A Christmas reflection by guest contributor Valerie Morse
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” (Luke 2:8)
Shepherds were out in the fields on that night, eyes darting here and there for any wild animals roaming about, that might pounce upon their unsuspecting sheep. It was an important job, as these sheep were priceless to the families of these shepherds. Wool for clothing, meat for nourishment, and those sheep considered as ‘spotless’, for sacrifice, to cover the sin of the individual presenting it in the temple.
The darkness of night could be a treacherous time for those tending the sheep. Their eyes had probably learned to adjust to night vision in order to be good protectors of anything suspicious that lurked about. How terrifying for them when the night sky was suddenly lit up by an angel of the Lord. Luke relates how the glory of God shone around them…these men who were accustomed to the darkness of the countryside, far removed from village areas. It is no wonder that the angel had to calm them with the words ‘Do not be afraid!’
The message delivered by the angel on that night so long ago – that their long awaited Saviour had arrived, is a message that was to ring throughout history to this very present day.
What happened next must have brought them to their knees in terror mixed with elation, for ‘a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on
whom his favour rests.’ (Luke 2:14)
What we read next is amazing in itself, as the shepherds ‘hurried off’ to see Mary, Joseph and the baby. Sheep don’t tend to hurry, so I wonder if the shepherds left them alone in the fields, so overwhelmed were they with this wonderful announcement. After seeing Jesus, the shepherds began to spread the word concerning what they had been told about this child. After seeing Jesus, it would be very difficult to keep that inside!
I sometimes wonder if any of these shepherds lived long enough to view John the Baptist baptizing Jesus, and announcing that here was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…these shepherds who carefully tended the sheep… those spotless and without blemish, to be used as a sacrifice for the people presenting it at the temple…and now One had come as the Perfect Sacrifice…the Lamb of God…for the remission of sin for all mankind. What rejoicing! No longer having to repeat a sacrifice over and over again at the temple. God’s Perfect Lamb, Perfect Sacrifice had arrived!
Like the shepherds of so long ago, may we too hurry to greet Him…as, like the angels, we raise our voices in praise!
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Merry Christmas, everyone!