My close friend Tom is an agnostic, if not a downright atheist. He comes at this from an informed viewpoint that humans understand just 1/1000th of the known universe and that any God we conceive is born within the limits of the human mind. I get his take and respect his perspective.
This has led to many an interesting late-night conversation between Tom and me, a self-described Smorgasboard Christian (take what you like, leave the rest). We frequently chew over things such as the meaning of life and what the ancient thinkers were trying to tell us.
“OMG, how can you believe anyone could part a thing like the Red Sea with just a wave of the hand? It’s absurd”, Tom would scoff. Point taken. If one reads the Bible in its literal form, then there are many passages that strike the modern reader as just plain silly. To wit:
“But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.” (Leviticus 12:5)
There you have it, giving birth to a daughter makes you unclean for 66 days.
My rejoinder to Tom at these moments would often come down to, “Dude, by focusing upon the minutiae of the tale you’re missing the point of the story”. Although, admittedly, I have found no deeper meaning in Leviticus.
But there is one tale in the Bible that strongly resonates across the centuries with a reminder that ordinary heroes walk among us each day.
A Christmas Story
A key moment in the night of the virginal birth is when the angels appear to announce the arrival of the savior. If you are one of many who include watching A Charlie Brown Christmas on your holiday traditions, then you recall the crucial moment of the story where Linus takes to the stage and shares what Christmas is really all about.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…. (Luke 2:8-20)
At that time in Judea, sheepherders were in the bottom caste of society. The type of sheep these shepherds were raising were of the ‘fat-tailed’ variety. They often had lambs in the autumn and winter, rather than in the spring. If shepherds were the bottom caste of society, “fat-tailed” shepherds were the nethermost sub-class of shepherds. The lowest of the low.
But the angels went to them first and not the Kings or High Priests.
Even as a young kid, it caused me to pause and ask, “Appearing before guys covered in sheep dung. What’s that about?” As I matured, every Christmas brought me back to the account of the shepherds and the angels with the good news. This shaped my egalitarian outlook on society. In short, my belief is that in the eyes of God and in the cauldron of our capitalist society, the common man is worthy of being first.
Lessons For Today
Which brings me to our modern-day prophets, Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet. My social media feeds are chock full of quotes from the late founder of Apple and the Oracle Of Omaha. Nothing against either one of these men. Jobs built something extraordinary. Buffet has keen insights on spotting value. Yet we get so focused on these out-sized personalities that we forget there are dozens of brilliant businesspeople walking among us, even in the most economically depressed areas of our country.
So before we share that next Sayings Of Steve or the Wisdom Of Warren, how about instead we post a quote from the local printer on customer retention, our neighbor the Etsy dealer on identifying consumer preferences, or the nearby light manufacturer on employee satisfaction.
I like to think that if the Business Angels were to come and announce the Good News, they’d fly past Wall Street and Silicon Valley to first stop in our neighborhood.
Because our people are worthy of being first.
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