Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 16
What I Read: Luke 2-3.
What Stood Out: Luke 2:19-20, ” But Mary treasured up all these words, pondering in her heart what they might mean. So the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; everything was just as they had been told.”
Random Thoughts About What I Read:
Long time readers know about how much I enjoy the band “Lost and Found.” (Link at the right) I first heard them almost a decade ago at a youth minister’s conference…and after seeing them live we invited them to play a concert at our church. The night was so enjoyable that we had them come back the next Christmas to host their annual Christmas show. They headlined the show with several artists they chose to open the show. There was something for everyone: Unicycles and jugglers for the kids. A rapper for teens (hey, at the time it was “in”). Two very talented vocalists for those looking to hear some excellent versions of Christmas carols. Finally, Lost and Found did their unique songs, audience interaction and sprinkled in some Christmas carols.
I wanted to simply have a nice Christmas season kick-off for our church. What happened was that I got a “sermon” I haven’t forgotten.
At one point in their set, they played “In Excelsis Deo” in their loud & fast acoustic sound complete with nearly yelling the chorus of that song and practically being off-key with the “Gloria” part of it. They introduced the song by saying that they felt that particular song SHOULD be sung loud and with urgency and enthusiasm because the events bring talked about were fast and and loud and urgent and enthusiastic…they kind of blew the lid off the “Silent Night, Holy Night” thing. You could do worse than going to their website and buying the Christmas CD and listening to the song.
Because if you look at Luke 2, Mary and Joseph might have been having a “Silent Night, Holy Night” thing going on at first. Sure, they’d traveled to come back to their hometown for the census with Mary late in her pregnancy. They’d endured the whispers of their community of the odd teenager telling everybody she’s pregnant with the Messiah and likely snickering at Joseph for perpetuating the story of their chaste behavior. They’d struggled to find a place to stay and would wind up in a stable on the back of a house (which wasn’t uncommon back then–an “inn” most likely meant guest houses, anyway…so when there was no room for them in the guest area of some houses, they’d just park in the barn). They’d seen incredible things begin to happen after 400 years of silence and now it was all happening.
So, the baby is born. Like Francis Schaeffer used to say, “We’re looking at a real baby.” In the stable. And I’m sure there was some mild hustle and bustle after the birth. Family around. People checking on Mary. Friends of Joseph dropping in. But, sure. It was likely a mildly silent night.
Complete and total chaos likely ensued.
See, some shepherds were doing their work on a hillside about 2 or so miles from the town. And, this was the entry-level job for most teenagers in that time. They’d be working the fields, managing the flock. Keeping the bears and wolves and snakes away. Getting them to water. Giving them rest when they needed it. So, there’d likely have been some gang of teens with some small overseer going about their work, maybe sitting around a fire during the night watch.
And a host of angels fill the night sky and sing a chorus, telling these teenage boys that the Messiah had been born a few miles away. Funny thing is, the angel presumed they’d go find Him, too. Told the boys how to recognize the salvation of Israel.
Now, I work with teenagers. All you have to do to see them amped up is tell them you’re paying for pizza or laser tag or the movie and high-fives and loud yells aren’t far behind. I can hardly imagine the enthusiasm and excitement of this rag-tag bunch of entry-level clerks covering 2 miles in about 15 minutes. Hitting the town and looking for somebody who just had a baby in a stable. Urgent. Loud. Chaos. Excitement.
Then they blew into the stable and told Mary their story: Hillside. Angels. Chorus. This is how you’ll know.
My guess is Mary was mildly used to stories of angels telling good news these days, but I can’t see that she’d ever get tired of hearing more. Teenage boys telling the story in urgent, loud, chaotic excitement. Talking all over each other and being understood by a teenage girl.
Then they go back, praising God. My guess is that they never looked at that hillside or life the same way again after that night.
But there was more chaos 8 days later: They go to the Temple with their peasant offering of two birds (they couldn’t afford a lamb) and they run into Simeon…one of the remnant who had hung in there over time to wait on God’s plan. Turns out this guy went to the Temple every day looking for young couples dedicating their babies because God told him he wouldn’t die until he saw Him. Mary heard this elderly gentleman say he could die happy because he’d laid eyes on the Messiah. Mary also got some food for thought with a little message about the boy’s pain would pierce her own soul.
More chaos: Same day. Anna, a prophetess and widow who had nothing to do all day every day but pray and fast at the Temple. She, too, reinforced the idea and kind of became one of the first missionaries, telling anyone who would listen about the Redeemer of Israel.
The boy grew. They see Him as a teenager in the Temple teaching the most learned men of His day while on the family trip to celebrate the Passover. Chaos.
We then meet John the Baptist and if you want to talk about loud, urgent, and chaos, you got it. He does such things as call the religious leaders of his day a “brood of snakes.” He chides the nation for not walking humbly with God and merely thinking that because they are Israelites, they’re “in.” He brings all the wrong people (a.k.a. “tax gatherers and sinners”) to the party. When he’s not busy heralding the coming of the Messiah, he’s busy exposing the sins of King Herod. Yeah. Jail time. Chaos.
He baptizes Christ. Loud. Enthusiasm. Excitement.
And here’s what I learned from my friends in Lost and Found when they talked about the events of these chapters when they introduced the song.
See, they said that Jesus didn’t come into a STABLE, per se.
He came into the world’s un-STABLE.
And that silent night wasn’t so silent.
And the next 30 years or so wasn’t so silent.
It was urgent.
It was loud.
It was chaotic.
And that’s what Christ does, when you think about it.
He comes into our un-STABLE.
And keeps our status from becoming quo.
And makes thing urgent, loud and chaotic.
And beautiful in the unSTABILITY.
In Excelsis Deo, indeed.
(Tomorrow’s reading: Luke 4 & 5)