Beautiful Between

living fully in the now & not yet

God With Us: The Unwanted

Unreliable. Liars. Thieves. Unclean.

The words echo, but not across the dark field. The words are inside, and the shepherds can’t escape. They’re caked with the grime of their work and a stigma that’s never quite washed away.

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Reading: Luke 2:8-20 and 4:18-19

Song: While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Andrew Peterson*

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Caring for sheep is a filthy job. That’s bad enough in a culture obsessed with cleanliness and purity. But the words stain souls, not just skin, as community leaders make it clear shepherds aren’t welcome in the presence of God.

“Don’t raise your son to be a shepherd,” they say. “It’s the occupation of a thief.”

It’s an old story, that shepherds lie under oath and are always trying to unload stolen goods. So they aren’t allowed to testify in court. Nobody buys the products of their honest trade.

They stand right beside prostitutes and tax collectors on the social ladder.

They are last and least, outcasts and unclean. They are unwanted, shunned by all respectable society.

As the words resonate deep within, another sound splits the night:

“…Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.”

The first mention of Immanuel comes to society’s unwanted.

The sky and their hearts are undone with glory. How can it be? This long-awaited Messiah, promised the moment after Eden, comes not to those all put-together, but the last and least.

Dirty, disqualified men, never able to testify before, are called witnesses to the greatest promise fulfilled: God is with us. He is Immanuel.

This message to the unwanted is a microcosm of the beautiful news. God With Us is coming near, and He knows just where to start.

The Spirit of the Lord on this God-man,

coming first with good news for the poor,

the broken-hearted bandaged up, prison doors opened,

a promise of the very smile of God upon us,

and justice for sin

because He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf,

and our hideous wrongs now becomes the righteousness of God.

 

Maybe the words echo inside today: Unwanted. Rejected. Failure. Incompetent. Outcast. Empty. Alone.

We feel unwanted. We think the grime of our lives can never be washed away, and God belongs to pious people all put-together.

When we believe God won’t be our friend because of bad things we’ve done, He is leaning closest of all.

Before He’s announced in the temple, before the Magi from far-off nations show up with gifts, the message comes to the least of these.

And the least of these, unwanted by all others, are deeply wanted by Immanuel. This is who He wanted close on the first day of His life.

This is who He leans close to now.

Even now, He says those ancient words:

“I’m pleased with you.”

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*These devotions are inspired partly by Andrew Peterson’s gorgeous album, Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ. You would love it in your Christmas music collection <3

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About Sarah

Hi, I'm Sarah. I love coffee, pancakes and street tacos. I'm a learner, a traveler and a creative mess. I've got a thing for redemption and seeing broken people living beautiful lives. That's the story I've lived, and the one I want for you. Let's be friends!

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