Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Tenth Day of Christmas---Glory and Contemplation

You've probably heard before that shepherds, in "those days" of Emperor Augustus, did not have access to regular showers or other hygienic upkeep. And perhaps you've heard that sheep are, well, stinky. (I've not had much personal experience with sheep, but I once had a pastor who grew up with sheep and we heard many a sermon that mentioned the stench and stupidity of sheep.)

So we can extrapolate that shepherds living in the fields would not be the desirables of polite society.

Mary and Joseph were, as I noted last post, poor, but probably a notch above shepherds. They ended up in a stable for the birthing of Jesus, but we're also told there was no room in the inn, not necessarily that they couldn't afford a room.

So here's Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, already surrounded, presumably, but livestock, and in come these stinky men of the pastures. They are excited and rejoicing and telling of angel song and vision.

I imagine a bit of a ruckus.

Or perhaps they came in quietly enough, reverently enough, but Luke still tells us they returned to the fields glorifying and praising God.

I imagine there was at least some fading ruckus as they left the manger.

And why not? They had seen angels. Angels had chosen them, stinky shepherds, who polite society most likely avoided. They were the first to hear (in Luke's telling) of the birth of the Messiah. And even better, they found that savior not in a palace, but in a manger, a stable, the kind of places they were very familiar with. The Messiah was born to people who, if not as bad off as them in actuality, were pretty close to it.

That's worth some rejoicing, some ruckus.

And after they were gone, we have Mary. We have this nice little bit of characterization for Mary (and let's face it, characterization is not the Gospel writers' long suit). She "treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart."

Glory and contemplation. Ruckus and pondering.

Gifts of grace, in response to grace.

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