I’ve always suffered from ‘On-The-Outside-Looking-In Syndrome’. In other words, my knee-jerk reaction in the presence of attractive, fun, or intelligent people is that I’m probably not eligible.
Silly, I know.
Maybe my insecurities began in junior high, where I never found a place to belong. Or perhaps they’re a natural result of my introverted personality. Regardless, the struggle is real.
That’s why I have a special affection for the ceramic shepherds I place in our nativity scene every year at Christmas.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, there likely wasn’t a shepherd anywhere who didn’t suffer from On-The-Outside-Looking-In Syndrome.
Shepherds weren’t just looked down upon. They were despised. In fact, according to Jewish law, even if a shepherd fell into a pit, no one was obligated to help him out.
Shepherds weren’t welcome in religious circles and were confined to the bottom of the social ladder. No one greeted them at the temple door. Invitations to popular parties were unheard of. On top of all that, shepherds were widely considered to be thieves, even if they’d never done anything to deserve the reputation.
There they were, feeling left out and ineligible, “out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8, ESV). And suddenly “an angel of the Lord appeared to them” (Luke 2:9, ESV).
God sent the Good News of Jesus Christ directly to them!
What a stir that must have created!
But why shepherds?
Because that’s the heart of Jesus.
No matter how ineligible we may feel, He reaches down, draws us in, and elevates us by making us His own.
He is, after all, The Good Shepherd.
When I place the shepherds in our manger scene, they remind me that, in Christ, we’re made acceptable to God. In Christ, we belong. In Christ, we’re wanted. And, in Christ, we’re made eligible.