The Shepherds are the only people who come to visit the new-born Jesus in Luke’s account of the nativity. Luke’s Gospel focuses on the poor community of the time. He emphasizes the sort of humble circumstances into which Jesus was born – being laid in an animal’s feeding trough, no less. Certainly the shepherds’ presence is a pre-empting of the way that Jesus would operate during his adult ministry, where he embraced those on the fringes and reached out to those who were rejected by society. In the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise when she greets Elizabeth, we are given a taste of what the Lord will do – he will scatter the proud-hearted, cast the mighty from their thrones and lift up the lowly.
The presence of these shepherds at the nativity should help us to consider our own poverty. It is not something we might think about, when we are surrounded by so many things and with the growing commercialism which accompanies the Christmas season. However, the shepherds can help us consider our inner poverty and those areas of our lives which are in need of Jesus’ presence to make us whole. The shepherds also remind us that we are all in need of a saviour – I need Jesus just as much as the next person, whatever our circumstances. Let us not allow the material riches we possess mask our need for Christ or excuse an opportunity to connect with him.
And how wonderful that these poor shepherds were the first to be visited by angels, proclaiming the news that Jesus was born! The Angels are the heralds of good news. It must have been an amazing sight for those shepherds, far more used to quieter nights in the fields outside Bethlehem. The presence of the angels signals the wonder of this momentous birth. As we look at the angels in the nativity scene, we should be reminded that this is no ordinary moment – it is an event like no other; an unrepeatable moment in history and in our lives! Don’t we need the good news that the Angels proclaim today, more than ever?
So when we look upon the lowly shepherds and the angels who announced the birth of Jesus to them, let it be a reminder not to allow ourselves to “normalise” the nativity, but to look upon that scene with eyes of wonder – as the shepherds would have done – and be moved to sing and shout, like that great multitude of Angels chorusing together to bring us joyful tidings!
Lord, thank you for the “good news” hearalded by the angels.
Am I the bringer of good news to all those I meet?
Help me, Lord to recognise areas of poverty in my life,
where I need your transformation.
May I use this season of Christmas to renew my prayer life,
so that I may dwell in your presence and hear again your message of life!