Just like the shepherds, we have a wondrous story to share
Scripture: Luke 2:8-20 (New Living Translation)
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” 15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
One of the best decisions my husband and I made was to move to the country. We have lived in rural Ellis County for over half of our married life (21 of 40 years). Now, don’t take me wrong--Hays is a great place to live. However, nothing can compare to the tranquility and peace of a calm summer’s night, or a cold night during winter, gazing at an unobstructed view of the moon and stars.
Sunrise and sunset are spectacular too. The air is fresh and clear. One of my favorite things to do is sit outside at dusk with my animals (chickens, a donkey, dog, and cat) and listen to a soft breeze rustle the leaves or pass through the pine trees. I also like spending time walking through our pasture--my husband has cut walking paths. When it gets close to Christmas and the temps are colder, it’s great to light a fire, or even just bundle up and enjoy the crisp clean air.
It really does make me think of the shepherds in Luke’s gospel. Can you see them? A group of guys, out in the clear air of night, laughing, but taking seriously the task of caring for their flocks of sheep. Humanity living in peaceful harmony with nature.
On the other hand, they probably weren’t very well-kept. I mean, there was no shower, no indoor plumbing out there in the fields. So, of all the people the angel could have appeared to, why shepherds?
Shepherds and sheep appear more than 40 times in the Bible. Hmm . . . must be a reason. A lot of times, the Bible story doesn’t really revolve around them; they just seem like something the author is mentioning, kind of like, when I am driving down I-70 and say, “Oh look, horses!” and then we drive on.
But sheep were important to the people of Jesus’ time. They were a valuable source of food and clothing. The shepherds, then, needed to be trustworthy, and it seems God realized the importance of shepherding. If you think about it, many of the great prophets of the Old Testament were shepherds. Name some, you say? How about Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Amos, King David, and the 12 tribes. They were all unique in their own way, yet all were shepherds.
These men all lived lives close to and appreciated nature and the gifts God bestowed upon them. They also realized that although they were herding sheep, they weren’t in control of their own lives. God was. David even wrote one of his most beloved psalms about it--Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”
So imagine a group of guys standing in a field talking, watching over the sheep, a soft breeze, and a starlit night. Then, an angel appears to them--and they are afraid. This group of men who guarded sheep and fought off wolves and weather to protect flocks were afraid.
But even fear couldn’t stop them from opening their hearts to the wondrous news the angel shared with them. Can you imagine their excitement? Every year when I hear this story I think of what it might have been like. I know how the story touches my heart, so these men must have been so overjoyed. And then to be able to run to the stable and see Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
Then I think of Mary holding her precious son. As the shepherds came to the stable, she must have wondered what was happening. But I believe she saw the peace and joy in their faces. And as the passage says, “Mary kept all these things in her heart.”
The shepherds in the Christmas narrative shared the story with others, and they were believed, I think, because shepherds were respected and trusted.
So what about us? Every year, we hear the words, “Today is born our Savior!” We sing His praises and glorify God. Are we not unlike the shepherds? We have a wonderful opportunity to take Christ’s message of peace, love, and joy to those in need. May the love and peace of Christ dwell in your hearts! Merry Christmas!
Cheryl Glassman is Minister of Music at St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church in Hays.