Thursday, December 25, 2014



Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  (Luke 2:8-11)

I saw the final movie in the Hobbit trilogy recently, that—along with the Lord of the Rings series—completes the Tolkien Middle-earth saga.  In Tolkien’s masterful works, he portrays a world where dark forces are persistently trying to enslave its inhabitants.  On that dark side there are goblins, orcs, trolls and such, and opposing them are dwarves, elves, men and the like—but the dwarves, elves and men are too easily corrupted by the offer of power and the lure of wealth.  They are too weak to save the world.  Therefore, the most unlikely of heroes is required—those who would be the weakest of all—hobbits!  The furry-footed little fellows, who much prefer gardening to soldiering, and whose hands are better suited to a spade than a sword, are the key to defeating the forces of evil. 

Doubtless, Tolkien was drawing out of his theologically informed worldview.  This storyline of the most unlikely doing the most heroic, and of the weak overcoming the strong, is a theme recurrent in Scripture.  It might be an eighty year old fugitive employed by his father-in-law—a fellow named Moses—who had flunked out on his one attempt to liberate his people that would be sent to finish the job—and he did!  Then, there was a timid soul named Gideon, who nearly jumped out of his skin when the Angel of the Lord appeared with an assignment to overthrow the Midianite oppressors, where he essentially would respond, “Who me?  You’ve got to be kidding!”  Then God sent him at the head of an army of 300 to assault a horde, armed with torches and clay pots!  Recall the least obvious of Jesse’s sons that would be anointed the next king?  His name was David—and the shepherd boy would go to fight the ten-foot champion of the Philistines, and kill him with a slingshot!  It would be a rag-tag bunch of fishermen, a tax collector, a member of a group advocating the violent overthrow of Rome, and others so obscure that all we know is their names, that would be selected as Apostles and help change the course of history!

However, the greatest example of the most unlikely heroes that would accomplish the most extraordinary task would be those featured in the Christmas story: a peasant carpenter named Joseph, a young virgin named Mary, a bunch of despised shepherds, and most importantly, a Baby cradled in a manger.  As Michael Card, and others have sung, “This Is Such A Strange Way to Save the World.”  Indeed!  That most unlikely Savior—God wrapped up in newborn skin—would grow up to exchange that cradle of straw for a cross of suffering, and through that scandalous execution would bring salvation—and in the act of His sacrifice crush the old Serpent’s head—assuring the overthrow of evil forever!  This is such a strange way to save the world!

Now, could it be that even as God used shepherds to be the first to proclaim this Gospel, that He would use people like us to do the same in our time?  That is most certainly God’s plan for His people today.  You may think you have little ability to stand against the vast forces of darkness that are arrayed against the church, but the reality is that God is not looking for ability, so much as availability!  On this Christmas Day, standing on the threshold of a New Year, with challenges abounding and evil growing, let us bow to the One born in a stable and share the message of good news to a world filled with bad news.  Victory is near!  What a strange way to save the world!

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