The Tell-Tale Heart

December 22, 2017

“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” Luke 2:18

“We’re having ‘Light the Night’ at the church tonight,” Pastor Mark told my students. “Any of you who want to participate should come early. We have costumes and you can help out.”

“Sounds like a great opportunity,” I said, nodding my head supportively to my sixth graders.

Pastor Mark turned to me and adjusted his Seahawks hat. “Did you get my email?” he inquired.

I hadn’t, but I had an idea of what it would be about.

“I sent you an email about tonight,” he said with a grin. “I think you might be a wise man or something.”

Well-played, Pastor Mark, I thought to myself. Well-played.

I had slightly less than 0% enthusiasm for spending my Friday evening playing dress-up with my students. But I checked Pastor Mark’s email anyway. It sounded urgent.

“We are in need of some folks to dress as shepherds, soldiers, and wise men,” it said. “Wendy and I would really appreciate it,” it said. Since there were only five or six of us that received the email, I figured Pastor Mark needed all hands on deck. He’s been kind and generous to me, so I begrudgingly agreed.

When I showed up, my dentist had been crowned and my daughter’s PE teacher was finding his wisebeard uncoachable. Two wise men had been cast, and the third was the professional camel keeper. This meant I was on shepherd duty along with the rest of the elementary students.

I cursed my dearth of camel-keeping skills. I would rather have been a wise man. Not because of the beard, or the headwear, or the fancy threads. Not because my ethnicity made me properly oriented to play one of the three kings. No, the best thing about the wise men in the story is that their job is to NOT tell.

“Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as yo find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’” Matthew 2:7-8

“And having been warned in a dream not to back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” Matthew 2:9

So the wise men got to use their astronomy honor, take a trip, meet the Messiah, drop off their gifts, and then keep their mouths shut.

Sounds pretty good to me. I’ve always been the quiet kid. The introvert. The guy who has to have an internal debate about telling someone their fly is open.

In other words, I’m no shepherd. The angels told the shepherds and the shepherds, who, after getting over their sore-afraidness, went and told everyone on the mountain that Jesus Christ was born. In other words, they weren’t sheepish about spreading the word.

I’ve never been comfortable with telling strangers about my faith. It’s even hard for me to respond to an altar call, because I feel guilty when I don’t stand and fake when I do. Once, while I was flying home, I had a really good conversation about spirituality with another college student, but he was a Christian as well and did most of the talking.

While I lived in Rochester, New York, I attended a very traditional Adventist church. This meant that they were zealous about evangelism. Since I was the principal of the small K-8 school, I ended up preaching sermons, knocking on doors to promote Bible studies, and serving as part of an evangelism team that gathered at the Holiday Inn Express. All of these experiences helped me grow, and nothing was overly traumatic, but they never felt natural. It was like putting on the costume and playing the part.

I’m thankful for those who are willing to tell the good news with a sincere passion. If not for them, I likely wouldn’t even exist. Both sides of my family became Christians because someone was willing to speak up. My mom’s side through a cooking class on Maui and my dad’s in a sugar cane field on Oahu.

However, I don’t believe we all have to be shepherds who proclaim. While certain shepherds brought tidings over the hills and everywhere, there must have some that waited with the flock. There must have been others who calmed the lambs who were recovering from the sheer terror induced by the heavenly host. There must have been others who gathered the stragglers.

As teachers, we have the privilege of watching the flock. Sometimes they lie down in green pastures and lap up the knowledge we give them. Other times they bleat and wander off and try to walk off cliffs. But rather than stay silent, we tell them that they are more than their behavior. They are children who ride with the Prince of Peace. They are displaced for the moment, but eternity awaits them. They are gifts and givers. They are statues hidden in marble. In other words, every day we have a turn at show and tell.

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