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"The Ragamuffin's Christmas"

Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent Day Nine: The Shepherds...

 “That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep”

I have had to take a long time to digest what I have witnessed thus far. I know this child has the power to heal, to bring hope, and to restore happiness. But I’ve seen him do so much more already. These mystical visits have been emotional to say the least.
I have been looking a long time at the calendar in my hands. The bells of Saints Peter and Paul Church have tolled again and a new day dawns. I’ve been sitting here a long time, pondering the meaning of what I’ve seen. I gently open the next little door and a smile makes its way across my face. This scene is one of my personal favorites, and I've been waiting for this one!
The shepherds have arrived!
They were tending their sheep out in the wilderness outside of Bethlehem. In fact, they had their flocks penned up in caves much like this one here. They were asleep in the doorway of their pens, as shepherds do, and they were startled awake by a brilliant light and the sound of a chorus of angels. They heard one voice above the din and it told them that their Savior had been born tonight in Bethlehem. They saw that wonderful star in the heavens and they followed it to this place.
A bewildered look is evident as they approach the cave entrance. After following the fanfare and angelic direction, they were surprised to see that they have arrived at a sheep pen just like they left behind. This is not exactly the way they thought a king should enter the world.
There are four of them...which some might find odd. I always thought there were three. The Bible only tells us that "at that same time, shepherds, living in the fields, watching out for their flocks at night..." I think over time, the tradition became three shepherds.
There are four of them here and I noticed that three of them have brought gifts. The other man brought nothing and he also is the quiet one of the bunch. They bow and enter the cave and bring their gifts to Mary and Joseph. I was standing nearby and decide to listen in on the conversation. The first man brought bread, the next brought eggs and cheese, and the third brought wine. The fourth man had no gift and seemed disinterested in the small group that had gathered around Joseph and Mary.
The conversation was polite. "I like how you've fixed this place, Mary”, the one shepherd says, "I never considered actually living in a sheep pen." Another shepherd remarks about how Mary has managed to get the place clean enough for a baby delivery in such a short time. The other man remarks about her health, is she okay and do they need anything? The conversation is what you'd hear at a housewarming or a cookout. “Do you need a job Joseph? Because I know a guy who knows a guy..." "How long will you remain in Bethlehem?"
Time ticks by and not much is actually said. The shepherds fall silent after running out of pleasantries and suddenly one of them, the fat guy who brought the bread, notices another of them is missing. "Where is L'enchante?" He asks. I don't know," replies the eggs and cheese guy.
“L'enchante!" they call out.
But there is no answer. Then in the silence they hear a whispered song coming from a dark corner, away from the oil lamps light. They bring a lamp with them and they see worn boots sticking out from under the makeshift curtain that separated Jesus' little alcove from the rest of the cave. They pull back the curtain and the missing shepherd is there. It is L'enchante, "the enchanted one."
He is holding the baby Jesus to his chest as tears fall from closed eyes. He has a smile on his face that defies description, he is "enchanted” indeed. He rocks back and forth slowly on his knees, in the soft cold mud of the cave floor. He is singing a song softly, as a whisper, under his breath. It is a song of love for his infant-Savior.
"Jesu...Jesu...Jesu...Jesus...Jesus" he is lost in worship and adoration and caught away in love with this wondrous baby-king.
He has forgotten about all of us and this cave and the presents he never thought about bringing. He has only this moment with this child and he is making the most of a chance to love the Son of God, and to let the baby love him back. The baby is smiling as I have never seen a baby smile. There is a connection between them. A flowing back and forth between the Giver of love and a man who really understands how to receive it. He does nothing. He lets Jesus pour his love into his heart and does nothing but reflect it back in worship. This makes Jesus very happy and His tiny face shows it.
We all remain silent as we watch L'enchante loving his Savior, and being loved by Him. L'enchante got it. He came with nothing. He didn't get sidetracked by small talk and nonsense. He felt no sadness or embarrassment for his present state as a smelly shepherd. He didn’t make confession first for any sins he carries inside. He went straight to the baby in the manger and fell on his knees and let the baby do what babies us.
I am dumbfounded. I want that heart for myself. I want to be swept away by the baby in the manger who so deeply desires that I hold Him and love Him and let Him love me.
In that moment, I understand why Jesus came as an infant.
I am 49 years old. I have seen love disappoint and let me down, as we all have. People who were supposed to love forever, without condition, have failed to do so. Each time we try to find it, we run the risk of getting hurt and wounded once again. Love that flows from people to people will always be flawed because we are flawed. It is hard to love each other, plain and simple.
We wonder if the other person is sincere, or if they will endure once they know our faults, or what if they go away once I drop my guard and let them love me? But a baby never poses those risks. Infants are totally free with their love. Babies don't know about our past and they don't care. They don't see us as ugly or sinful, or liberal or conservative. They don't mind our bad hair days or our frumpy clothes. They don't mind the smell of dirty sheep on our robes.
They don't care that I have been homeless and my career and my dreams all went down in flames. They have love to give and they can only give it by being held. They can only receive our love by the same method. Babies must be touched...and then they touch us. Babies scare no one. Babies do not intimidate. Babies have no history, and we have no history with them.
L'enchante understood this and he received the greatest gift on this special night. He instinctively knew that this child only wanted one thing: to love this shepherd.
The shepherd cast aside his pretense and his fear and got lost in the wonder -as his name implies- he was "enchanted" with this baby. He came with nothing, he left with the greatest gift of all.
He is lost in his bliss, at the stable of his affection.
Perhaps this one scene would serve best as a model for me at Christmas. I have come to understand that I need bring nothing to this place. This baby desires no gifts or acts of service. He only desires my heart. He longs for me to sit quietly and rock him in my arms and let Him pour his wondrous love on my aching and wounded soul. He loves it when I have my epiphany moment when I am holding him and it hits me: “This is God! He came here like this for me! He did this so I could get this close to Him”
L’Enchante understood that truth very early on in his experience with this baby and he sets the standard for us as we approach this infant-king. L’Enchante is a true ragamuffin who knows that, more than anyone else, this baby came for ragamuffins.

[The story of L’Enchante has been told for centuries each Christmas in a vanishing culture of a tiny village in the forests of France. This is my adaptation of this old traditional tale.]


"A glimpse of God will save you.
To gaze at Him will sanctify you.”
-Manley Beasley                      

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