The Museum of Architecture in London held its annual Gingerbread City exhibition with public voting again this season.(1) The new special exhibit features more than 60 gingerbread buildings built around a masterplan developed by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design. The architectural masterpieces made of sweet confections are designed and built by some of the most prominent firms in the world. Gingerbread City is a way to explain how urban planning and architecture works to everyone, and present “the extraordinary richness of contemporary architecture to the general public.” The museum was packed with people oohing and aahing over gingerbread confections replicas of famous buildings. Throngs of holiday socialites seeking delight and joy in creativity and sweets. Clever and sweet! Can you imagine the hours of design work? I almost want to live in the gingerbread houses. However, while I love the sugary craftiness of these projects, something is missing. It is the most important piece.
Transformation. Over 90 coats, snow pants, blankets and other things were handed out here and in Philadelphia warming bodies and changing lives. Thank you for your generosity in caring well for others. Conversations of life and abundant live were had with each recipient offering love and compassion. Changing lives and impacting circumstances one at time. We are caring for our modern-day shepherds. Turning to the Nativity.
Our modern-day shepherds are unemployed and underemployed. Our modern-day shepherds are scrapping by emotionally and on family dynamics that depend on candy cane resin, double sided tape, and curling ribbon. Our modern-day shepherds might not herd sheep or bed down on hilly pastures. They might hear the good news while doing the dishes or picking up their toys, while coding or texting, messengers of God came to them and said: Don’t get all worried! You will not believe this! This is absolutely incredible! God loves you so much that God sent a baby. This baby is God and you should go NOW!
But this I know. Still would be, the glory of God shone around them and the angel choir singing
Glory to God in highest heaven!
Peace on earth to all whom God loves!
And the shepherds would look one to another in the way that we do when we have experienced the holy. In the way that we do when we are surprised at the very presence of God among us.
As our pick-up pageant suggested, we would be short sighted to paint all of the shepherds with one brush or one emotion: there were at least shy, silly, and sleepy shepherds among them. Perhaps also startled, sarcastic, and smelly, among them. Like any group of people, the shepherds were no necessarily of one mind.
Then they ultimately decide to make the trek to see the child. Because once you have encountered God, you are forever changed. The shepherds go trudging towards the child, with excitement and eagerness alongside hesitant and nervousness.
But when they arrive, it is the presence of the child that delights their hearts. They worship with awe. They know that the angelic voices and singing in the heavens, and staring at the sky was not for naught. All of this head scratching was the beginning of something that was about ready to change the world. To turn the world right side up, even when some did not even realize that the world was upside down.
After worshipping and adoring the Christ child and the holy family, the shepherds returns from whence they came. It’s the return trip that has always interested me. The shepherds returned from the stable praising God and telling others. In the way, you and I can not keep it in when we have a good dinner or see a great movie. The shepherds were stopping strangers on the street to tell them about this baby king, Jesus. The kind of things you do when your life was been flip-flopped upside down.
Bishop Will Willimon tells the story of a college couple who had met at an informational meeting for a Spring Mission trip to Honduras. After recently getting together it seemed as though all was going well and “and who knows where it might lead for the two of us.”
One day, around Christmas time, a friend saw him sulking across campus. “What’s wrong?” the friend asked.
“Marianne isn’t going to Honduras,” he said gloomily.
“I’m sorry. Why’s that,” the friend responded. “She can’t afford the time?”
“No,” he said, “Marianne said that her older sister, Clarinda, went down there and it changed her. Made her mom and dad furious. Clarinda said she got born again down there. Marianne said she got turned upside down.”
When the shepherds had seen Jesus, their world was turned upside down. They told everyone about Jesus. They could not keep the word to themselves. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
Still for us today, the news rings true. It is not merely a sweet confectionary distraction. Life changing, Good news, friends: Tonight, Jesus Christ, son of God was born for you. Christ was born for all humanity is God’s delight. Tell everyone. Do not be afraid shepherds! Christ the Lord was born for you!
This is the gospel of Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.