Luke 2: 8-20
When I took this picture of this nativity scene on my manger shelves at home, I realized I really liked the positioning of the shepherds. They are blurry and in the background in this particular nativity. There's something symbolic about that location for the outcasts of the nativity.
Back in Jesus' time, shepherds were considered the lowest members of society. Although some modern scholars scoff at this notion, there was a good reason for them to be considered outcasts, as William Barclay wrote:
Shepherds were despised by the orthodox good people of the day. They were quite unable to keep the details of the ceremonial law; they could not observe all the meticulous hand-washings and rules and regulations. Their flocks made far too constant demands on them; and so the orthodox looked down on them.
Yet, in a foreshadowing of Jesus' life, the good news of the Messiah's arrival was proclaimed to the shepherds rather than to the orthodox. From Luke 2: 8-14:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Afterward, the shepherds found the Holy family to worship the baby. The shepherds were the last made first, the ones in the blurry background brought to the very front to see the Christ Child at a manger of inclusion.
Of course, it would be Luke who tells such a story, as his is the inclusive gospel. Only in Luke's gospel do we hear Jesus saying the following:
The Parable of the Good Samaritan, indicating His openness toward the outcast Samaritans.
Praise for Gentiles such as the Roman centurion who showed faith, the widow at Zarephath in Gentile territory who helped Elijah, and Naaman the Syrian who humbled himself to be healed by Elisha.
The Parable of the Rich Man and the Poor Man, along with the rephrasing of the Beatitude of "Blessed are the poor in spirit" to simply "Blessed are the poor."
Accepting the anointing of the woman who had sinned, telling Zaccheus the tax collector that He would eat at Zaccheus' house, offering salvation to the penitent thief on the cross, and representing Himself as the loving father who welcomes the prodigal son.
Jesus makes it clear in the Gospel of Luke that He is one for all, that all can come to Him, that He came to fulfill the covenant with Abraham that ALL families on earth would be blessed through his family.
From the beginning, Jesus Christ offered God's loving, accepting, welcoming inclusion. The shepherds at the manger were only the beginning of such inclusion.
Who are the outcasts today? Which groups do the orthodox look down upon? These are the ones that, if Christ had been born in 2022, would be the first to hear the good news and would be the first to see Jesus.
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