For at least a 20+ year period of my life, I had beef with the shepherds from the Nativity story. It all started in the early 2000’s when I was an 11 year-old youngster. As a young, gay, Pentecostal pastor’s kid, my chances for dressing in shiny and bejeweled clothing were very few and far between. One of the only times that I had to express this more “creative” side of my personality was if I was named one of the 3 Wise Men in the yearly nativity play. I remember desperately hoping and praying I would be named one of those Wise Men. I NEEDED to wear that shiny purple robe with the train that went on for days, wrapped in the shiniest gold sash I’d ever seen, and be covered in so many faux-jewels that Ru Paul herself would have been jealous. It’s all I wanted for Christmas. However, my Christmas wish would sadly not come true. Instead, I was named one of the boring old shepherds. Me? A shepherd? With their boring robes, unbejeweled headpieces, and limited dialogue? I think not! In my mind the only morsel of excitement the role of a shepherd had to offer was getting to fall to the floor, pretending to be afraid of the angels, and while yes, very dramatic it enough. This WAS NOT what 11 year-old Bo had envisioned for himself, so what had once seemed to be a lavishly exciting opportunity had quickly turned into a drudgery. I was devastated.

This traumatic loss of nativity fabulousness left a long lasting distaste in my spirit for those early shepherds. It wasn’t until one Christmas in recent years, when I was reading through the nativity story, as a somewhat more mature adult, that I noticed a correlation between my life and that of the shepherds.

In that time period the role of a shepherd was not one of glamor or prestige. In fact it was a job that the majority of society looked down upon. When considering this, it’s kind of wild that the first people to hear the good news of our Savior’s birth were shepherds. They were some of the most unlikely individuals to not only be the first to be told that Jesus had been born, but who got to be the first to worship Him and spread the good news of His birth.

This story of the angels appearing to the shepherds and them then coming to worship Him, is the start of a pattern in the life and ministry of Jesus. A pattern where He reaches out, acknowledges, and loves the most unlikely of individuals. We see examples of this time and time again throughout the Gospels. We see it in His selection of fishermen from Galilee and a tax collector as His disciples, His treatment of the woman at the well and the woman caught in the act of adultery, in His healing of the lepers, and the list goes on and on. At every turn, we see Jesus reaching out to those that the religious society chose to ignore and scorn, and in these moments He would declare your sins are forgiven, you are loved, and you are mine.

Little did that 11 year-old boy, who just wanted a chance to wear something shiny in the play (and all the play practices), know, but he had a lot more in common with those shepherds than he did with the Wise Men. Fast forward to the year of 2023, and like those shepherds, I find myself, an LGBTQ+ Christian, being the latest in this line of unlikely people that Jesus reaches out to and welcomes into his fold. One of the ones that the religious society of the day has said “No, not them” to. With all of this in mind, over the past couple of years, the meaning of the Advent season has changed for me. It has now become a time of the year where I celebrate the beautiful gift that is Christ’s love and acceptance, and where I celebrate the fact that in spite of being one of those unlikely recipients of His love, He never fails to call me His own.

–Bo Pittman

Luke 2:8-20

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 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. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

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Advent ’23 Entries

Advent23: December 24

A Musical Advent As the Communications Director for Haymarket Church, I get the opportunity to see and read all of the Advent (and also Lent) devotional entries before anyone else. Well, Pastor Brian receives some of them via email before I do … but you get the…

Advent23: December 23

“A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse;      a branch will sprout from his roots.  The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him,      a spirit of wisdom and understanding,      a spirit of planning and…

Advent23: December 21

Christmas Breakfast When I think of Christmas, I think of breakfast.  Since I was little, the most central element of my family’s Christmas celebration has been eating a big breakfast together on Christmas morning.  When I was young, it drove me crazy.  We’d come…

Advent23: December 20

Were there Hobbits at the Nativity?  It is no secret in the Bryden household that J.R.R. Tolkien (of the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Silmarillion fame) is my favorite author. While I am not an avid reader, I couldn’t put his books down once I started – with the…

Advent23: December 22

On Sunday in worship, our preacher, Rev. Shannon Hendricks, preached about the story of Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1:26-56).  In her sermon, she referenced a song called “The Canticle of the Turning.”  This song is a reinterpretation of the song Mary sings…

Advent23: December 19

The Rebel Jesus  One of my favorite Christmas songs is Jackson Browne’s “The Rebel Jesus.” It’s not quite a traditional song, but every year, when it’s time for us to start reading Chapter 1 of Luke, there’s something about this song that just – well, I think this…

Advent23: December 18

It was Thanksgiving Week of 1972 when I flew into National Airport to report to my first duty station, Ft. Meade, MD, after completing basic training. I had just turned 18 the previous May and was going to spend my Army stint as a trumpeter in the First US Army…

Advent23: December 17

What must it have been like to be Mary?  Her life got turned upside-down when an angel told her that she was going to give birth to God’s son.  It almost ended her marriage.  It must have strained relationships with family, friends, and neighbors –…

Advent23: December 16

Mary Did You Know? Thirty-plus years ago, my husband, daughter and I were living in Bonn, Germany; at the time Germany’s capital. Bill had been offered a position in Bonn by his employer and we both thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to live in Europe; and…

Advent23: December 15

Mary, Did You Know? Between my husband’s side and mine, we each have 2 siblings who each have at least two children. But while mine are all in Baltimore, Sean’s all live closer to us. We used to split the day of Christmas, Thanksgiving – and all other holidays that…

Advent23: December 14

Finding Home  “Are you going home for the holidays?”  This is a question that I hear many times.  It’s a friendly inquiry but it has taken me years to answer honestly.  I did used to go “home” to CA for the holidays.  When I was married, we…

Advent23: December 13

Where Is The Love? When I was in the last semester of my senior year of high school, I decided to take an online English class. At the time, this was a brand new option; it sounded exciting and easy to just do this class on my own at home on our family computer…

Advent23: December 12

The Sounds of Christmas (A Group entry by our High School Small Group) _______________ Every year on Christmas Eve, ever since I was little, I have watched the Trans-Siberian Orchestra movie with my dad. It has always been the soundtrack to my Christmas and…

Advent23: December 10

On the second Sunday of Advent, we are talking about John the Baptist.  Advent is kinda weird, in that we prepare for Christmas (at least during early Advent) by telling stories that happened when Jesus was an adult.  We get ready to celebrate the birth…

Advent23: December 9

Over the last week or so, there’s a song I’ve been listening to quite a lot.  It’s called “Thou Who Wast Rich” and the version I’ve been listening to is performed by a group called “Ordinary Time.” There’s nothing fancy about the song – it’s just a hymn, and I…

Advent23: December 8

I love keeping family traditions, especially around Christmas time. Some traditions we have in our family include not listening to Christmas music until afterThanksgiving (although I think one of our daughters starts earlier each year), dipping pretzels inwhite…

Advent23: December 7

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices”  This line from the popular Christmas song, O Holy Night, carried me through the Christmas of 2021. As the world continued to isolate due to COVID-19, I was navigating a challenging diagnosis. By December 2021, my…

Advent23: December 6

Be warned: today’s Advent devotion includes some profanity.  First, an explanation: Advent is a season that is traditionally associated with the biblical genre of apocalypticism.  Apocalypticism (or “apocalyptic” or “apocalypse”) is a genre of literature…

Advent23: December 5

Growing up in Michigan, one of my favorite things was coming out of the Christmas Eve service to a light blanket of snow on the sidewalk. It happened pretty much every Christmas and is a very special memory for me. So, when I moved down to Virginia, I had the…

Advent23: December 4

Every year in December, my Mom would bring out the “Christmas Lamp” to mine and my siblings excited delight.  The vintage 1957 Econolite motion lamp, pictured here, is a paper lantern sitting on a base with a light bulb.  Between the light and…

Advent23: December 3

Advent is a counterintuitive season. It ends with joy joy – joy to the world, joy beyond our ability to fathom it. At the end of Advent comes Christmas, when we celebrate the Light of the World entering into our darkness, the Prince of Peace overcoming our…