Do you ever imagine yourself there? On that sacred and holy night when our Savior was born. I do, although I’m confident I over romanticize it. As being born in a stable and a manger is far from glorious through the lens of today. Yet it was glorious and so many of the details of that first Christmas speak to the heart of God.
I think about the shepherds, and the magnitude of that God chose them to be the first group of people invited into the Christmas story. This seemingly tiny detail should still shake us and stir us. God could have chosen anyone to be the first. To be there and bear witness to the first Holy moments of when His son entered the world. And He chose the shepherds!
I don’t think any of us would have chosen the shepherds. I think we would have used the value system of culture, which would have resulted in us picking the “in group.” We would have chosen the people group that was dominant, in power, and on top. Reflect on this for a minute. Consider where you live and who the dominant people group is. There might be more than one. Consider the ethnicity, economic status, and race of the people groups. Keep those people groups in mind, and now think about who the marginalized people groups are. Think about their ethnicity, economic status and/or race. If Jesus were born today, this is who I imagine would be today’s shepherds.
I imagine the shepherds spent the rest of their lives marveling at God’s radical inclusive love. They knew the way that society saw them. They experienced it every day. They were a marginalized group, looked down upon, experiencing injustice, and not being included. But this was not how God saw them. God valued them and went out of His way to show them and show us.
God went out of His way to show us His radical inclusive love. That He does not use the same standards we do to determine worth. That He equally values every people group. That He will go out of His way to make wrong things right. That every human is valuable in the stories He writes.
The Christmas story is an invitation in many ways. In Luke 2:8-12 (The Passion Translation) it says:
“That night, in a field near Bethlehem, shepherds were watching over their flocks. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared in radiant splendor before them, lighting up the field with the blazing glory of God, and the shepherds were terrified!
But the angel reassured them, saying, “Don’t be afraid, for I have come to bring you good news, the most joyous news the world has ever heard! And it is for everyone everywhere!
For today in Bethlehem a rescuer was born for you. He is the Lord Yahweh, the Messiah. You will recognize him by this miraculous sign: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in the feeding trough!”
Did you notice it? Although God does not use the words “inclusion or belonging,” that is essentially what the angels are speaking about. Because what the angels told the shepherds was radical in the context of the culture of that day. We could argue it still is radical in today’s culture. The angels told the shepherds: “I have come to bring you good news, the most joyous news the world has ever heard! And it is for everyone everywhere!”
God made this declaration to a very divided and unjust society. God is still making this declaration. God is still declaring that the GOOD NEWS IS FOR ALL PEOPLE. As God followers, God is inviting us into a process of ensuring that every person and every people group not only experiences value and inclusion but also the good news!
Every Christmas we have the sacred invitation to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is glorious.
In addition, I believe we are also invited to remember that everyone is equal at the manger. Just like God went out of His way to tangibly include the marginalized shepherds, He invites us to go out of our way to make wrong things right and show a divided world that every people group is equal at the manger.
I pray we all go out of our way to ensure that every people group truly experiences the good news of Jesus in all spheres of their life.
Hillsong Global Ethnic and Racial Healing and Unity, RDEI Manager
Maria Hansen-Quine, LASW, MSW
We acknowledge all First Peoples of the beautiful lands on which we live and celebrate their enduring knowledge and connections to Country. We honor the wisdom of and pay respect to Elders past and present.