Christmas Story Meditation — The Shepherds
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shown around them, and they were terrified.” Luke 2:8-9
God appears first, not to kings and holders of power, but to the shepherds. The shepherds are the first to hear the angels’ good news. We have to look beyond the picturesque manger scene and note that the shepherds were at the bottom of the social ladder. Throughout the Gospel of Luke we are told that Jesus came to proclaim good news to the poor, to the outcast, to those forgotten and on the margins. The people God chooses to be the first to hear the good news are the opposite of whom we might expect. The economically poor, yes, and the poor in spirit. The lost, the broken, the ones with shipwrecked souls. The shepherds stand in for all of us, when we strip away the layers. It is in our poverty of spirit that we are most open to receive God. In that place, we find companions of the spirit, the ones we might not have chosen for ourselves were we concerned with affinity, or social situation, or similarities of background. Our companions of the spirit are the ones who understand our longings, who see what we see, support us along the way, and hold our hands in the dark night.
Of course they were terrified! Nothing in their earthly life could explain this, nothing had prepared them for it. Without the response, the assurance that this was good news, they would probably have run for their lives. Nothing blocks our path to God like fear. Not the kind of fear that leads to awe and reverence, but fear like the fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of what others might think of us, fear of the other, the stranger, this is the fear that shuts God out of our hearts. This is why scripture exhorts us, and all those who have gone before us, again and again, “do not be afraid!”
Who are your spiritual companions? What fears are blocking your path?