Both poor and rich find place at Christ’s birth

Rich and poor don’t always get along. One can be skeptical; the other envious. One questions motives; the other questions motivations. Both can be all stars in the blame game. Both find contentment elusive.

Ninety-nine percenters long for the Top 1%. “I know money won’t make me happy, but I sure would like to try!”

And the Top 1%? Some of them would rather be in the middle. Currency complicates. Dollars bring dysfunction.

Our system of haves and have-nots has been around for ages. This season, we recollect a story of a have-not family who had no hotel reservation. They had no rich relative with a spacious backhouse. They had a donkey – maybe.

Was there really no room in the inn, or was there just no room for them in the inn?

We think of Jesus being born inside of a barn. That may be too glorious. Scripture only says he was placed in a feed trough. It could have been out in the open. The shepherds “living in the fields nearby” felt right at home by the manger. It could have even been theirs.

The shepherds were blue collar boys accustomed to following directives. When an angel appeared to others in the Christmas story (Mary, Zechariah), they asked, “How can this be?” Not the shepherds. They asked no questions. They simply “hurried off” to find Salvation.

The poor shepherds greeted the poor baby. Then, they spread the news of what they saw. People were amazed by the news and by the smelly news bearers, no doubt.

The poor must have been particularly enthused. Poor shepherds telling the story of a poor infant messiah. “Yes! God has seen our plight,” they might have said.

It would have been simpler had God concluded Christmas here. We would have our marching orders: God is a god of the poor. So, be poor and please him.

But Christmas continues. In from the east come the rich. Call them what you wish – Magi, Wise Men, Foreign Dignitaries – they were people of influence (King Herod tuned in to what they said) and they were people of means.

The distinguished guests were likely rulers in their homeland. They had resources to travel long distances. They brought precious metals and rare perfumes.

They were rich, but they were also humble (“they bowed down”) and generous (“they opened their treasures”). Mary may have traded the manger for an ornate bassinet.

At Christmas and in Christendom, rich and poor bow down together. They worship together in an upside-down kingdom. First are last. Poor are rich. What’s on the inside counts.

As Mary sang while pregnant with Jesus, “God has brought down rulers … and lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” But not the rich from the east who laid their treasures at his feet. He invited them into his story. With God all things are possible.

It must all depend on where your trust lies. If you’re poor and you trust in yourself, you’re in peril. If you’re rich and you trust in yourself, you’re equally in trouble.

The Old Testament prophet Micah testified that Bethlehem would produce “a ruler who will be the shepherd.” ‘Twas fitting that rulers and shepherds welcomed him to earth.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.


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