Monday, January 02, 2012

Making the Circle Wider/MANN

I’m a farmer’s daughter! As a young girl, I was often asked to take the cows to the back field and sometimes if the parents had milked late, it would be almost dark by the time I got back to the barn. I can remember those summer evenings with stars appearing like a great wide canopy over my head. Knowing the story of Jesus’ birth, I marveled at the significance of a message and truly expected to see angels at any time.

Then, later in my married years, Doug and the boys had quite a large flock of sheep. Again I can remember checking fences, following a sheep through a broken rail to the neighbour’s field and crying, after wolves had ravaged. Again, the canopy of stars hanging overhead is a comforting memory in times of uncertainty.

In Jesus’ day, shepherds or sheep farmers were not well thought of. Although they would have supplied sheep as sacrificial animals in the near-by temple in Jerusalem, they themselves would not have been allowed to enter the temple to worship. They would have been seen as unclean after following sheep day and night across the dry land or perhaps named an outcast because of their lifestyle, maybe a scoundrel, sometimes accused of stealing another’s sheep, to increase their numbers. The religious probably thought they had good reason to forbid them from holy places.

Keeping this in mind, I ask then, why did the angel’s brilliance not break through into the temple, arouse the religious and sing their Gloria to a more receptive group or at least to men who were used to discussing God's intervention into human life. But, no! It was to a group of shepherds. Luke says “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them . . . (v.8f).”

It makes me wonder when dressed in my best bib and tucker, thinking my most pious and praiseworthy thoughts, if God is out doing the shepherd thing with those who are just doing what comes natural to them, like keeping watch over whatever people keep watch over when they’re not in church. Don’t misunderstand me – I love the church. However, sometimes we are reminded that God makes the circle wider than we can ever imagine.

All at once, it makes me want to go to the most unlikely places where I think God may be breaking into the most surprising space with a wonderful message, an invitation, and a promise that the glory of the Lord will shine around them. Sounds good to me. Now where should I look to find such a place? I might just want to go and seek out some shepherds.

Blessings on this eighth day of Christmas.
Donna Mann (children's MP3 & PDF stories)


Peter Black said...

Thank you for challenging the assumptions we sometimes harbour about what pleases God. I'm sure your congregations grew in the practice of their faith through your thoughtful sermons! :)

Donna said...

Thank you, Peter. I like pursuing the road less travelled in scripture and I always enjoy the challenge scripture offers. Have a Happy New Year. Thanks for your encouagement.

Kathleen Gibson said...

Donna, thanks for this. I always wanted to be a farmer's daughter--instead I married a shepherd (of people). Thanks for reminding us that God wants us to draw our circle larger--and that his truth is for the shepherds, too. Those shepherds were very likely the ones guarding and caring for the sheep destined for the temple sacrifices. I can't help seeing the irony of this--statistics demonstrate that a great percentage of pastors/priests today are in trouble then ever before, snarled in the dark snaggle of pornography, to name one grievous snare Satan likes to set. How to help them see the truth? Indeed, we need angels--warrior messengers--to bring joyous news and light in their darks.

Ruth Coghill said...

On this eighth day of Christmas, I want to head for the hillside. A message from the angels would make smelly rags quite acceptable.
Thanks for enlarging the circle Donna.

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