splendid choir” to make the first announcement to the lowest stationed members of a village of “untouchables” in rural India.
This. This is the wonder and the mystery of Christmas. The baby King who flipped every value system upside down and prioritizes the brokenhearted, oppressed and vulnerable.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit.”
Psalm 34: 18
Today, believers have the great honor of heralding this proclamation to those who are thought not to matter. Who live their entire lives under oppressive propaganda that their lives don’t mean anything to anyone.
In honor of the ultimate sacrifice that baby King grew up to make, we proclaim it to the untouchables, to the homeless, to the oppressed, elderly, orphaned, isolated and forgotten through our own sacrifice.
As we do this, we join with Him in expanding His Kingdom of freedom and value for all, peculiar and “foolish” as it may seem to the rest of the world.