Shepherds in the Field
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:"“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”The Visit of the Shepherds. When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us. ”So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.Luke 2:8-20
It is just another night. Cold. We have a small fire going - sitting around keeping warm and keeping company as the sheep are bedded down for the night. This is an image similar to what is in my head. Long day. They are all long.
The bleating of the sheep, then normal night sounds. An ear attuned for danger. This is the shepherds' day-to-day existence. Nothing special about this night. Keeping each other company. And then, there is a transition from normal to something else.
The sky starts to lighten. Do the sheep react? The shepherds sit up, and then stand. They look at each other questioningly. What is going on? This is way, way, way out of their life experience. There is no frame of reference for this. Afraid. They move together. The sheep are now agitated - they are attuned to their masters just as the shepherds are attuned to them.
They are standing and pointing. And now there is not just bright light - it is clear that this is other-worldly. They hear voices - first reassurance. Do not be afraid! This is good, not evil. The heavenly hosts - who knows what that really looks like, but it is expansive, encouraging, sacred, other-worldly.
Then the news - a savior, entering the world, tonight. Bethlehem. Miracle.
The light and brightness and voices fade. Incredulous. They shake their heads. Did you hear what I heard? Did you see what I saw? Yes. Now what? Will people think we are crazy? Will anyone believe this? Let's go and see this child. They set off in the night. Right away. This is too important. The sheep are confused but they follow. This can't be far from Bethlehem.
They walk right to the place. A young woman and her husband. A baby wrapped in rags. A very young family. Excuse us. We have just seen and heard something extraordinary about this little baby of yours. May we see? Of course, please come in - see. Adore. Be amazed. Strangers in the confined space of the manger with the family. Miracle.
Mary and Joseph exchange looks - continued miracle. Continued grace. Adding to their understanding. Here are good solid working men. Poor working men. This has been revealed to them. The sky has literally opened up. The angles have spoken - yet again. Miracle.
The shepherds look at the young exhausted family and they say good night. They camp nearby - just outside the city. Sleep is difficult. Finally, they rest. Tomorrow they will go back home and share this good news. This miracle.