“Basstrackers, bayliners and a party barge, strung together like a floatin’ trailer park, anchored out and gettin’ loud all summer long. Side by side there’s five houseboat front porches, astroturf, lawn chairs and tiki torches. Regular joes, rockin’ the boat that’s us, the Redneck Yacht Club!” Craig Morgan
When someone uses the term “redneck” they may be referring to the rural blue collar working class, or those who work an hourly, manual labor job. This song represents one of my favorite summer pastimes. While many people like to go to fine resorts on vacation, I prefer solitude on a pontoon boat. While some prefer a crystal clear concrete bottom chlorinated pool, I prefer the natural beauty of the cloudy algae and mucky bottom of Lake Koshkonong. While at the Kosh I often think about the story of Naaman’s healing in 2 Kings 5 when he was angry he couldn’t go wash in the “clean waters” of Abana or Pharpar, but instead had to go wash in the “turbid” (thick with suspended matter) and “discoloured” waters of the Jordan (Ellicott’s Commentary).
And then Jesus comes at Christmas. Wouldn’t you think the Creator (John 1:3,10) would arrive in the finest and most beautiful accommodations the earth could offer? I’m thinking the Omnipresent One should be oceanside! The Prince of Peace is by the palm trees! Or the Messiah’s on the mountain! Yet we read in Luke 2:8-12, “there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’” The manger is a cattle crib, a feeding box, an animal stall. It’s referred to earlier in the Bible as the place the oxen live (Job 39:9, Pr 14:4). And later Jesus refers to the manger as the place your donkey lives (Luke 13:15). Our friends the dairy farmers scrape the manure out of the “manger” three times a day! As Mike Rowe would say, it’s a “dirty job.”
Shepherds were held in low opinion among the people in those days. Commentaries tell us the shepherds were not even allowed in the courts or marketplaces. Commentaries also suggest that the sheep intended for the daily sacrifices in the temple were fed in the Bethlehem pastures. Some commentators suggest the angel came to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks because they cherished the traditions of David’s shepherd life, and were expecting Christ to someday come to Bethlehem. This “exaltation of the humble and meek” reminds me of Samuel coming to David in the field in 1 Samuel 16. God told Samuel regarding David’s brother Eliab, “Do not look at his appearance or on the height of his stature… For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then they send for David, who was “keeping the sheep.” The Bible says he was the youngest, or the least, the weakest, the most insignificant, and the Lord told Samuel to anoint him as king.
Philippians 2 says we should have the same attitude as Jesus, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Hebrews 12:2 says we should watch Jesus, who “endured the cross, despising the shame.” If you’re with me so far… washing in the Jordan might have been disgusting. Being born in a manger could be considered embarrassing. And there’s shame in dying on a cross.
Jesus says in Luke 20:46, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.” So far I’m liking the teachers’ way of life a lot better than Jesus’! The marketplace Jesus refers to is where assemblies are held, the place the shepherds weren’t allowed. Today’s marketplace may be a courtroom, business convention, mall, or church. This past summer a journalist was barred from the Speaker’s lobby outside the House Chamber because of what some said was “selective enforcement of the dress code, which only calls for professional attire” (thehill.com). Americans love to be respected and are quick to point out when we think someone isn’t dressed respectfully for the marketplace!
Christmas Eve services are one of the most highly attended church events of the year. Many get dressed up in their nicest clothes to go to their beautifully decorated concrete sanctuaries to hear a white collar religious leader encourage us not to miss finding Jesus this Christmas.
The Bible askes me tough questions this Christmas. Do I prefer to find Jesus at a clear pool or turbid river? Do I think I’ll find Him at a clean conference room or a smelly barnyard? Do I think I’ll find Him as a white collar religious leader, or a blue collar “redneck” shepherd? I hope everyone participates in corporate worship this Christmas. Honestly, I wonder sometimes if I miss finding Jesus at Christmas Eve services I’m a part of leading?