Then, later in my married years, Doug and the boys had quite a large flock of sheep. Again I can remember checking fences, following a sheep through a broken rail to the neighbour’s field and crying, after wolves had ravaged. Again, the canopy of stars hanging overhead is a comforting memory in times of uncertainty.
In Jesus’ day, shepherds or sheep farmers were not well thought of. Although they would have supplied sheep as sacrificial animals in the near-by temple in Jerusalem, they themselves would not have been allowed to enter the temple to worship. They would have been seen as unclean after following sheep day and night across the dry land or perhaps named an outcast because of their lifestyle, maybe a scoundrel, sometimes accused of stealing another’s sheep, to increase their numbers. The religious probably thought they had good reason to forbid them from holy places.
Keeping this in mind, I ask then, why did the angel’s brilliance not break through into the temple, arouse the religious and sing their Gloria to a more receptive group or at least to men who were used to discussing God's intervention into human life. But, no! It was to a group of shepherds. Luke says “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them . . . (v.8f).”
It makes me wonder when dressed in my best bib and tucker, thinking my most pious and praiseworthy thoughts, if God is out doing the shepherd thing with those who are just doing what comes natural to them, like keeping watch over whatever people keep watch over when they’re not in church. Don’t misunderstand me – I love the church. However, sometimes we are reminded that God makes the circle wider than we can ever imagine.
All at once, it makes me want to go to the most unlikely places where I think God may be breaking into the most surprising space with a wonderful message, an invitation, and a promise that the glory of the Lord will shine around them. Sounds good to me. Now where should I look to find such a place? I might just want to go and seek out some shepherds.
Blessings on this eighth day of Christmas.
http://meadowlane.homestead.com/ (children's MP3 & PDF stories)