Wednesday, December 21, 2011
It is almost time for the visitors to show up in the story. Luke tells us about shepherds visiting Jesus shortly after His birth and Matthew reports the somewhat later arrival of Wise Men from the East. John mentions neither in his nine word nativity announcement, "And the Word became flesh and lived among us." (John 1:14) Mark says nothing about any of it, figuring that everyone knew what happened. But, still those shepherds and Wise Men are about to make their annual trek to Bethlehem. And even though Bible accuracy would never permit them to stand alongside of each other in any nativity scene, their absence would somehow tarnish a tradition that was long ago poured in cement, accurate or not!
Even though they likely appeared in Bethlehem at different times, the smelly shepherds and the regal Wise Men both belong there with the newborn Son of God. When Joseph heard the angel in the dream saying, "...you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins," he would have naturally assumed that "His people" were Jews and only Jews. His culture would have allowed no other explanation. Yet, from the beginning it is clear that the lowest rungs of society (shepherds) and non-Jewish people (wise men from the east) would be welcomed and included in the saving ministry of Jesus.
There is more good news from Bethlehem than can be absorbed in a lifetime of remembering the story. But, certainly, one thing not to be missed is the birth announcement which says that all are welcome. Social and economic status as well as other discriminating markers are not to counted as factors to keep folks away. There is room for everyone of us at Bethlehem and Golgotha.