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"The Ragamuffin's Christmas"

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wondrous Irony

Last night I took my daughter to Belmont University to hear their Christmas Concert. For those of you unaware, Belmont is a Baptist University here in Nashville known particularly for it's music education. It's a very good school and the music department is world-class.
So last night's show was astounding. Morgan made the arrangements because it was part of a requirement for her arts class. She had to attend two concerts and write a review of them both. So she didn't tell me it was pretty much a formal event and we arrived dressed casually. That's not to say we were frowned upon or dismissed or that we even felt uncomfortable. It's simply a way of saying that apparently this is a very big night in Nashville because the folks attending were all pretty polished and special.
The auditorium was breathtaking, with acoustics that made you tingle. From the opening note there was grandeur and pageantry.
The orchestra played and then the Belmont Choir sang and then the Nashville Children's Choir sang and then a brass ensemble played and there was an amazing song by the Women's Choir and a few more performances before the intermission.
At one point I sat there taking it all in and thinking about how unlike the actual Nativity this event really was.
Last night, the birth of Jesus was being heralded and celebrated with glorious precision and wondrous talent. The well-bred and high-class of Nashville showed up in their very best to witness the performance and join in the revelry. That's how it
But that night...that mystical, scandalous, blessed, Holy, silent night when God took on human flesh and entered this world in exactly the same way we all did...looked nothing like last night.
The night Jesus was born went unheralded. He was ignored by all the world except some shepherds who were nearby--maybe even the shepherds in whose cave he was born--who were alerted to his arrival by angelic hosts. It's befitting the situation really. The illegitimate, scandalous, pauper-king named Jesus who was "God of Very God" and who had been born with one purpose looming large on the horizon, was all but alone when He made his entrance.
There was no orchestra, no stage production, no welcoming committee. There were no local dignitaries in their finest, coming from across Bethlehem to meet him and deluge his parents with gifts. There was no room for him in the local Inn or in anyone's home. Maybe because they were crowded, but also just as likely because he was illegitimate, and his scandalous situation had preceded him to Bethlehem. It was likely that someone could have made space for a very pregnant teenaged mom and her carpenter husband on a cold winters night, but the "Little Town of Bethlehem" collectively pulled down it's blinds and drew it's deadbolts.
And so Jesus was born in a cave, cut into the side of a hill. A place where shepherds would run their smelly sheep into at night and then they themselves would sleep in the doorway to prevent intruders and escapees. It was dirty, it smelled, and it was so innocuous that nobody would have even bothered to look inside to see the sheep...much less the Messiah.
Jesus got His fanfare many years later. After his beautiful infant hands grew into the hands of a carpenter-Rabbi and then were torn by a Roman spike. His lovely, curly dark hair was matted with blood as he writhed on a cross. His precious face was marred and beaten and swollen so badly that he didn't seem human and he was mockingly anointed "king" by the spit of Roman soldiers and Hebrew scholars as it ran down his face.
...and I have trusted him with my soul.
This beautiful baby who was God Himself, and who came to save me from my destination, was not celebrated that night as he should have been. In a deliciously ironic turn, God...being God...told two sets of strangers about His Son. He told the local shepherds, whom the Roman occupiers detested, and He told the fabulously wealthy "3 Wise Men" from the Orient. (in truth there might have been 20 wise men...we only know they brought three gifts and so the story sort of morphed itself into 3 Wise Men). So God proclaimed His Son's arrival to the very rich and the very poor. But only the very poor got to see him that night. It would take the Wise Men almost two years to make their journey to find Jesus. The shepherds were ushered into His presence immediately. Why? Well without judging the Wise Men...I am going to guess that it was because the shepherds were overlooked too...just like Jesus. They too were humble. They too were poor. They were rejected for the most part and lived a nomadic, homeless life.
And perhaps it was because they possibly lent Him this cave. If, in fact, this sheep-pen did belong to one of them...then perhaps God affording them the first glimpse of his son was His "Thank You". In a town that had no room, they offered him the room they had. Perhaps...
Last night listening to the absolutely breathtaking and glorious music that poured out of Belmont, I was moved to tears. I fell more deeply in love with Jesus than previously. I thought of how this was His due and yet He chose to come here knowing he would not receive it on that night. The only sounds were the whispers and accusations of his illegitimacy and scandal. The only worshipers were the lowliest men of the city, who wandered in their life as He would, and who were the only people to hear the angels and the proclamation of the arrival of the "Savior which is Christ, the Lord".
If this was their cave...then it was a perfect type of the work he had come to do. The shepherds gave him the only asset they had. All their possessions in the world were these sheep and this dirty, dank piece of property cut into a hill and fit only for animals. He took it and made it his home.
2000 years later He inspires such pageantry and worship as I witnessed last night. But on the night He was born there was none of that.
And that is a wondrous irony indeed.
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