Christmas is the Nativity, the Nativity is Christmas. On the eve of Christ’s birth we hear the words of Luke which describe this singular universe changing event. We see the images and hear the songs that reflect Luke’s words. When you hear that reading or see an image that is taken from it what strikes you? What part of the image remains with you and defines that “Night Divine”? Many will say Mary, many will say the babe, some will say Joseph, others will give attention to the angels and some will even remember the animals present. How many people, though, will say that their lasting memory of the nativity image is the shepherds? Not many, I’d guess. What about the shepherds and their part of the nativity story? The Luke 2 tells us that they were the very first on earth to receive the message that the long awaited Messiah was born, the first. Yet in our memory of the Nativity they are probably last. What do we know about shepherds in the first century? As far as the hierarchy of occupations in those days, shepherds were somewhere close to the bottom and only slightly above those who made their living by stealing. They were rugged, social outcasts, uneducated. Because of their lifestyle and occupation their clothes were humble and soiled. Sleeping with their animals caused them to smell like sheep. Last, they were homeless and living in caves they did not own. These "first responders" were beyond poor.
Why didn’t God deliver the message of his Son’s birth to a more suitable, more elegant group of people? After all, this was the savior of the world. A closer reading of Luke’s gospel may give us some clues to this curiosity. If you have been to Bethlehem you know that the area where the shepherds were working was desolate, hilly, non-urban and in the proximity of many rock caves. The shepherds’ job was to be watchful in this dour, monotonous landscape. In their twenty-four hour day, they never had a break. They were all about protecting their sheep and “keeping watch” no matter what time of day or night. In other words, when the angels appeared and a great light shone, the shepherds were listening! They were paying attention to any changes in their situation and were ready to hear the angel despite their fears; “they were terrified”. (Lk 2:9) Next we note their response. They did not have a committee meeting or consult an expert or refer to a lawyer. Without hesitation, their immediate action was to “go to Bethlehem”. In fact, the scripture makes note that their departure was “with haste”. They did not show a lick of hesitation to the information that the Lord had just imparted to them. They did not shrink back despite their fear, they did not put it on the back burner for a day or two, and they did not wait for a “smarter person” to come and discuss things. They acted immediately, without hesitation and headed to Bethlehem to see to miracle that “the Lord had made know to us” for themselves. Upon finding Mary and Joseph they found that it was “exactly as they had been told”.
So we see that the Shepherds, in their simplicity. Despite their fears, acted immediately on God’s word. Their great faith and wisdom lead them to respond to God with “no strings attached”. They did not travel because of the promise of personal gain, great healing, or an improvement in their circumstances. They traveled with no judgment in response to God to see a wonderful thing with their own eyes! When they reached their destination another amazing thing happens. Upon finding Mary and Joseph and the babe they immediately relate the story of what happened to them; angels, light, message. As Mary and Joseph felt the isolation, the cold of the night and the irony of the cave and animal feed bin that Jesus was just born into, do you think that they could have used some encouragement? The shepherds delivered! Did you ever have a “positive word” that God told you to share with someone and not do it because you “weren’t sure”? Re-think the shepherds and their actions.
In my time on the prayer meeting, workshop, charismatic conference “circuit” (38 years) I have come to know many very poor people rather well. Some of them have become great friends. Without question, one thing is the same about these folks; the way they live their faith. Like the shepherds I have seen that faith for a very poor person who is following Jesus is always the same. These believers never have any of the caveats that people with more “things” sometimes have. The faith of these very humble is always “without question”. It is perfectly clear to them that God is God and he loves us Jesus is His son, He loves us and our job in the world is to live and teach these truths! Circumstance never enters into their consideration. They do not pray for more money, a job, a better home, new clothes, more food, a new car or any of the things that become part of “the list” when we become more affluent. The poor take and “live God” right where they’re at. Their faith is not dependent on anything else besides God and who He is. So it is not hard for me to understand why God’s first announcement about the birth of His Son was to the humble, uneducated, smelly shepherds. He knew that their faith would allow for no doubts or questions about the announcement. He knew they would carry the message without any additions or subtractions and most likely tell story for generations.
I fear that once you enter the zone of a person who has “things” that you can’t go back. That once you start accumulating possessions, it is impossible to return to a place where one’s faith is so pure, so unencumbered. But that goal and the image of the poor shepherds on that divine night is a good model for us to hang on to. I want to become more like the shepherds and pray that their elegant example will teach me things that I have tried so hard to learn on my own. Do you know any poor people? Maybe the next time you meet one you could take a moment to learn about the richness of the faith that they have to teach you. Spend a little time with them. This would probably benefit you more than a big fat donation check that is oh so easy to write and then be done with! “So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the manger”. (Lk 2:17)
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Sample more of Kathryn’s journey and thinking at: www.atravelersview.org
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|Published by: Eze Emmanuel o.|
|Date: 2010-11-19 17:11:19|
|please Father pray for me, for my exam's. Thanks
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