News flash: some people smell. They are dirty and have bad yellow rotten teeth and are downright creepy. There is mental illness and instability and greed and lust and all kinds of nasty in the world. People hurt. People harm. People leave damage in their wake. Others cover up their scent by brushing their teeth and shopping at Nordstrom. But on some level and in different ways, we all have dark sins raging. We fail to trust and wait and submit. We are told to give up all our wealth and follow Jesus, and yet we balk and twitch. No Superbowl Sunday? Nuh-uh. Crazy fool.
Even way back in Jesus’ day, there were men lying in fields who didn’t choose to lay with their wives and bounce children on their knees like respectable people. They smelled the same as sheep because they lived with them. They never cleaned behind their ears or washed out their mouths with soap and chose a dirty profession like animal wrangling over jail to escape the reality of doom that befell them in the real world. There are always broken people that don’t fit well in the real world.
These people. These shepherds. These men without hope and women who sold their bodies and slaves who bore deep red marks of shame?
Jesus came for them. On a dark night thousands of years ago, he came. Jesus came for the f*#k-ups.
Don’t be fooled that you have some sort of special place in line. That by churching it up and having monogrammed napkins you earned a place. You are just one of these dirty huddled masses. God looks at the soul not the skin, so you can skip brushing your hair for Christmas Eve Service because it doesn’t much matter in the long run. Jesus wasn’t born in Upper-Middle-Class Suburbia, in a garden tub surrounded by the glow of an Orange-Vanilla Yankee candle. I think it’s harder for us middle-class, brushing-teeth types to fall on our knees. To drop it all and follow. To hear the heavenly chorus. We have surround sound, and microwaves, and our hearts are too plugged up to ache. We have pills for that these days.
Shepherds didn’t ask for Jesus. They didn’t pay for tickets. They certainly didn’t earn the right to see him face-to-face. And yet as they were lying by a smoking fire in the middle of nowhere, angels appeared. Legions of them shrouded in golden light. And these dirty travelers? These jail dodgers and broken hearts? They dropped everything and ran to the child. They followed the brilliant light to feel peace in the mere shadow of the prince.
Jesus came for the blind and deaf and weak. The man who hates himself and loathes what he has done and feels inadequate with his life. The screwed-up mess of a woman who is ripped and addicted and empty. Jesus came in the night, piercing through clothes and expensive perfume and black mascara straight to broken, aching hearts. He came for you. And all at once, it all falls away. A calm beyond words. A peace beyond understanding. The wings of angels cover, and you know. Sweet Jesus. There in the street and in the wallpapered hospital room and in the bathroom stall. He comes to you where you are, smelly or not.
We don’t deserve such love. And yet God reaches to the farthest corners of the world for us. There is no field dark enough or prison wall thick enough. He peers into the very essence of death and pulls out life. All we have to do is leave the old and follow. The light is blinding. The angels are calling. Jesus is whispering in the night, in dreams and visions and is saying our name right there in front of our bloody faces. He is born! Come, and follow.
Merry Christmas. From one f*#k-up to another.