Lessons from the pasture

Published 9:39pm Friday, December 9, 2011

A  kindergarten teacher announced to the boys and girls that they’d be exchanging names for Christmas.

One little girl frowned and said, “I don’t want to. I like being Emily!”

We all like our names, but some of the heroes of that first Christmas were a nameless group. We don’t know the names of the magi, nor of the shepherds, but we can be assured that they were important to God. After all, he selected them to fulfill their roles in salvation history.

The story of the shepherds is recorded in St. Luke. Shepherds played a significant role in their world since sheep have no sense of home and often wandered away. It’s no wonder the Bible often compares you and me to sheep since we, too, often wander away from God.

But most people counted the shepherds as part of the lower caste. They were something like the snails and catfish we put in aquariums–necessary to the ecosystem, but the main focus is on the beautiful tropical fish.

There were others like this in the first century: Samaritans, foreigners, lepers and even women who had few civil rights. Proper Jews showed their disdain, but the gospel exploded on the scene and shattered the comfort of human prejudice.

One of my favorite verses in the King James Version is John 4:4: “He must needs go through Samaria.”

No, Jesus didn’t have to go through Samaria. But he did have to go that day to offer living water to a thirsty Samaritan woman and to teach his disciples the worth of every person.

Are there untouchables today? Probably not in the same sense, but we meet people everywhere untouched by compassion. Jesus said to us, “As the father hath sent me, so send I you” (John 20:21). We are the hands and feet of Christ who take compassion to the untouchables in our world.

When the shepherds heard the message of salvation, they made haste to come to Christ.

And so should we.

Sometimes like the prodigal son we find ourselves in degradation before we begin to think of the fellowship offered in the father’s house. But in whatever state we find ourselves, the Bible’s message is always “today.” Tomorrow is the devil’s word. God says to come today.

I’ve often heard people say, “I know I need Christ, but I must change some things first.”

This is like cleaning the house before the maid comes, or scouring our teeth before we go to the dentist for a cleaning!

Joseph Hart had it right in the old hymn, “Come, Ye Sinners,” when he wrote: “If you tarry till you’re better, you will never come at all.”

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