A short reading and prayer for today
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified.
Luke 2:8-9 NLT
It’s not very surprising that the shepherds were terrified. They were well used to facing dangers in the desert. They were constantly threatened by wolves and other wild animals but angels were a different matter! This was completely outside their experience. But more than that, as shepherds they would have had no expectation of receiving such important heavenly news. Shepherds were widely despised. They were considered to be unreliable and for that reason they were not allowed to give testimony in the law-courts. Although it is likely that they were caring for sheep that would be used for the temple sacrifices in Jerusalem, their way of life made it impossible for them to comply with the requirements of the law. They were outsiders.
Time and again the gospels show us how Jesus gave special attention to the people who everyone else considered to be outsiders. Children, women, lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes and foreigners were all given special attention by Jesus and his harshest words of criticism were often directed at the religious people. So the fact that the shepherds were given front seats at the birth of Jesus is entirely appropriate.
I wonder who would have been given the front seats in our own society if Jesus were born in our day. Perhaps the angels would have come to some homeless people, refugees or asylum seekers. What is certain is that Jesus would have gone out of his way to tell them that they were welcome into his kingdom. The church needs to reflect carefully on this and ensure that it continues to reflect Jesus’ radical welcome to every kind of person whoever they are and whatever their background.
Who do you think the angels might have come to in your own community?
Loving God, thank you for your generous welcome to everyone. Help us to pass on that welcome to all the people who live around me. Amen
Photo – St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem