Daily Reflection – 12/25/19
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:15-20)
Every Christian has heard the timeless story. It’s the story of an extraordinary event that changed the world forever, perhaps the most significant event in human history: the life and resurrection of Jesus. On Christmas Day, billions of followers throughout the world will celebrate the beginning of this story, the birth of God’s only begotten son.
We all know the account, how Mary gave birth to Jesus in the town of Bethlehem and laid him in a manger, how three Wise Men followed a star to Jesus and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, how a holy angel told a group of men about this amazing event and how word of His birth quickly spread far and wide. The birth of Jesus went viral (about two millennia before the birth of social media), thanks to the persistent effort of the first people outside of the manger to learn about it: the shepherds.
Why shepherds? Why didn’t God choose a king, any number of powerful dignitaries or people of great wealth? Why didn’t the three Wise Men, the angels sent by God Himself, or the Holy Family share the news of Jesus’ birth? How Christians live based on their understanding of the answers that follow help form the very foundation of their spiritual lives.
Shepherds were humble men with very little status. As such, they were looked down upon by almost everyone at that time. Angels appeared to these lowly people in the middle of the night to show that Jesus came into the world for everyone: the wealthy and the destitute, the educated and the ignorant, people of every race. Abraham, Moses and David were all shepherds, and God made promises to them about future deliverance. God honored this promise by announcing the coming of the Messiah to the shepherds first. Their key role was to spread the news of Christ’s birth as quickly as possible. History tells us that they did this very well.
These simple and lonely souls were very close to the Lord and could more easily see Him. The Wise Men represented those with social standing and fame – but they arrived in Bethlehem much later. Maybe sometimes being too smart or famous can get in the way of seeing the Lord. Shepherds were more likely to be the first on the scene since they were always on watch to protect their sheep.
Protection. Vigilance. Dedication. Christian clergy and other Church leaders have for centuries been called to “shepherd” their “flock”: to lead them, teach them and love them. It’s not by accident that the word “pastor” means “shepherd,” or that the 23rd Psalm begins with, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
According to the second chapter of Luke, one angel gave the shepherds the news of Jesus’ birth, and thousands, maybe even millions, of more angels appeared. What these shepherds heard, what the first angel had to say to them, was totally out of the ordinary. It changed the world, and they knew that nothing else could be more important than receiving this message.
On this day, the most beautiful of all, the whole community of heaven joins with all believers of good will on earth in a jubilant song of praise for the good news proclaimed by the angels on Christmas eve.
The joy of Christmas is not for a day or a season. It is an eternal joy, a joy that no one can take from us because it is the joy of Jesus Christ himself made present in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us The Lord gives us a supernatural joy which no pain nor sorrow can diminish, and which neither life nor death can take away. On this day, let the joy of your salvation resonate within you and allow His peace to flood your life. May all the blessings of Christ be with you and those you love.
Prayer of The Day
Lord our God, with the birth of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, your glory breaks on the world. As we celebrate his first coming, give us a foretaste of the joy that you will grant us when the fullness of his glory has filled the earth.
God wants to fill our hearts anew with joy and gratitude for the greatest gift he could possibly give us – his beloved Son Jesus. What can we give thanks for in this great feast of the Incarnation? We can praise and thank God our Father for the fact that the Son of God freely and joyfully assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. Jesus came to release the captives from slavery to sin and to open the gates of paradise once again. This day the Holy Spirit invites us to make haste – as the shepherds of Bethlehem did – to adore Jesus our King and Messiah. The Lord Jesus Christ is our eternal good shepherd who guides and cares for us unceasingly and who gives us abundant everlasting life and union with the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.