Grist Mill in the Winter, Babcock State Park, West Virginia
Photography credit: http://www.forestwander.com
I have for as long as I can remember, been proud to be a West Virginian. There are as many redneck and hillbilly jokes as ‘Carter’s got liver pills’; some I’ve laughed at, some made me nauseous, but very few have ever upset me. Most are told in good country fun and those that are not, are told in ignorance of the goodness of God that dwells in this place. I don’t think for a second that we are “Almost Heaven” because 1 Corinthians 2:9 says “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Heaven’s way better than anything here on earth! But West Virginia does have one thing in common with Heaven… commonality.
Drive down practically any country road in West Virginia and ask for directions and you’ll likely get more information than you wanted! Not only will you get directions, but quite possibly a little family history, political insight or advice on the best place in town to eat. It’s our way. There are the occasional grumpy guss, elitist, or recluse but I can almost guarantee they’re a transplant from another State. It’s just not the nature of the people in rural (Country) West Virginia not to want to help. Yes there is the exception to the rule, for them, I apologize.
The story of Christmas is filled with country. Mary, a virgin girl from the city of Nazareth, who called herself a “handmaid,” meaning servant or voluntary slave (Luke 1:38) is visited by the angel Gabriel with the news that she is to carry in her womb, God. And following her most likely initial shock it says in verses 39-40, And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. There it is. Just good country people, Mary, Elisabeth and the country Preacher, Zacharias, willing to be used by God. He could have chosen anyone and most would have expected that the Messiah would surely come from a royal estate. But it’s apparent that God’s idea of royalty is unlike ours. He likes country!
And what about Joseph who would be the earthly father of the Christ child? A common carpenter, blue collar worker, although he was of the lineage of David. A man we know very little about, except his trade, and willingness to marry the mother of God, love the Son of God and deal with the stigma that was to come.
And then there were the shepherds, farm boys, who were the lowest of the low in the eyes of society in that day and God sends a host of angels to bring witness of the news of His Son’s birth to these unlikely men. A common thread woven into the Christmas story is common people just like you and I. God didn’t exclude royalty, the wise men received the same news and although it was much later they too were a part of the story of Christmas. No one is excluded from Christ’s story. And although it was a cast of common characters it was far from a common occurrence, it was a once in a lifetime, exclusive event that changed the world.
Jesus’ birth story brings home the message the God uses common, ordinary people to do extraordinary things then and now. God created each of us as a character in His story that continues to be the greatest ever told and each time a “new birth” occurs, at the time of someone’s salvation, the excitement level of that day in Bethlehem is still there and the desire to go and tell somebody! The song go tell it on the mountain scrolls across my mind and cheers my heart with the Christmas Spirit this morning.
I like country. I like common. I love Christ. Go tell somebody!