The Greatest Birth Announcement of All

At Christmas we remember the shepherds listening to the angels sing – how sweet.  But think about who these shepherds were?

There were humble ordinary working guys. And shepherds and their sheep stink. And they spend most of Bethlehem-Shepherd-002their time out there in the fields – it was a dirty job that was considered fairly low class. If we put it in our context, we might say there were like the bin men. Yes – shepherds and bin men are needed but no really notices them.

So why would God send the announcement of the birth of Jesus to them? Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and yet, here the announcement of his birth comes to these working men out in their fields.

Shouldn’t the announcement have been made in a temple or a palace? It’s like the queen, telling the bin men at Buckingham Palace that Kate has given birth and they should be the ones to tell everyone else. What??

But I do think the shepherds were the right ones to hear this announcement.  This fits with the pattern Jesus has throughout his life. The poor and the outcast are the ones who spent time with Jesus and who respond to the good news.

Later on, Jesus is questioned by the religious leaders as to why he is spending time with sinners instead of proper religious people – his answer? “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

Jesus comes to those who don’t have their life together. Jesus comes to those who have pain and difficulty. Jesus comes to those who struggle and know that they struggle. This is the type of person who can hear the angels announcing the birth of the Messiah.

The angels got it right. Out in the fields with the shepherds was the perfect place to make the greatest birth announcement of all.

 

Surprised by the OT

I’m in the final push to finish reading the entire bible through this year as I have done for a number of years now.  This year, I’ve used the “Bible Eater” schedule – yes, it’s a Blog-Post-Header-BibleEaterdumb name but it has been a good schedule for me.  Generally, it’s three Old Testament chapters a day, one daily New Testament chapter, 4 days “off” per month and one book of the bible to read completely in one sitting per quarter.  It’s broken up into quarters, so I can catch up a bit if I see that I’m behind schedule towards the end of March, June, and September.

One of the things I like about a bible reading plan is that it forces me to read that sections of the scriptures that I don’t read very often.  How often do you read through Leviticus, Obediah or Zechariah?  Over the years, I’ll read one of these forgotten passages and the gospel jumps off the page. I think, “Where has that been?  I don’t remember every reading or hearing that discussed!”

This morning my surprise came from Zechariah 3 verse 3 and 4:

Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”

The vision of the prophet Zechariah is a clear gospel presentation as Joshua, the high priest, comes into the presence of God with not only filthy garments, but more literally, garments soiled with excrement.  Satan is there to accuse Joshua of being unworthy, which of course is correct – a high priest can’t come before God dressed like that!

But God shows mercy.

Joshua’s filthy clothing is taken away by the Lord and he is clothed in pure vestments, the finest clothing imaginable.  He doesn’t deserve this but God dresses him properly.

You and I need to hear that again and again – God grants mercy to those who are not worthy.  Why? Because we can’t stand before God on our own merit.  We’ve failed too many times. But God unites his children to Jesus by faith so that they are counted as righteous.  As Paul put it in Romans 3:21-25:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Read the Old Testament.  And let God surprise you by his mercy and grace again and again.

 

 

 

“I could have been Michael Brown”

This was written by Matt Vega, who studied under a friend of mine, Dr. Brian Howell, at Wheaton College in Chicago. 

A World-Wide Confession:

I smoked weed almost everyday for four years until I was 18 years old.
I was arrested several times, for battery charges and retail theft.
I have robbed people at gunpoint.
I have been in near-death brawls and had guns pointed on me several times.
I have been in the car with drive-by shooters.
I was on a year-long probation sentence, criminal court supervision, and 5:00 house arrest mandate.
I sold KB Chronic in my hallways in high school and cocaine for a brief period of time.
I finished high school with a 1.6 GPA and a horrible ACT score.

There were nights I never came home and my mother wondered if I ever would.

My mother found a pistol under my mattress when I was seventeen years old.

FAST FORWARD:

I finished community college with a 3.9 GPA, participating in the Honors Society and Phi Theta Kappa Honors.

I completed a discipleship program, visited Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and discipled high school students every week.

I am an RA for a discipleship program.

I graduated from Wheaton College.

I served as the student chaplain for Wheaton College.

I served as a missionary associate in Jogjakarta, Indonesia.

I did a study-abroad program for Turkey, Greece, Rome, Italy, and Israel/Palestine.

I bring all of this up because Michael Brown died at 18 years old, the same age that I was on probation. Many people have tried to illuminate his store “robbery” incident and paint him as a thug who deserved death. They paint him as an irredeemable demon and forget _76931158_mike_brownthe fact that he was shot six times in the body, and lied unarmed for 4.5 hours in the street. Some don’t know how he could ever possibly be a poster-child for this Ferguson movement. Many forget that when Trayvon Martin died, many others attempted to murder his reputation too, suggesting that he deserved to die.

When you demonize this dead man, you demonize me. You are suggesting that I should be dead, too. You are suggesting that every young black or Hispanic man who acts like a “thug” deserves death. And for that, I only beg and pray that you ask for God’s forgiveness and illuminating grace to open your eyes and soften your heart. I am glad that I am alive. I wish Michael Brown was still alive, too.

 

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