Summary: They were the unlikely first recipients of the Christmas message that began in an unlikely place.
Christmas 2016-- Jail
And the shepherds encountered the Savior of the World laying in a manger. The very first king-size bed!
St. Luke, the Gospel writer, is considered to be a man of education for the way he mentions important things and people: the decree of Caesar Augustus, that Quirinius was governor of Syria, the no vacancy sign at the Bethlehem Inn, but he also mentions the shepherds, the simple people.
Living and working on the margins of society and of the Temple, out in the fields, yet they were the first to hear the good news.
They were the unlikely first recipients of the Christmas message that began in an unlikely place.
We are here in this unlikely place, and we are the unlikely recipients of the joyful news that the innocent baby born on Christmas was born to be your righteousness before God.
He doesn't ask questions. He doesn't blame you. He knows you. He smiles at you. He loves you. This is the Christmas gift.
It reminds me of the man who saw a turtle resting on a fence post. The man knew that one must have placed the turtle on the fence post as a practical joke. Or, it's like that picture of cattle standing on the roof of a house. They had not climbed there. Flood waters had carried them there.
We cannot elevate ourselves to acceptability before God by our own natural flesh. That’s why Jesus, the Savior, was born.
2). The Shepherds received hope where there was none--
Abbot Peter McCarthy asked, "What do you see when you shut your eyes? I’ll tell you what I see, nothing! Perhaps more correctly stated; I see darkness when I shut my eyes. If what you see when you shut your eyes is important, than it seems to me that a very important part of us is our darkness! I am reminded of reading a description, written by the great Dr. Albert Einstein, of the inner experience of human consciousness: he described it as a tiny raft of light floating on an immense ocean of darkness. Could this be why Christmas appeals to us so powerfully? The essential note of every Christmas is the 'darkness of night.'”
The shepherds kept watch over their sheep during the night. In our First Reading, the Prophet Isaiah says: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.
The miracle of Christmas is about discovering new life where we did not expect life to be.
Reminds me of Bill Wilson's Christmas message to all AA members in 1944:
Yes, it's in the air! The spirit of Christmas once more warms this poor distraught world.
Over the whole globe millions are looking forward to that one day when strife can be forgotten, when it will be remembered that all human beings, even the least are loved by God, when men will hope for the coming of the Prince of Peace as they never hoped before.
But there is another world which is not poor. Neither is it distraught.
It is the world of Alcoholics Anonymous, where thousands dwell happily and secure.
Secure because each of us, in his own way, knows a greater power who is love, who is just, and who can be trusted….
…How privileged we are to understand so well the divine paradox that strength rises from weakness, that humiliation goes before resurrection; that pain is not only the price but the very touchstone of spiritual rebirth…
… we can no longer fear adversity, we have found prosperity where there was poverty, peace and joy have sprung out of the very midst of chaos.
Jesus spoke about spiritual joy because He wanted His followers to experience the deep satisfaction that derives from a relationship with God.
It’s about moral conversion, becoming a people eager to do good.
It happens by God's own generosity, who gives us his grace--our human frailty is assumed by Christ taking on human flesh.
Jesus’ birth does not allow us to escape the reality of our worlds. But, he is born into the daily circumstances of our life as Emmanuel, God with us.
3. Dr. Clovis Chappell imagines one of the shepherds who had been a youth on the first Christmas night and has now become old. His grandson sits on his knee as he recalls: "A long, long time ago, when I was little more than a boy, I was out on the Judean hills, one night with some other shepherds, keeping watch over the flock. And the angel of the Lord came upon us and the glory of the Lord shone roundabout us. And we were sore afraid, But the angel said, 'Fear not . . .for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. . . You shall find the babe in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.