During our worship this Sunday before Christmas, we will present our ‘white gifts’ (this year, books to augment the library and support the whole community of Central Public School around the corner from the church) and members of the church school will present in skit and interpretive dance ‘Hope and Breaking News: The Shepherds’ Perspective’.
I remember the time I first read Raymond E. Brown’s ‘An Adult Christ at Christmas’, and how the story of the shepherds came alive for me when I realized that as they told the story of the shepherds, the first Christians were really speaking about themselves.
Like those shepherds of Israel, many of the first Christians in the towns of the Middle East and Asia Minor were humble, few were of any status, many were indeed slaves. But like those shepherds, to them had come a wonderful message, the good news of salvation, of new beginnings, of relationship with the one true God through Jesus Christ. They had heard the good news proclaimed, not by an angel but by the apostles, Peter, Paul, James, Andrew, Thomas and the communities that grew up upon the preaching of these apostles.
Like those shepherds, they had been filled with wonder and had been willing to explore this gospel, they had dared to believe the best. At the beginning of each week, to mark the day of Resurrection, they met in homes (sometimes marked secretly for fear of persecution), they shared meals, they sang and prayed in a deep and holy fellowship of faith. They had felt the Living Lord in their midst: they had known their hearts opened, their lives changed, as they were grown to live with Christ, in Christ, Jesus Christ who had lain down his life for them and was raised as the first of all who would follow, who called them to take up his way in this world.
Like those shepherds, they returned to their homes and work praising God, witnessing to the glory of God. They lived their best, spoke to family members and friends and strangers about the Christ in whom they knew healing and hope, they lived with an integrity and compassion that attracted others to follow the Way. They cared for the widows and orphans, they knew the joy of being embraced by God, the joy that did not leave them during times of illness, poverty, or oppression, the joy that did not separate happy days from sad days, or experiences of honour from experiences of dishonour, or passion from resurrection. They transformed the homes and streets and cities, living ordinary lives in the most extraordinary ways, from a perspective of abundance, having received life abundant and eternal in Christ, life flowed over from them into their communities. They felt no need to excel, to be exceptional: in the ordinary God had come, in the ordinary they would serve God and know good.
We will reconsider the story of the shepherds this Sunday morning, and are own lives … in the grace of God known in Jesus Christ. Join us!