One of my favorite parts of the Advent story is the shepherds. God bless those shepherds.
The angels appear to them and tell them that the Messiah has been born and he’s lying in a manger. And they don’t question the angel. They just say, “Oh, ok, cool!”
And then they go running to the barn (which was more likely a cave than a wooden structure) where the star is, and they burst inside to find the infant Jesus lying in a feeding trough.
And they kneel down and worship.
The shepherds are simple, lowly people who had hard lives, living outdoors in all weather conditions, constantly roaming the land to find water and grass for their sheep, earning very little money. And these simple men understand and embrace the simple good news that a special infant has been born, and he’s in a barn, wrapped in pieces of torn cloth, in a feeding trough.
For the rest of the world, a manger is the least likely place to look for a king. But the shepherds, the least in their society, embrace this least likely place.
This Advent, I’ve been reflecting on this surprise — that the good news, both then and now, may be in the place we least expect it.
Redemption may be lying in the dark, dirty, difficult places of our lives. The situations we’d rather not be in. The voids we feel after losing important things or important people. The dark room we lie in as we suffer through depression or cancer or chronic pain. The mud that’s been slung at us or our reputations or our writing or our art or our children.
The manger gives us hope, that redemption can lie in each of these dim, unexpected, least likely places. We may find the grace and the God we’ve always needed when we enter into the places we’d rather not go. When we look for God in the circumstances where we think God could not possibly be.
This Advent, where in your life do you think God couldn’t possibly be? Do you have the courage to go with hope and with joy — and encounter Divine Love there?