High school. So much I loved, some things I didn't. South Eugene High in Oregon typified the city of Eugene at large. Our school building was nestled between the University of Oregon campus area (known for it's free-spirited, liberal, earth-loving population) and the foothills (well-resourced, upper-middle class, conservative folks). As a result, our student body was as diverse as the colors of our tie dye shirts.
As one might expect then, within school walls, there were several understood social groups: The "popular kids", the "hippies", the "stoners," the "geniuses", and the...well, "average" folks (such as myself). These distinctions were less talked about and much more implied, but everyone knew these social lines had been drawn and everyone knew to stay within the boundaries of their particular group. For example, in our school cafeteria, it was clearly understood, and quite uncontested, that only the "popular kids" (the insiders) were worthy of sitting at the coveted round tables near the front entrance. All other social groups (the outsiders) would then file past them to take their seats in the less desired rectangular tables near the back.
We have all encountered situations where we felt as though we did not belong. Some internal perception or external feedback sent a clear message: "You are an outsider here." And it stings. For many of us these experiences were, or are, far more significant than sitting at a certain spot in the school cafeteria.
But in Christ there are no outsiders. As soon as we receive the good news of grace, we are all included in the family and invited to feast at His table. We are all heirs to the promise. Timothy Keller highlights the significance of the genealogy of Christ as referenced in Matthew saying,
"...here you have [by the world's standards] moral outsiders, cultural outsiders, gender outsiders, prostitution, racial outsiders, a murderer, incest, an adulterer. And the law of Moses prohibited these people from entering the presence of God and yet there they are on Jesus' genealogy. He's owning them. These people who were excluded, Jesus included...male and female, Jew and Gentile, one race and another race, moral and immoral. If you believe in Jesus Christ, if you accept the good news, prostitutes and kings sit down as equals. He's not ashamed of us. We're all in His genealogy."
No matter what lies buried in our past or present, Jesus Christ welcomes us and invites us in. Maybe this is part of the "good news" the angel referred to when He proclaimed to the shepherds:
"And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11 ESV)
Receive His invitation. Pause long enough to let the fact of belonging soak deep. And may we all proclaim this "good news" to all who will listen throughout this Christmas season.