Welcome to Wine and the Word! It’s the end of a very full day and I’ve been looking forward to relaxing tonight with a glass of wine and spending some time with Luke. This week I’m continuing my look at the story of Jesus’ birth as Luke tells it. Last week I was struck by the thread of shame that is woven through the story of how Jesus came into the world. That thread continues in this next section (Luke 2:7-11).
Even people who didn’t grow up in Sunday school have probably heard the description of “shepherds abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night.” The lovely pastoral vision generated by that description bears little resemblance to the actual life of a first century shepherd. Because shepherds had to spend so much time with their flocks, they weren’t able to participate in many of the religious traditions and rituals of the community. This meant they spent much of their lives ceremonially unclean, segregating them from the community. They were assumed by many to be thieves, and dishonest to the point that they were not allowed to give testimony in court. For the first of many times, Luke records God using the marginalized and outcast to be the messengers and witnesses of what He’s doing. God using shepherds as the first witnesses of the fact that the Messiah had come was completely at odds with the cultural expectation of the value and place of shepherds. [Read more…]