“We’re all misfits!!!!”
Christmas day is “the most wonderful, wonderful day of the year,” that is, of you’re not a misfit, like a spotted elephant, or a water pistol that shoots jelly, or a cowboy that rides and ostrich.
These are the colorful characters that inhabit the Island of Misfit Toys in the beloved Christmas special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” And presiding over the island is a kindly flying lion named King Moonracer, who tells the island’s visitors that “no toy is truly happy unless it is loved by a child.”
And what child would want to play with a Charlie in the box? Or a choo-choo with square wheels?!?
WE’RE ALL MISFITS
I think you see where this is going. We’re all misfits. Inside each and every one of us we struggle to hide the feeling that there’s something that isn’t quite right about us, whether it’s some dark secret or some milder, day-to-day neurosis (ahem…such as my habit of taking even numbers of steps between spaces of floor tiles).
And in the Island of Misfit Toys we find a rephrasing of the Euthypro dilemma from classical philosophy: “Are we loved because we are beautiful? Or are we beautiful because we are loved?”
WHILE SHEPHERDS KEPT THEIR FLOCKS…
Luke alone records the visitation of the angels to the shepherds. It probably comes as no surprise that shepherds didn’t exactly have what you’d call a high-class profession. Though they probably were counted among the despised (this was an attitude expressed only by later Jewish sources), the shepherds were nonetheless counted among the meek and lowly, a story that harmonizes well with Luke’s special emphasis on the good news to the poor and the marginalized (cf. Lk 1:38; 4:16-18).
In Luke’s narrative, the angels join in heavenly celebration with the meek and lowly representatives of humanity:
“’Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” (Luke 2:10-14)
They are told of the arrival of “Christ the Lord,” though the irony is that the “sign” of His arrival is a child “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
Even Jesus Himself could have been counted among the misfits. Isaiah’s prophecy, ultimately applied to Jesus, states that “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). Jesus, in taking on our humanity, was no Brad Pitt. He came from an unwed teenage mother, He followed in His dad’s footsteps in becoming a carpenter, and when He announced to the world that He was the promised Messiah, even His own brothers didn’t believe Him (Jn 7:1-8).
And so Jesus came as a misfit to a world of misfits. But He came on a mission of love and redemption, that those who trust in Him find their place among God’s children.
A SIGN UNTO YOU
And so the Shepherds went to Bethlehem, finding the child as the angels had promised. It is at the feet of Jesus that faith and promise intersect, and this segment appears at the beginning of Luke’s great gospel to remind us of the promises of God that are fulfilled before us when we step out in faith.
And so we find, like the Shepherds, that we are not loved because there is anything beautiful or desirable about us. But we are beautiful – that is, being made beautiful – because of His great love.
Consider the words spoken long ago to Israel:
“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).”
Jesus loves the very least of us, showing us the power and beauty that comes from being restored in His great image (cf. Rom 8:29), and in so doing He invites us into a world of love, beauty and everlasting justice.