8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,[I] the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,[J] praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” [K]15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. —Luke 2:8-20 | NRSV
You’re special! However, I don’t mean that in a Dana Carey’s Church Lady of SNL fame kind of way: Isn’t that special (lol)? Nor do I mean it in a superior, paternalistic kind of way, like an adult pinching the chubby cheeks of a baby, whispering, “You’re so special.” For that matter, neither do I mean it in the kind of cynical, yet teasing way one of my staff ministers (Jocelyn) often tells me when she sees or hears me say something that she thinks is weird or dumb: Yep, you’re special, aren’t you? I mean that you’re special in the French derivation of the word, which loosely translated means: Better than ordinary. Or, better still, I mean the Latin specialist, which denotes “individual, particular, distinctive.”
No one else around on the planet is exactly like you — or me. Each of us may have our doppelgänger or clone, which will be captured or stolen from our DNA by scientists who, in the future, will be able to produce one of each of us, as readily as we microwave a burrito. Notwithstanding the possibility of doppelgängers or duplicates, which is both a flattering and scary thought, no one else in the world is exactly like you and me. We are particular, individual and distinctive.
Again, I repeat for emphasis: You and I are special (Perhaps, me, not so much — at least, my wife and daughters might not think so — lol)! In fact, God created us that way (See Genesis 1 & 2). The psalmist of Psalm 139 seeks to highlight this truth, when he says of himself and says for us, as he talks to God, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14, NRSV).”
Perhaps you can understand then Luke’s sketch of the dramatic details surrounding the individual, particular and distinctive birth of Jesus Christ, which are highly suggestive and symbolic. In the second chapter of his gospel, Luke claims, according to the Trufant translation of the Bible:
- Angelstexted the truth of Jesus’ arrival to those on one of the lowest rungs of an oppressed, occupied people’s ladder: Shepherds working the night shift.
- Shepherds, ancient farmers/sanitation workers/butchers, receive news of a sign (a baby wrapped in cloth strips lying in an animal’s feeding trough) attesting to the truth of this extraordinary event.
- Heaven’s praise team shows up and offers the original rendition of Handel’s Messiah, but it was the Soulful Messiah version, declaring, “Glory…Peace!”
- The Shepherds take a break from work and head to Bethlehem to worship, finding the nondescript house where Jesus, Mary, and Joseph perform the first rendition of “This Christmas”, Act 1: It’s A Wonderful Life”.
- The Shepherdsbreak out in a shout and start Instagramming pics of Jesus, his mother, and father — a very human scene as the hope for humanity.
- Their worship break is over, so the shepherds return to work excited and expectant, believing things were gonna’ be better because of the birth of this child, this special child (Luke 2:8-20, NRSV).
What Luke says of Jesus, to some degree — perhaps more than we care to think or admit –occasioned our premiere on the planet. We, to be sure, are not the Son of God, but we are the daughters and sons of God who are still here because God has something special for us to do. The long and short of it: God expects us to move forward his agenda of joy and justice, hope, and healing, peace, and prosperity, life and liberation. To let others know how special we are, God arranged for angels to show up and sing, the lights of heaven to highlight our arrival and for those who watched us in the hospital nursery to smile lovingly and look hopefully while we stretched our limbs, exercised our lungs and smiled from gas. Have you begun to glimpse how special you are to God, your family and me? Our hopes hang on you discovering who you are and on what you will let God do in and through you for the rest of us. Please consult and count on God to help you unleash the “special you” that you were created to be. Looking at the current state of the world, we need you. And, isn’t that special?