Sunday, December 18, 2016

back on the hillside

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."  Luke 2:15

I wonder who got left behind?  Maybe it was the old guy, who was dozing by the fire but with ears like a hawk, would hear any sound.  Maybe the youngest one, the kid still on probation and hadn't had the first job evaluation yet, drew the shortest stick.  Maybe it was the shepherdess who was tasked with the job, simply because of the 'ess' at the end of her position description.  But someone got left behind with all the sheep.  After all, no self-respecting shepherd would leave flocks unattended, unprotected even if God has made something known to them.  After all, the angels didn't say, "Go!  We'll stay and keep an eye on everyone."

We are so enamored with the mythological, greeting card, Christmas-Eve-homily setting, aren't we?  There is sweet baby Jesus, the Holy Child who never utters a plaintive wail.  There is virginal Mary, with her pristine-white robe and perfectly coiffed hair.  There is sturdy Joseph, leaning on his staff, gently smiling down at the Currier and Ives picture.  There are the animals - 1 cow, 4 sheep, 2 donkeys, maybe a cat up in the rafters.  We are so enamored with this image, we forget the ones who are left behind.

Just as we forget the ones around us who are at their posts when everyone else is celebrating Christmas, attending parties, gathering with the family around the tree.  We don't have to work, we can take the time off, we enjoy the holiday break that we don't notice the ones who are still up on the hillside, keeping watch.

The 911 dispatcher who is ready for any emergency;
the volunteer at the suicide prevention hotline;
the firefighter pulling the 24-hour shift starting Christmas Eve;
the tow truck driver pulling cars out of ditches;
the nurse sitting at the bedside of a little girl in ICU -
do we notice them, remember them?

The security guards at my college were a mixed bag of folks.  Some were first-class, others we considered a joke.  Some spent time getting to know us and letting us know them, some kept their distance.  They were always around, always on the job, usually ignored and forgotten.  One year, I spent the holiday break on campus, working to earn money for the next semester.  Christmas Eve found me in my room, listening to music, reading, lonely.  There was a knock on the door.  When I opened it, there was the security guard who was spending the night, looking after the campus, including me.  He simply said, "If you don't have any plans for tomorrow, why don't you come and have Christmas dinner with me and my family?"

The one left behind, the one who drew the short stick, the one usually ignored and forgotten, remembered me!

And I have never forgotten him.

Prayer: Help us to remember the forgotten around us and shower them with as much love, attention, compassion as we offer to everyone else.  Amen.

(c) 2016 Thom M. Shuman

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