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A Shepherd's View of the Incarnation

originally performed 17 December 2000

John the Baptist had baptized Jesus, yet less that three years later while in prison he sent a message of query and doubt to Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come?" He who had seen the dove descend from heaven and heard the voice, "This is my son." And "among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist" was Jesus own word about John, who when faced with the hardship of prison doubted Jesus' claims of identity. He had misunderstood from the beginning what Messiah was to be about, therefore we have Jesus answer, "Go and tell John what you see and hear." The Kingdom had come so quietly, so obliquely that even John had missed the full meaning. So this Christmas 2000 we wanted to explore those ideas in relation to the shepherds whom the angels greeted that first night. The implications are vast: for the shepherds and for us. May God speak.

Christmas isn't about a baby. It's about a dead man that's not dead. A convict who's free. A man so guilty he's innocent. A man so innocent he bore your guilt. But not a baby. Babies are remarkable. Like meetings on the street, for what they become. That God became a man is beyond remark. It should flatten you. This baby was remarkable for who he was and who he became. But Christmas isn't about a baby. It was Christ's Mass originally, but never 'Babymas'. I'm not sure that the shepherds were able to keep that straight in their heads for the thirty plus years they waited to find out whom this baby was. We will try to defend this thesis here. Now.

Come thou long expected Jesus

Waited too long for a promise once displayed. Hope dies with each passing. Days, years.

Emanuel, our hope to be

Passing on like sheep's dung for which our holy exile is prolonged. Untouchables, unclean.

from our fears and sins release us

The whole idea is unclear. We waited in the dark for dawn. The longest just before the light.

Come Messiah, set us free

And what did that light mean? When he was a-sudden upon us. God's angel and all His glory.

Born thy people to deliver

We're shepherds! You've come to destroy us...

now thy gracious kingdom bring

destroy with a plague of hope. Worm of light you dig too deep.

dear desire, awaited redeemer

This desire is a dream to crush the spirit of a man.

Come Messiah, set us free

That it were true. That it were true.

Glory to the Word of God who became a man
The Word of the Most High assumed body and blood,
the Word became a man
the ears heard, the eyes beheld,
the hands touched, the mouth tasted
The Word of the Most High assumed body and blood,
the Word became a man

(mp3 excerpt)

A song, a sight. I closed my eye. The other's glass. We'd sung songs as cold as lead. Pressed weights. Their song was different. It was tons of rising. A vacuum cramp. It was our wait for release. So bright a man would crack. And pieces drop into the abyss. Did I want that loss? Did I want release? Could I spare the change?

(mp3 excerpt)


Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all people, for to you is born this day in the City of David, a savior who id Christ the Lord and this will be a sign for you; you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger

Glory to God,
God in the highest,
and on earth peace
among men with whom he is pleased.
Among men with whom he is pleased
there will be peace on earth.
To God in the highest be Glory.
Glory to God.

(mp3 excerpt)

I never moved as fast as a lizard nor felt so much that I was a lizard basking carelessly in the sun. But this was what happened. So hot were our hearts with angelic confrontation. Unexplainable peace and inhuman haste. No care for the sheep or our feet. This stable, this child, these swaddling clothes must be gained. Now.

My love, my treasured one are you.
My sweet and lovely son are you.
You are my love, my darling, you
unworthy I of you.

Your mild and gentle eyes proclaim
the loving heart with which you came;
tender, helpless, tiny babe
with countless gifts of grace.

King of Kings, most holy one,
God the Son, eternal one.
You are my God and helpless son,
high ruler of mankind.

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
all seated on the ground, the angel of the Lord came down,
and glory shone around, shone around.

Fear not! Said he: for mighty dread had seized their troubled mind
Glad tidings of great joy I bring to you
and all mankind, all mankind.

You are the Lord of the universe, O! The Sultan of the hearts.
In four books I've seen, the proof that you have given.
You fit in the believer's heart, but not in the universe
You became the Sultan, of the hearts O! My Lord!

To you, in David's town this day is born of David's line
the Savior who is Christ the Lord
and this shall be the sign: Be the sign.

The heav'nly Babe you there shall find to human view displayed
all meanly wrapped in swaddling clothes
and in a manger laid, manger laid.

In every nation there is, Your beauty
To be belong to everyone, is your uniqueness
We live with our love, O! The Sultan of the hearts
We need your light, O! The most compassionate My Lord.

All glory be to God on high and to the earth be peace,
good will henceforth from heav'n to men
begin and never cease, never cease,
never cease,
never cease.

(mp3 excerpt)

Just as there are many who astonished him, so he will startle many. And what has been in the bag shall be out: and that which was not, will slap them silly. Am I not then the greatest fool? I was told, and I was there.

So who is deaf but your servant? Or as blind as your Letter boy? Who is so dumb as he that is at peace with you? Who believed what we heard? He grew up with nothing in him that we would desire. Big entrance, and every line was flopping. We figured he was cursed, struck down by God, and crippled. Return to sender; address unknown.

But no, we'd gone astray. He, a lamb at the slaughter-house, didn't make a sound. And by a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have guessed this future. When you make his life an offering he shall see his offspring, and shall live to a ripe old age! Out of his torments he shall see light! He will be light.

See I saw a Lamb standing, as if slain, ... With a loud voice! "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain" ... For the Lamb will be their shepherd, and God will wipe every tear ... the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. These are true words of God. Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.