Short Meds in Getting Ready in Covid-Advent: 26. Shepherds
Lk 2:8 “And there were shepherds….”
OK, it’s time to bring on the low-life; that’s them, the shepherds, outcasts from society, living out on the hills on their own, not turning up for synagogue on Saturdays, the definitely non-religious. Who would think of inviting them as part of the divine welcoming party for the Son of God who has just arrived on earth?
But God lays on an incredible angelic choir complete with a mega-backing group and fills the sky, just to give these guys a sense of the rejoicing that’s going on in heaven. Caesar may be strutting his stuff in Rome but God is showing, here outside Bethlehem, the rejoicing in heaven as the baby arrives in a stable on earth.
Feeling uncertain, feeling a bit misunderstood, feeling a bit of an outcast? Well God comes to you today and says, “Hey, come and see my Son. He’s down there in a manger, isn’t he wonderful!” Share in His joy; you have a special invite. Sing and dance and go and see.
The inclusion of the shepherds in the Nativity accounts challenges us and reminds us that the God we worship is a God of the poor and needy, a God who cares for the outcasts. I was struck recently, while reading Isa 56 how God seeks to reassure whoever seeks Him: “Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.” And let no eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” (Isa 56:3) Not exactly verses that would set us on fire but the Message version beautifully clarifies and emphasises the point: “Make sure no outsider who now follows God ever has occasion to say, ‘God put me in second-class. I don’t really belong.’ And make sure no physically mutilated person is ever made to think, ‘I’m damaged goods. I don’t really belong.” This is God saying to anyone who would reach out to Him, “I receive you.”
In Jesus’ day, later in the Gospels it is abundantly clear that religion was for the ‘acceptable’, the law-keepers and people like the ‘sinners’ and tax collectors were seriously looked down on by the religious establishment. In many parts of the world ‘churchmanship’ is for the respectable, for the suits and fine dresses and as much as Jesus does care for all peoples, such church life turns many away just as the ‘sinners’ of Jesus’ day were not the people known to be at synagogue on Saturdays. So the scruffy, probably smelly (they didn’t have showers out on the hillside) shepherds are given a grandstand view of heaven’s delight and their immediate response of ‘let’s go and see’ (Lk 2:15) is a childlike example to be followed. Let’s seek him out.