As I look back on this past weekend, and the best Christmas I’ve ever had, my thoughts turn to a friend of mine; a homeless man named Alexander.
I met Alexander in February, through the work I was able to do through a non-profit organization I directed for a time. Alexander had arrived on the streets fairly recently, having been released from prison, following a lengthy sentence.
I stumbled into the middle of a discussion he was having with some of our volunteers. I remember him saying, “If Jesus came to earth today, He’d be out here with us! He’d be homeless! Sleeping under a park bench, hanging out with prostitutes and drug dealers, and WOULDN’T NOBODY GET IT!!!”
I knew instantly we’d get along well. I’ve always thought that was pretty much exactly how Jesus did behave when He walked the earth…and I’ve always interpreted it that most folks didn’t really “get” what He did.
I think Alexander got it exactly right. If Jesus came to earth today, I think He would arrive among the homeless.
Look where He did arrive. A manger. Surrounded by animals. In a barn. In a little town in the middle of nowhere. To unknown parents. With an audience of…shepherds.
How would you have done it? If you were the creator of the universe, would you, in your infinite wisdom, choose shepherds as the audience to receive your one and only son, sent to save humanity?
Shepherds were pretty much the scourge of the earth. They were despised. Dirty. They were looked down upon. They weren’t even allowed to testify in court because society had determined that all shepherds collectively possessed disreputable character. They were completely unworthy.
But the angels of the Lord came straight to them to announce the arrival of our Savior.
Would you have done that? Or would you appeal to the celebrities, the movers-and-shakers, and/or the mass media? You know…a more “worthy” audience of such a major announcement? I currently make my living in marketing and have worked mostly in the entertainment industry. I woulda made the nativity a BIG OL’ party.
So, why did it happen the way it did? Why the shepherds? Because they needed the Good News.
The shepherds had nothing. And when you have nothing…you have nothing to lose.
I’m not a class warrior and I’m not criticizing wealth. I’ll also insert the requisite disclaimer that money, possessions, and being rich aren’t bad or sinful in and of themselves. But, the Bible does make it abundantly clear throughout that wealth and possessions DO make it very hard to follow God/Christ.
Think about it…When you have everything you need…what do you need God for? When you’re totally secure, does it make sense to lean on the Lord? When you’re self-sufficient, how do you RELY on someone/something else?
I’ve wrestled with this as I’ve thought through this. Does God appearing to the lowest of the low cheapen this whole thing? Just because the shepherds had nothing, does that mean God appealed to the “easiest” audience?
I’ve always said that everything in the Kingdom of God is upside down. Everything. The last shall be first. The meek shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the peacemakers. Die and be born again. Die to yourself to truly live. Find freedom through slavery to the gospel. Turn the other cheek. Give what’s asked of you. These are NOT the ways of the world. Upside down.
Another of my homeless brothers, Duane, asked me point blank last year why God came to the shepherds. I shared with him my philosophy of God’s Kingdom being totally upside down in an earthly sense. And Duane finished my thought…”So…you’re saying God knew that the shepherds would be ready to accept all that and that the fancy folks wouldn’t have?”
Without really knowing it, that was exactly what I was saying.
Think about it…
Knowing what you know…being as reasonable as you are…Put yourself in those days and imagine that someone comes to you and says that the Messiah has arrived…in the form of an infant…in a barn…in a nowhere town…to a nobody family. Are you going to give up everything to jump on that train?
It IS a crazy story. And it does demand everything.
I like to think I would have accepted the nativity enthusiastically. But, in truth, I kinda don’t think I would have.
I know some folks who would have, though. Alexander would have. Pops (RIP) would have. Prophet Antoine would have – and would have been among the first to hit the streets and spread the word. Duane would have accepted it whole-heartedly. So would Old School. And Derrick. And so many of the other homeless folks I’ve been blessed to know.
If Alexander was right, and the nativity happened today, among the homeless…Of course we’d accept it, right? Of course we’d give up everything to follow Him. We’re good, upright, righteous people of faith, right?
We’re not anything like those good, upright, righteous people of faith who shouted, “Crucify Him!”, when that baby grew up to be a crazy wildman demanding that we give up everything that we have, to love others as much as we love ourselves, and to take care of dirty people.
Am I secure because of where I am and what I have? Or am I blinded by it?
I don’t exactly know what it means…and I sure don’t know what it looks like yet. But, I’ll throw in my lot with the shepherds…..