Pastor Phil McCutchen

Christmas Underdogs

But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:  And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. Matthew 2:22-23

How fitting that young Jesus should end up moving to Nazareth.  When you think of Nazareth, think of a place as far removed from the center of power as possible, or think of the least prestigious college one could possibly graduate from, think of the biggest bunch of losers you know (Don’t say it, just think it).  Anybody knows that being well connected means advantage and  advantage is gained from being in the right places and having credibility with the right people.  When disciple Nathaniel was invited to go and meet Jesus from Nazareth he responded, “NAZARETH! Can anything good come from there?” John 1:46 

This is fitting because God loves underdogs.  This is not because he doesn’t love top dogs.  I think it’s because God likes to show off.  Think about it.  God chose a total underdog named Abraham to be the father of faith.  Abraham had no pedigree and didn’t come from a family that ruled anything.  God then proceeded to let Abraham and Sarah get old and childless before he gave them one kid named Isaac.  Talk about not hedging your bets.  Come on God, shouldn’t they have popped out a few munchkins to give your legacy some insurance.  God proceeded to choose a Bedouin tribe of shepherds from the family of Jacob to be the nation that would bear his name and take his message to the world.  God then moved this bunch of shepherds to Egypt where they would become the slave class of that empire.  God then found an accused criminal turned shepherd (God seems to have a thing for shepherds. Go figure) to command Pharaoh to “let my people go.”

No wonder I am constantly moved to be God’s advisor instead of his child, he just doesn’t seem to be very strategic.  When he needed a King for Israel, the prophet Samuel looked over all of Jessie’s sons and said “no, no, no, go get me the underdog shepherd boy you didn’t invite to the party.” If you’re reading this you’re probably saying, “enough already!”  The fact is I could continue with my list of God’s underdogs long past your capacity to read about it, so okay, let’s leap forward to the first Christmas. God chose a young girl and a young carpenter with absolutely no clout or connection, moved them to the most rural downtrodden community in Israel with their little boy Jesus and said to the world, “okay world, here’s your king, deal with it.”

I love this so much.  I’m having a moment right now.  I feel a sermon series coming on.  I hope somebody’s reading this that feels like an underdog.  I hope I’m talking to someone right now who feels that life has handed you a series of setbacks, reversals and misfortunes.  I’ve got good news for you, in the hierarchy of God, you are going to the front of the line.  Trust God with your life, be humble, be obedient, don’t push yourself to the front but let God exalt you when it’s time.

Now does this mean that privileged people and important looking people aren’t also a part of God’s great plan?  Does this mean that the Christmas narrative is only for the downtrodden and marginalized?  It absolutely does not.  However it does mean that you can’t be arrogant and celebrate a Christ honoring Christmas.  It does mean you can’t trust in your privilege, location, connection, education or pedigree to put you in God’s good graces.  It does mean you can’t look past people and try to pick and choose between who have value and those who don’t.  The maintenance person, the receptionist, the young person serving you at a drive through today is a potential ruler in God’s sight, you better treat them that way. It’s a very unhealthy habit to only feel secure around underdogs but it’s even more unhealthy to feel diminished around underdogs.

So, let the Christmas story do its job on your soul and move you from simply being an evaluator of people to being a valuer of people.  Yes, “valuer” is a word.  According to the Dictionary a “valuer” is one who values.  Being a valuer captures what the Christmas story is really about from start to finish.  God sending his best to the world means, you have value and so does everyone else. And I’m not talking about some vague definition of value but I am talking about the fact that with God anybody can go anywhere and be anything from anyplace. If you’re located in the will of God you are as well connected as you ever need to be.  Nobody sings or writes stories about Herod, Caiaphas or Romans Centurions, but the underdogs of Christmas still capture our imagination, inspire songs, stories,  sermons and remind us all of the unlimited potential of every child on earth..