Today We Identify With the Shepherds – the First to Hear the “Good News!”

crib 3The Shepherds are the blank pages of the Christmas story. All around them are people, places and things with names of obvious symbolic radiance – Mary, Joseph, Herod, Caesar, Bethlehem, angles, the magi, even a mysterious star. The shepherds, by contrast, are unnamed and unnumbered. We don’t know whether there were two or twenty, where they came from or where they went.

 So why should shepherds be the first to hear the “good news for all the people?” What was so special about them?

 Shepherds were the commoners, the lowly, the poor, the outcast of the Palestinian society. They were not the idyllic figures we image as being peaceful and gentle as the lambs they tended. In reality, the shepherds were tough, earthy characters, who fearlessly swung their clubs against poachers and wolves. Shepherding was not a job for the light of heart or easy-going of disposition. They contended with the wildest of animals and the worst of weather. The pompous Pharisees and scribes regarded shepherds as a disreputable and untrustworthy lot of rustics; they considered them to be second and third class citizens and were barred from Jewish courts of law and synagogues.

 The shepherds were the working poor. Working the night shift. While the magi bring gifts of gold and spices; the shepherds might have shared a few eggs and pieces of mutton. The learned might understand the deep theological, historical magnitude of this birth; the shepherds were caught up in the wonder of it all.

The shepherds represent the ordinary person in everyday life – albeit at life’s harder edges. The shepherds represent you and me!

 As Pope Francis blessed the figurines of Baby Jesus that children from Rome brought to Saint Peter’s Square, he reminded us that Christians can’t be gloomy because Jesus brings joy. It might be good for all of us to prayerfully reflect on his words: “The Church is not a refuge for sad people; the Church is a house of joy because the Christian message is ‘Good News’ – a proclamation of joy for all people. . . . Christian joy is found in Jesus Christ’s faithful and boundless love” that is why “when a Christian is sad, it means he has strayed from Jesus.”

It was to simple shepherds rather than to the powerful that God revealed the birth of His Son, humanity’s Savior. The Savior who would portray himself as the “Good Shepherd” whose love and compassion for all humanity would know neither end nor limitation. As we celebrate Christmas, may we possess the simple hearts of the Bethlehem shepherds to hear and embrace the good news of Jesus’ birth. May we possess the spirit of humility that enables us to rejoice in the wondrous love of our God revealed to us on Christmas!

 A Blessed and Merry Christmas!

 Question – Take a few minutes to reflect on the birth of Jesus (Luke’s account of the Nativity can be found in Luke 2:1-20). Have you ever identified with the shepherds who were present at Jesus’ birth? What report of Jesus’ birth will you be proclaiming during this Octave of Christmas?

 

December 25th, 2013 |