By Curtis Shelburne: Religion columnist
While muckety-mucks in Rome were trying to figure out new and improved ways to shake even more shekels from the pockets of the subjugated populace and further filch the meager bread of the common man, the Highest of Kings was pretty much ignoring Rome. The true King was dispatching a troop of angelic hosts, any one of whom would be stronger than an assembly of all of Rome’s best troops, to appear before shepherds.
Yes, shepherds. Minimum wage kinds of folks Caesar would have completely ignored if he hadn’t wanted them on the tax roll.
And isn’t that just like the King in whose kingdom the janitor waxing the floor and whistling “Amazing Grace” could easily be a wealthier man and a truly mightier citizen than the CEO scurrying off to attend yet another “success” seminar, completely unaware that the janitor he bumped in the hall has already found success and could teach him where to find it if he’d stop and listen and learn? But he doesn’t have time to stop. Or to learn.
And don’t forget the stargazers, the night sky watchers with their faces turned upward focusing on another sort of heavenly host while Rome’s bean counters had their noses buried in ledgers, figuring taxable income, gross national product, and formulating plans to try to squeeze twice as much work out of tired employees for half as much pay. Bureaucrats never change. You can be sure they were looking for ways to further complicate anything they could “improve” that had once been simple, and struggling with such momentous questions as whether shepherds and bakers both had to file the same Form CCLXI-revised or if Form CCLXI-EZ would do.
At Bethlehem, God reminds us that almost everything we take for granted about power and prestige, success and status — not to mention “generally accepted accounting principles” — in the kingdoms of men is in God’s kingdom beautifully, wonderfully, delightfully, topsy-turvy if not altogether ignored.
As Max Lucado writes, “Were it not for shepherds, there would have been no reception. And were it not for a group of stargazers, there would have been no gifts.”
Yes, indeed. Thank God for shepherds and stargazers!