On Day 19 of our “Christmas Goodies,” we shall reflect on “The Shepherds”
WHAT IT IS?
The Shepherds, living in the fields, and keeping the night-watch over the flock, were given the announcement of the Birth of the Saviour
Lk 2: 10, “The Angel said to the shepherds, ‘Do not be afraid;’ for today, in the city of David, a Saviour has been born for you, Who is Messiah and Lord”
WHAT ELEMENTS CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS CHRISTMAS GOODIE – “THE SHEPHERDS”?
- The shepherds were the first recipients of the Good News and they responded immediately
The Gospels testify that the Shepherds were the first people, outside the Holy Family, to receive the Good News of the Birth of Jesus
On hearing the news, “the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go, then, to Bethlehem, to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us” (Lk 2: 15)
This welcome response to the exhortation of the Lord is a quality to be imitated by us – we who hear God’s Word from the Bible, from people and from situations around us.
- Shepherding has had a major part in the Salvation History
One of the oldest professions in the world, Shepherding has been greatly associated with the personalities of the salvation history
Abel was the keeper of sheep (Gen 4:2); Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – the patriarchs, Moses, David were shepherds at some stage in their life.
In choosing the shepherds to receive the good news first, God was recognising the great role played by the “shepherds of His people, from of old” and prepares the world for Jesus – the Greatest Shepherd (Jn 10:11), the Shepherd of sheep (Heb 13:20) and the Prince of Shepherds (1Pet 5:4)
The Lord invites us to recognise our call too, to become shepherds to one another – in caring, being compassionate and loving the other, even the point of great sacrifices
- Shepherds were considered to be of a lower strata in the Jewish society
Though shepherding was very common and even considered noble in the initial days, with the passage of time, it came to be a known as a “contemptible professions”.
(cf. Gen 46:34)
One reason could be because of the many hardships that were associated with this work – intense heat, fierce cold, uncomfortable places of rest, less food, long hours of idle watching, attacks by beasts and robbers.
Over the passage of time, as land and flock owners became wealthy, this work of shepherding was demoted to servants and slaves.
By recognising the shepherds with the Good News, the Lord was giving a powerful message – that His Kingdom is ready and welcome to accept people of all classes and strata of life
- Shepherds were considered to be a sinful and despised lot
The shepherds were considered detested and despicable in the Jewish society.
This could be probably because, it was hard for them to maintain religious purity as the Pharisees laid down. They could not keep the Sabbath day because the sheep need constant protection. They were considered unclean as a result of unwashed clothes, eating with defiled (unwashed hands) and failure to keep the laws of purity.
Much of their time was also spent in the fields – away from the society – and thus their influence on the society was minimal.
The shepherds were also considered as thieves. By allowing their sheep to graze on someone else?s land, the shepherds deprived the rightful owner the benefit of his grass. Thus, all shepherds were considered as being robbers. To be buying wool, milk or a kid from a shepherd was prohibited, since it could be stolen property
Shepherding was also one of the “proscribed” professions – i.e. a sinful profession.
The announcement of the Angels to the Shepherds was a sign that God was, with open arms, waiting to receive the despised and the dejected, and to wipe away the pain of every oppression and discrimination, by His unconditional love. It was revolutionary act that Heaven was engaging in, by giving the good news to the shepherds!
- The appearance to the Shepherds was also a way of telling that “Jesus is the Lamb” who takes away the sin of the world
Some scholars of the scripture consider that the shepherds, to whom the angels appeared, were guarding a special class of sheep – lambs who would be raised up for the sacrifice in the Jerusalem Temple. These shepherds were trained, to keep these sheep unblemished, with no ‘broken bones’ or infirmities, as required by the Law.
It was fitting that these shepherds be ‘informed of the Lamb of all lambs- the One Who would take away all sin!
- The shepherds were dispelled of their fears, and instead, were filled with excitement and joy
The appearance of the Angels frightened the shepherds. But “Fear Not!” (Lk 2:10) was the exhortation to them
After visiting the Divine Babe, the shepherds “rejoiced much and glorified God” (Lk 2: 20)
The Birth of Christ has this dual effect – casting away of every fill and an infilling of joy and peace!
- The Shepherds became messengers of the Good News
Even though the popular image of the Shepherds in the Nativity Scene is that of they bowing in adoration before the Saviour of the world (which is not ruled out as a possibility), the primary act of the shepherds as presented in the Gospel is that they “became messengers of the Word of the Lord”
“When they [shepherds] saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.” (Lk 2:17-18)
The Shepherds teach us the important task to each one of us: “Become messengers of the Word of the Lord to the people whom you meet in your life. Make your life a good news!”
WHAT RESOLUTIONS CAN I PRACTISE TODAY?
Today I will seek to give heed to the voice of the Lord, and respond positively and with faithful enthusiasm
Today I will ask the Grace to know that I am deeply loved and accepted as I am, by God, and to live a life that is wholly pleasing to Him, Who deserves the best
Lord, like the shepherds, let me also promptly respond to Your Voice and become a messenger of Your Word, Amen!
MARANATHA – COME, LORD JESUS!
We welcome you into our hearts! God Bless!