ALVEY: A Christmas message

Published 3:56 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2017

By JACK ALVEY | St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

“And because Jesus particularly loves them, let us remember in his name the poor and helpless; the cold, the hungry and the oppressed; the sick and those who mourn; the lonely and the unloved; the aged and the little children; as well as those who do not know and love the Lord Jesus Christ.”

This portion of the bidding prayer from the Episcopal service for Lessons and Carols is a strong reminder of the kind of news that the angels sing about at the Nativity of our Lord. While Christmas today is celebrated around the world by rich and poor alike, the first Christmas was celebrated by the poor and lowly.

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Our nativity scenes portray the shepherds as respectable men who we would trust with our lives.  Our Christmas Pageants depict shepherds as squeezable little boys who grin from ear to ear.  However, history tells us that shepherds are outcasts.  They find themselves on the bottom of the social ladder – looked down upon by most.

But in God’s infinite wisdom, he sends angels to proclaim the message of salvation first to these lowly shepherds.  These shepherds don’t have power enough to influence public opinion.  These shepherds don’t have a direct line to the editor of the Bethlehem Times-Journal.  Like David before he was made king, these shepherds aren’t taken seriously – at least not by human beings.

For those of us who are well versed in the story of scripture, the fact that shepherds are the first to hear of the good news of Jesus should come as no surprise.  In fact, scripture tells us that the story of salvation is carried through history by the unlikeliest of people.

The genealogy of Jesus reminds us that the story of salvation continues because of people like Rehab the prostitute – the one who provided safe harbor to Joshua’s spies within the walls of Jericho.  The story of salvation moves along through King Solomon who was the product of a marriage that began in adultery – David and Bathsheba.

The point, of course, is that the good news of a Savior is first entrusted to those who our world is quick to dismiss – to day laborers, to prostitutes, to single mothers, to little children, to people who hold little to no credibility.

Because, as we see time and time again in scripture and in our own lives, the message of salvation will not survive in the hands of those who hold the power.  For those with the most power, even the most righteous, will invariably use their power to the detriment of those with the least power.  Remember how King David’s “innocent” affair with Bathsheba destroyed the life of Uriah?

The message of salvation only works because power is given to those who have no power.  Our story tells us that salvation comes from the One who came from his blessed throne to rule by being poor and lowly.  For this reason, the Mother of our Lord proclaims, “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.”

So let us look to the poor and lowly to hear again the good news our Savior brings.  May we find the strength and courage to make room in our societies for the outcast and forgotten because when we do, we too, find a place to receive the good news.  May we find the grace to listen to those who have no voice because when we do, we too, can be hearers of a message that brings salvation to all the world.