Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Consequences of Hearing - Christmas V 2016

Luke's Gospel tells us about shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night.

You need to know something about shepherds in first century Bethlehem. They did not rank high on the social scale. They were dirty, smelly, probably of poor manners --- not the people you invited to a nice party with the nice china.

And this is who God chose to hear about the birth of the Messiah. Not the Temple, not the Palace, but the fields with smelly, poor, shepherds.

To me, the shepherds are one of the great dropped plot lines in literature. They see the angels, they go see the baby Jesus, they go back to work, never to be heard from again.

But it seems to me that there are consequences to being a witness to all this. There are consequences to hearing the Good News (glad tidings) of great joy. Can you really just go back to work after that?

Well, yes, you can when you have to in order to keep your job.

When Jesus began his public ministry some 30 years later, he attracted people similar to those shepherds. Fishermen (who handled nets of fish in days before easy access to showers) and such. Jesus told them the Reign of God was at hand and for them. Unpopular folk like tax collectors responded to Jesus. They heard in Jesus' words that their shady business (look, they had families to feed) did not automatically bar them from the love of God.

Certainly, the people from the Temple and the Palace heard Jesus, too, but they couldn't hear Jesus.

They were too rich or powerful or too concerned with being rich or powerful. Not being able to hear that God favors the poor, the outcast, the smelly, the morally questionable, they tended to ask Jesus about laws and morals, which Jesus usually turned back on them.

I think we in the so-called First World have a hard time hearing Jesus, too. We're too wealthy or concerned with wealth and we end up worshiping security.

Even as I write these words, I think of all the ways I can't hear Jesus. My material comforts and daily showers clog my ears in ways I seldom recognize in the moment. And, let's face it, hearing Jesus---or angels or any good tidings of great joy---has consequences.

The teachings of Jesus have shaped and guided my life. There is more shaping and guiding to come---if only I have ears to hear.

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