Flattening the Hills
Last week we read about the noble wise men. This week we read about shepherds. Wise men don’t usually hang out with shepherds. And gods don’t usually hang out with men.
God is not ashamed to make his home among us. Why should we be ashamed to spend time with one another?
Part of the meaning of Christmas is that in Christ, all barriers that we think are important – rich, poor, weak, strong, disabled, differently-abled, black, white (and every other beautiful shade of brown) – are forever erased.
“Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
“Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;”
Which valleys? Which mountains? Every valley that separates us from one another and God was carved with the gnarled, pointed finger human prejudice and sin. Every mountain that divides human beings from one another and our maker was piled high and deep by the work of our own dirty paws. These are the valleys that only the Lord himself could fill in; the mountains that only the Lord could level flat. And he did so by example – by coming to us as a vulnerable infant, God disregarded all barriers that keep nobles from visiting barns, and shepherds from chumming with nobles.
Chains Shall He Break
The details that divide us have no place among a people who worship the God who despised the divide between Himself and humanity. We worship the God who crosses the aisle and shakes hands with the sinner, and makes us all brothers and sisters. Jesus Christ is man enough to risk His good reputation as right and Holy for the greater purpose of redeeming we who are not right and unholy. This is the kind of soul-searching and brave God we serve.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3.28)
And yet we still have the audacity to make distinctions, even to our shame, in the body of Christ. For those who are truly in Christ there is no Baptist or Nazarene, no pentecostal or charismatic, no Catholic or Orthodox. All who believe are one in Christ, and there is no distinction.
In Christ there is no slave or free, for all are slaves to righteousness and all are free by the blood of the lamb.
There is neither male nor female, for all are filled with the same empowering Spirit to serve one another regardless of gender.
There are no immigrants, for we are all aliens and strangers on the earth (Hebrews 11.13).
There is no race but Adam’s race.
There must be never, ever, ever be room in God’s church for racism, sexism, classism, or denominationalism.
If Jesus, the noblest of nobles, was content to hang out in a barn with us, who are we to refuse to associate with one another?
May we find the courage this Christmas season to lay down our foolish and man made barriers, to seek out ways to associate with those we despise – or at the very least prefer not to hang out with. Let the child in the manger remind us that God came to us first – and let His example inspire us to cross the aisle and befriend those we would never befriend otherwise.
I’d like to close with words from my favorite Christmas hymn:
“Truly He taught us to love on another
HIs law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease”
(O Holy Night)