Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christmas and the Shepherds

Loving the 23rd Psalm as I do, I love the shepherds that are part of the Nativity. One Bible resource says that they might have been guarding the Temple's sheep. At that point in biblical life animals were sacrificed and given as burnt offerings to send a sweet fragrance to the Lord. Only those sheep that were perfect and free of blemishes, the very best of the flock, were used. They were guarded by those shepherds who were the most spiritual and devout. How appropriate that Gabriel should bring them these 'glad tidings'. No more would there need to be such sacrifices for God was sending His own son to give his life once and for all. And that life would not end in death but in resurrection and ascension.

Shepherds are watchers. Mrs. Eddy often writes that we are to watch and pray. The shepherds devote their life to the care and protection of their flock. They are wakeful shepherds through the night. They see the dawn before those who are asleep. How beautiful that night sky must have been. If you have ever been able to get away from the city and watch the stars undimmed by city lights, it is an amazing sight. One truly glimpses infinity. Imagine that sky filled with luminous stars with one very special star right over Bethlehem. My Matthew used to work at Griffith Observatory. Each holiday season they would have a display about what that star might have been. We'll be expanding on the Nativity with the Magi next and what the stars meant to them.

Gabriel, that busy angel, appears to the shepherds, who are at first fearful. He reassures them, this is not something to fear but a great and wonderful moment. Great tidings of joy. And as they listen to his message, more angels sing out in a heavenly choir. We can have this same experience as we watch for the true meaning of Christmas. The whole world changed with the arrival of that child.

The shepherds went into Bethlehem to see this for themselves. No camera crew present, no media coverage at all. Very few actually knew. And many of them kept quiet about it, protecting Jesus and his family. Those shepherds must have gone back into the hills afterward with much to think about.

When we see evidence of divine Love present in our life, when we see the good in others, when we trust God's maginficent plan, we are being good shepherds. And Gabriel can speak with us as he did with them. Good tidings. The greatest gift ever given. For you.

Go in peace.

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