Thursday, December 23, 2010

Counting all the gifts...



Luke 2
The Birth of Jesus
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.


In the days of Jesus birth there was a census taking place. A census was mandated by the Roman government to count everyone; not so much as to value them as individuals; but to determine what kind of taxes would be paid to the government. While the census involved many people, the shepherds were not counted. As everyone was wrapped up in this great process, the shepherds were watching their sheep and for the most part, uncounted and unseen by the census-takers.(Sundays and seasons,pg.55)

God has the vision to see gifts and value in people that no one else is aware of. God did not choose to announce Jesus' birth to the Roman emperor, the census-takers, or even the people that had to be counted. God choose to send this important announcement to a group of people that we invisible and uncounted in the world around them. The shepherds were seen by God to be the first recipients of Jesus birth and the message of forgiveness, grace, joy, love and true peace.

In the children's story, "An angel just like me.", a young boy searches to find an angel that looks like him. Throughout this story, the young boy goes on a journey to make sure that he is no longer invisible to the world. In the end, a friend carves an angel in his image and allows him to come to a place of being seen. We all desire a place to be a part of, to belong and to interact. While the shepherds were used to being unseen, I'm sure they didn't enjoy the experience. It's true that the world can be a place where status, appearance, and ability can determine how much each person is seen; but this kind of standard isn't one that God ascribes to.

Imagine for a moment, how the shepherds must have felt to be not only seen by God, but to be the recipients of such an important message. What words would you use to express how they might have been feeling: AWE, WONDER, SURPRISE, HONOR, AND LOVE?
While the shepherds, Joseph, Mary and even baby Jesus were not given great attention or praise from the world, God saw fit to shower them with his love by seeing them as individuals, and including them in His cast of important characters.

In God's eyes, everyone is a part of the story, his story. No one is uncounted or invisible. As Luke 12:7 states, "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." If God made the effort to include the shepherds in announcement and event of Jesus' birth, be assured that you are included as well.

This Christmas is an opportunity to see the things from God's point of view. The gift of this season is to know the greatness of God's love for each and every person, grasp that as a reality for ourselves and be willing to see others through that same lens. If God were to take a census, no one would be overlooked or uncounted. As we gift and open gifts this Christmas, may we truly understand that the greatest gift is to be seen by God, to be included in his story, and to have the privilege of seeing, sharing and including others in the journey.

What announcement is God declaring to you today? 1 Thessalonians 1:4 says, "We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people." God choose Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and so many others that the world did not see. God's ways are so much different than the worlds. What is important to God, is often missed in the hurry, the dazzle and the expectations of our culture. It can be challenging to see people through the lens of God and it is an adjustment to begin looking at ourselves and others in this new simple way. If we all have a place to belong, and we all count each other as valuable in that place; how different the world can be.

Celebrate this Christmas and know that you are seen, counted and loved by your Creator, Redeemer and Comforter - and this simple gift is one that everyone can receive.



'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
Will be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend, we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'Tis gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
Will be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend, we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right
Till by turning, turning we come round right

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