My job isn't one that many kids aspire to growing up. I know I didn't. It's not filled with glamour or pay or even satisfying purpose. I went through the "Why am I here?" tension and the "Is this really what God wants me to be doing?" sentiment and the "Woe is me, I am the least in my family, an outcast of minimal significance" resignation.
But the old adage, "It's a dirty job but somebody's gotta do it" really has taken root for me. People would rather look past me than look at me. Myself and the others like me are fringe folks. We aren't shunned but we certainly aren't celebrated. We are tolerated.
But for one night...all of the lack of respect, the lack of dignity was put on hold.
I deal in sheep.
One of the more obstinate, stubborn, obnoxious animals known to mankind, sheep have been known to frustrate many. But when you gain the loyalty of sheep, something remarkable happens. They recognize and obey your voice. They trust you as shepherd. They follow your leadership. There can be immense beauty in the relationship between sheep and their shepherd.
On this specific night, we were tending the flocks as we always do when we came across someone we'd never seen before. My buddies and I froze. This heavenly being, clothed in radiance that I can't even begin to describe came to talk to us. On purpose. Talking to us shepherds on purpose. And we were terrified.
So this glowing being told us not to be terrified. I think sometimes angelic beings have a sense of humor. With their encouragement to not fear even though every time an angel appears in the Scriptures, lives get flipped, turned upside down.
And the angel announced that something pretty spectacular had just happened and apparently we should go check it out.
Of all the people, we had no business being invited to this family's celebration of a new birth. We didn't know them and we weren't exactly movers and shakers in the world of politics and religion. We were outcasts who didn't matter to anyone.
And I think maybe the big guy was trying to articulate that this little baby was going to choose ragamuffin over royalty time and time again. The nimrods, nincompoops and nitwits were elevated to places of significance, while the people that everyone kept deeming important were moved to the margins. I think its why I like that guy.
He bestowed worth on us from day one, despite our occupation and position.
Well anyway, to make a long story short, I don't know my Bible all that well...definitely not as well as the teachers and scribes of the Law. But the one they were waiting for was right in front of them and yet they didn't receive the birth announcement. We did.
And so we followed that glowing guy's instructions and found the family in a stable with a baby wrapped in rags resting in a manger and we knew something special was happening. So we paid our respects and watched that little guy grow up from the fringes of our culture and the more I watched him, the more I liked him.
He was a sheep guy. He understood shepherding. He referred to himself both as the Good Shepherd and the lamb of God.
But anyway, I still can't believe that night. If my buddies wouldn't have seen it with me, they'd never have believed it. That kid showed up in unexpected places to unsuspecting people.
And maybe that's the big take away from my encounter with that family the night of the birth of their child...
It's that he hasn't changed.
He shows up.
In unexpected places.
To unsuspecting people.
You feel inadequate? Lacking purpose? Unsuccessful? Like a spiritual B-teamer?
Good news! (With great joy!) That's exactly who he goes to first.