How are you spending this season before Christmas? As I attended a mission school from my early years, in the season before Christmas, namely called “Advent,” I opened the window of Advent calendar every day and waited for the day with excitement.
On the very day of Christmas Eve – the night Jesus Christ was born –, do you know that there were people who were invited? The gospeler Luke writes as follows.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Japan Bible Society [The New Interconfessional Bible] Luke 2:8-12)
Those who were invited were shepherds. Here, some of you may think, “Were they not three wise men from the east?” Of course, it is written in the Gospel that three wise men from the east, who were well versed in astronomy, saw the special star rose in the sky, and realized that it signified the birth of the Savior, and they traveled to worship the Savior with their treasures. They came because they willingly wished to celebrate rather than being invited. Those who were truly invited were, not the people with status, but shepherds who were poor and working in discriminated occupation in those days. As shepherds were “out in the field keeping watch over their flock by night,” they must have smelled of sheep and covered with dust, and they were not the kind, whom the ordinary people would invite to a birthday in those days.
In the fact that such shepherds were invited, exists the true nature of Salvation of Christianity. That is, for those, who are, according to the sense of this world, treated as the lowest bottom of the social scale and the byword of misfortune, and lost hope, the first invitation to the way to salvation shall come. As much as they devote and throw themselves into their work, shepherds smelled bad and shunned by others and so, never had a chance to be invited to a birthday. Imagine, in such situation, when they were invited to the birthday of the Savior by the words of an angle, how were their feelings when they went to the stable in Bethlehem. Of course they must have been astonished and doubtful as well. However, with overwhelming joy and inexperienced excitement, their misfortune must have turned into Felicity.
Shigyo Sosyu also says that living by throwing own-self, though it may look as charging into misfortune from others eyes, consequently it would rather link to grasping own Felicity. Let us spend this period recollecting this Christmas story, and not minding others’ evaluation, each one of us shall dedicate ourselves to our given mission, and look forward to be invited to the true Felicity. Because those who invite us to Felicity are not other people, but Angels who watch over our sincere living-way.