Luke 2:1-20

I've noticed a disturbing trend this year. It is evident in our own nativity here up front. We are missing the shepherds. A lot of nativities displayed now only carry the kings and the animals, no dirty manger, certainly not a woman who looks like she just gave birth. We have prettied up the nativity. Kings are in shepherds are out. Do we have an aversion to these marginalized first visitors?

This is the story we read tonight. No kings, no costly gifts, no riches. Just a simple appearing in a night sky, to the most unlikely. Because shepherds were a rough and motley crew. Think about it, they are out with the flocks in the hill country. Alone away from people communing with the sheep and maybe one another. Running into bandits and rogue groups who hide out from the Romans. Smelly, they certainly aren't near any of the modern conveniences, probably very threadbare, ragtag because you've no one to mend and certainly no sewing kit. Yet this is who the angels appear to first and this is who comes first to worship and welcome the babe.

It would be like the angels appearing to the homeless on the street and them bringing us the message, "The messiah is born, we have seen him in this cardboard box out on the south or east side of town." What would your response be? Disbelief, that person is crazy, how can they know. It looks so much more acceptable to have these nicely dressed, well respected (after all King Herod saw them), learned men who have journeyed from another land. Much more acceptable and professional.

Yet, God became incarnate, known to us in this dirty place, through these unlikely messengers. The angels came and sang to them, announcing where to go, what signs to look for and they went. Just as they were to see, to be a part and we cut them out. This is why our own nativity looks a little funky. Our shepherds are too small, from other nativities we own, they don't match and yet they are beautiful. Because they remind us truly of those first visitors and then messengers from so long ago. See when God reveals himself we don't get to choose if its pretty and acceptable. We just have the option of opening our hearts or closing them off to the message.

Will we, can we accept the ways God becomes known to us? Can we open our hearts to allow God to be born among us again? In the faces of the unlikeliest of people, in the dirty and the grungy places, because then we can truly welcome Christmas. The sharing of God's love with the least of these. Amen.