My Dear Shepherds,
Let us pray, prompted by the reminder of our ancient namesakes.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
Good Shepherd, we see ourselves in this picture, in our dark fields with flocks requiring our flagging attention. They have wearied us with their constant needs and sometimes with their foolish waywardness. They have comforted us, too, with their company and with their desire to know and follow you. Now, at this December season, they rest while we try to stay alert and watch.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
O Lord of the angels, we’ve tried to imagine the sight of it, as if lightning lived in the night sky or a door to the glory of heaven flew open. We’ve tried to portray the scene to our people with our dim words which, of course, prompted no terror at all. And these shepherds—to think that within the hour they would see glory greater than this! They would gather near God made flesh! It would be good for us, Lord, if a bolt of this holy terror struck us. We would be better for it!
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people ….”
And so was birthed our calling as a new breed of shepherds entrusted with this angelic good news, this gospel. Honestly, Lord, we wish it stirred greater joy than it does. We and our flock have heard this good news so often that we’ve grown a little tone deaf. Will you “cause great joy” in us and in our dear people?
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
O King, O precious Savior, Messiah, Lord Jesus! We’ve come to you so often as our fellow Shepherd, on all those ordinary days when we’ve prayed about languishing discipleship efforts, sick and sorrowing parishioners, pressures too heavy for us and schedules impossibly busy. But now we come out of that field work and kneel before you. Please kindle some of their awe in us.
We are privileged to continually find you in mangers, the humble birthplaces of newborn little Christ-ians. There is room for you now, Lord, in our congregations. You have made us your home, your holy family. You have washed our feet, listened to our prayers, fed us, and forgiven us again and again. You, dear Brother, have emboldened us to come to God’s high throne of grace.
… the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
We’ve been trying to help our people do that again this season, Lord Jesus; to come with us again to Bethlehem. We’ve just about run out of words, candlelight, and songs in trying to focus their attention. We’ve tried to help them really see what happened—this wonder, this mystery revealed. Now, please help us see afresh what happened. We need to see what the Lord told us shepherds about.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
Be ye glad!