The Shepherds and the Angels
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,[a] the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,[b] praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”[c]
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them (Luke 2:8-20 NRSV)
As a small child both my Grandfathers and Father went on a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land and they all three came back with olive wood Nativity sets from Bethlehem. Each set was slightly different but overall very similar. They all had Mary, Joseph, Wise Men, Shepherds, Camel, Sheep and most of all, Jesus. They may have differed in the number of animals or variety, but in each set the focal point was baby Jesus in the manger. I remember fondly that even though Christmas was always busy in a pastor’s home even after the Christmas Eve service, we would do our family advent devotion at home.
One year on Christmas Eve though, Baby Jesus went missing…. I’m sure you can imagine the pandemonium in a house for of clergy that Christ, the savior of the world was lost. My sister and I searched the house frantically, we covered every inch of the house. My mother was distraught because the centerpiece of the nativity scene was lost. Had our dog ate him? Did he accidentally get brushed into the trash in the sometime chaotic nature of the Christmas season?
No, thankfully Jesus was not lost, he was hidden in a small package in our Christmas tree. A family tradition had been that we could open one gift on Christmas Eve; and the gift that we opened that year was the olive wood carving of the baby Jesus. Just like that fabled night in Bethlehem Jesus came into the world to save us all. He came to fulfill the words of the prophets. Jesus Christ came back into our home like he came into a hurting world, he came for healing, he came to love, he came to teach and most of all he came to save.
Jesus came as an infant the most humble way he could. The shepherds were one of the first people to know of our risen savior; not kings or rulers, but shepherds. God sent his son in a way that could be received by all who accepted his gift on the cross.
So while you celebrate the season please take a moment to remember not just the how we celebrate but the why, and the who we should break bread with.