Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
Who were the shepherds that the angel spoke to and why was their account included in the Gospel? On one hand I would think that their inclusion is illustrative pointing to the tradition of a King and his court. Jesus born is true King and the first attendants of his court are these two shepherds. They are,like him, of meager wealth in terms of money. Like Christ born in a manger surrounded by domestic livestock, they too are the Shepard’s of livestock and residents of the outdoors far removed from civilized society. Also, like Jesus, they are likely born into the Jewish tradition.Christ enters this creation on terms familiar to these herders.
The Angels message hints gives hint to their receptiveness to God’s word, while God speaks to many, these shepherds hear the message. They are willing participants of Salvation.Their means of livelihood gives a certain amount of consistency to John the Baptist’s message”make way for the Lord.” Like the baptist, these shepherds were far removed from society; desert dwellers who reside in a quiet place.Many times it takes these “quiet places” to hear an angels message.They were after all staring into the heavens and likely wondering just what their God had planned for them. Perhaps if there is an instructional message in these shepherds, going to a quiet place to listen to the Lord might be one.Their profession, shepherds, resonates loudly with the message delivered by Jesus.As shepherds they knew their role in guiding their sheep, and they also knew that it was the one true God that was the true shepherd of their lives.Though uneducated, they did not fall prey to the foolery of the emperors and Pharaohs of the day.Their homage was as humble shepherds of sheep to the Shepherd of man that is Jesus the Christ;the shepherd that was to guide them ultimately back into the kingdom of God.Perhaps too, one might read the visitation of the shepherds with emphasis on what they find at the manger “an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”With this newborn infant as salvation are they not reminded not only how near their God is to them, but also that salvation was not only an event of the past as told through the accounts of Moses, but also a reality in their lives. With salvation being born anew through this infant, might in not only be an event in their present but also an event to occur again in the future? This is after all our present celebration of Christmas, an homage to the event that took place in these Shepherds lifetime, the Christ that is present in our lives today, and the Christ we await in the future; a cycle that begins with our birth in Christ.