On this first day of Christmas, I am thinking about shepherds. In the Gospel of Luke, these unnamed shepherds are described as the first to hear the good news. (Luke 2: 8-20)
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then the angel of the Lord stood before them…” (Luke 2:8-9a)
We don’t know who they were. We know where they were and what they were doing. They were with their sheep, watching through the night. I am praying for all of the pastors who, through this pandemic and in spite of their own limitations, have remained in the fields with their sheep. I pray that God honors their faith-full-ness with new expressions of God’s presence in their lives.
It matters to me that the angel of the Lord stood before these nameless shepherds. In contemporary church culture, people are often looking to the leading citizens and to the leading pastors for good news at midnight. We are always interviewing the stars and celebrities for their opinions and perspectives. But God sends angels with world changing news in the middle of the night to nameless but faithful shepherds. What is ‘awe-inspiring’ to me in this account – this year – is that the shepherds do something about what they have heard. I can imagine them looking at each other and deciding the logistics for how they were going to check this story out. They had to see this thing for themselves!
“When the angels had left them and gone into heave, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child…” (Luke 2:15-16a).
They were awed by the angel of the Lord standing before them with Good News, encouraging them not to fear. They organized themselves to go and see this ‘good news of great joy for all people’. And then, these shepherds shared the story with others, probably in the very way the Angel of the Lord intended – in a manner that encouraged others to be amazed and poised to keep sharing.
I’ve been thinking about this and and I’ve come to the conclusion that as startling as the appearance of an Angel in a random shepherds’ field had to be; and as fascinating it had to be to hear an army of angels singing of peace – these unnamed shepherds shared what they experienced in a way that kept the focus on the baby. As far as we know, they didn’t become Angel followers; they went in search of a baby.