The Oddest People

Lucien Guitry: Sa Carriere Et Sa Vie [SIGNED} by Guitry, Sacha

Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: 46’ 30” (PB 38’ 38”)

Almost 4 month gap since my last run – not good. Disturbing life circumstances have left me feeling drained with little energy and motivation for running. But I made it out today and it was ok, so that’s a start.

As I was running it struck me again how you often find the most unlikely of people are runners.

A couple of time I have met rather tubby blokes, who I subsequently found out were capable of marathons and half-marathons! Something I would never have predicted by looking at them.

As I think about the Christmas story I find I am equally surprised. I am surprised by who is invited to greet the new-born Saviour of the World.

The first on the scene are shepherds. This is a shocking as shepherds were considered social outcasts. They were wild, tough men, who needed to be capable of driving away both sheep thieves and wild animals. They lived out of doors most of the time and were not quite considered civilised by polite society. Given their outdoor life they couldn’t even follow the Jewish religion properly, never mind attending synagogue.

And yet when choirs of angels are sent to announce that Jesus is born it is shepherds to whom they are sent! I can imagine the angels asking to have the order checked,

“Shepherds! Really?!”

If the shepherds are surprising the next on the scene are totally shocking – wise men. These aren’t even Jewish! They are pagans from Babylon, probably followers of the Zoroastrian religion.

It is interesting story how they came to interpret the presence of a new star as sign of the birth of someone so important they were willing to travel around 500 miles to greet him.

A pagan prophet called Balaam was once hired by a King to come and put a curse on the people of Israel as they travelled through his kingdom. It must have been a well-paid assignment for Balaam to be willing to travel all the way from Babylon to do it.

But he duly arrives and starts his sacrifices and incantations. Then, to his total surprise and shock the Spirit of God comes upon him and instead of cursing Israel he blesses her. This happens several times until in the final blessing that he is forced to pronounce he states;

“‘I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
a sceptre will rise out of Israel.”
Numbers 12:17

It seems likely that this prophecy was taken back to Babylon and became part of the holy writings of the Zorastrian religion. Preserved for around 600 years it is this prophecy that they link to the appearance of a new star in the sky and follow to Israel (probably a comet).

So when the Saviour of the World is born it is the rough, tough, irreligious social outcasts and the foreigners who don’t even worship the true God who are invited.

If ever you wonder whether or not there is a welcome for you at the manger, please remember this, we are ALL invited, no-one is excluded – just come.

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