(Photo by Selma Komisky)
Music, Mansions, and Miscreants
By Ben Courson
The shortest verse in the Bible is NOT “Jesus wept.” In the original language, that’s 16 characters. The shortest verse is actually Paul’s command to “Rejoice always.” In Greek, that’s 14 characters. If brevity is the wit of genius, then that verse packs a pithy and powerful punch!
Life is so much better when are rejoicing through rejection (more on that later). Paul told us to be continuously “rejoicing in hope.” He said, “in everything give thanks.” According to a study, people who are generally more grateful gave more money to a cause. These people showed a greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex—a brain area associated with learning and decision making. Gratitude is inextricably intertwined with greatness. To be a great, full person you must be a grateful person. In the story of the 10 lepers healed by Jesus, only one turned back to say thanks. So often we forget to be grateful, but reviewing our blessings gives us a new resurgence of joy when we feel doubtful and down.
So, chin up, princess, or the crown slips!
Each day we have reasons for gratitude because the Bible says God’s mercies are new every morning. That does NOT mean you get one mercy per 24 hours. In fact, Astronauts on the ISS (International Space Station) watch 16 sunrises and sunsets in one day through the window of the Cupola module! When you are like the astronauts—“seated in heavenly places”—you get as many mercies per day as you need!
The Psalmist tells us to give thanks. Why? Because His MERCY endures forever. And when we give thanks, God takes note, so our words are not in water writ! Malachi says that when we talk about God, He hearkens, and our words are written in a book of remembrance. That word in Hebrew for “hearken” is used of a dog’s ears perking up upon hearing the voice of its owner! God listens to our attitude of gratitude,. When we use our tongue to create the power of life, the fruit of our lips is giving thanks to his name from a root of “thanksliving.” Talk is potent. It takes 72 different muscles to produce speech. On average you speak 16,000 words per day, which adds up to (wait for it!) 860.3 million words in a lifetime!!! How many of those, I wonder, make God’s ears perk up because they were devoted to thanksgiving?
Yet, paradoxically, Christmas can be one of the hardest times to be grateful. Watching families and loved ones excited to gather together can exacerbate our own feeling of frustration if we’ve been heartbroken or if we’re lonely.
It’s hard to be grateful when you feel like an outsider to the holidays.
But remember that Jesus Himself was an outsider to the holidays! He wasn’t invited to His own birthday party. When He was born, not only was there no room for Him in the inn, but He didn’t even get the cultural greeting that was His birthday due. Back then, when a baby boy came out of the womb, the local musicians would strike up a tune and play music to celebrate the birth of the little lad!
Jesus had no such band.
Instead, the bread of life was born in a feeding trough. It was a symbol that His body would be broken for the eating of the Church, rather than being born to the palatial pomp and circumstance of song and symphony.
The local band was a no show.
So…in their place, angels played a concert!
Where the earthly musicians failed, the heavenly angels sang in their stead and gave a concert that would put Coldplay to shame! They sang “Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth and goodwill toward men!”
I picture angels popping against the stars and singing like pop stars! Think of it! There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on any beach. More stars than seconds have passed since earth formed. More stars than words and sounds ever uttered by all the humans who ever lived. And, against a cascade of stars in the heavens, the heavenly hosts showed off their angel pipes!
It’s been said that music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything!
But wait, it gets better! For whom did the angels sing? They gave a private concert for shepherds! Shepherds were miscreants. In the first century, the outcasts took care of the sheep and the lambs. People who had gone against a taboo in the village were sent out to the fields to take care of the sheep, so they would smell like sheep. When they came into the village people knew that shepherds had done something terribly wrong and were outcasts because the smell preceded them. It actually worked better than having a bell around your neck. What’s more, shepherds didn’t practice the ceremonial cleansing required for good standing in the eyes of the uber orthodox. They were rejects. Historians argue that the Bible is one of the only ancient documents to hold up blue-collar work as an honorable way of life. But culturally, these blue-collar shepherds were despised. After all, why did David—a shepherd—get left behind when his father offered his sons before Samuel to be king? David was an afterthought…surely a shepherd couldn’t be a candidate to the throne!
And yet, King Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd to identify with outcasts! He didn’t even get the customary musical greeting for His birthday! The holidays teach us powerful things, like your rejection is God’s protection and even if you have the frown of men, you have the smile of God. The earthly band may play you no tune, but the heavenly angels will strike up a concert in their stead. There may be no room for you in the inn, but in your Father’s house there are many mansions.
If, as a shepherd, the religious folk look down their noses at you, remember; people will throw stones at you. Don’t throw them back. Collect them all and build an empire.
Rejoice through rejection!
That’s the Christmas story!
And boy did the fans of King Jesus—AKA the Good Shepherd—have cause for rejoicing in the fields by night because He would go on to do great things like His ancestor, King David, who was also a shepherd.
I just got back from speaking in the city of David where I was interviewed on national TV in Jerusalem, and I learned this fun fact! Two of the three total miracles Jesus did in Jerusalem involved healing the lame man at Bethesda, and the blind man at the pool of Siloam.
In the Old Testament, the Jebusites living in Jerusalem said David couldn’t conquer the city. “Even the lame and the blind could stop you, and you will not enter,” they taunted. But David conquered it. And what did Jesus do in that very city? He healed the lame and blind. Even the LAME and the BLIND could not stop Jesus from healing them! David took care of the physical needs of the city, but the Son of David, Jesus, took care of the spiritual needs of Jerusalem. Yes, He’s a boss. There’s no area of your life the Lord can’t conquer and heal. Bam.
Not bad for a reject.
Jesus was left out, not to fit in, but to stand out! The boy who was not invited to His own birthday party would give the world a second birth. So, rejoice through rejection. You will face your greatest opposition when you are closest to your biggest miracle.
Want to learn more about hope? Pre-order Ben’s new book “Optimisfits” by visiting bencourson.com/optimisfits/