I’ve always been moved by the shepherds who witnessed Jesus’s birth. Perhaps you have heard the story from the Bible: As the shepherds kept watch over their sheep in the fields, an angel appeared and told the good news to them. The shepherds were among the first people in this world to hear about Christ’s birth. Common people, simple minds. At first the shepherds were frightened, but then they rushed to Bethlehem to see with their own eyes what had happened, or what was about to happen. What made them leave their flock and look for Jesus? Was it curiosity? Or was it a deep urge to seek the truth? Did they acknowledge who Jesus really was – the long-awaited Messiah, the Saviour, forgiver of sins and messenger of joy and peace, as the Bible tells us? I do not know, and perhaps the shepherds didn’t know it either in the beginning, for they came to see the full picture only later in their lives, as the grown-up Christ laid down his life for them.

Look, however, at the shepherds in this picture of our family’s nativity scene, as they are standing face-to-face with baby Jesus. They seem to be struck with awe and wonder about the fact that the Christ has been born to them, and that the Son of God was about to bring joy and peace for all people, as they had been told according to the Bible. It is quite difficult to imagine what the shepherds thought when they saw the newborn Christ. Many thoughts may have been running through their minds – for sure they must have thought about what this child was bringing to their lives. They themselves had come with empty hands; they had left their belongings behind in the fields, in God’s care, at least for a little while. We do know from the Bible that soon after they had visited Jesus in the manger, they returned to their flock and told forth the good news to other people. They couldn’t stay quiet about their encounter with Jesus, and glorified and praised God all their way long.

 

If you had been one of the shepherds, would you have believed the angel? Would you have rushed to meet Jesus at the location of his birth? Or, what about this season of Advent and coming Christmas? Are you wondering about the story of Christ? Are you going to stand in awe at a nativity scene displayed in your town or city, moved by the truth of the living Saviour? Are you – figuratively speaking – a shepherd of today’s world? What would you say is your flock, or your field? What kind of sheeps are you keeping together? Are you busy with keeping your money together? Are you making a living or a fortune out there in your work fields? To whom do you give glory and praise? To yourself? To your own achievements? To the people’s efforts, profits and gains? Are you happy with all your wealth and prosperity? Do you actually need God in your life, as everything seems going all right, at least for yourself and your loved ones?

 

Or do you think that the Bible story of Jesus is just nonsense, a myth, or a lie, an illusion? That there is no Messiah – in no way – who brings joy and peace for all people? Are you bothered by me and others talking about God? Are you perhaps asking yourself: if there really was a God, why are there still so many people deprived of joy and peace? Why is there so much bitterness and strive? If Jesus truly was the Saviour, why do people keep living a life of sin? Where is all the forgiveness among people? Why does evil persist to exist? Why is there so much sickness and despair around us and in our midst? For wherever we are looking in this world: there is sorrow and pain, destruction and death.

 

I don’t know the answers to all these questions and observations. But I believe  – at the cost that I may appear to be a fool in your eyes – that the shepherds’ witness of Jesus’s birth is worth considering. Let’s review once more the nativity scene from the point of view of the shepherds: at first they were scared when they caught sight of the heavenly angel, but as they faced little Jesus in the manger, they surely knew that something big was about to happen, and they wanted to be part of it, at least a small part. Look again at the shepherds pictured in our family’s nativity scene, and imagine their first-hand perspective: they were deeply moved by Jesus, even as they returned to their everyday life, herding sheep and taking care of their families. If you were able to stand before Jesus, the baby boy or the grown-up man, right now and here – would you face him or turn away without looking at him? Wouldn’t you rather take a closer look than close and blind your eyes in view of him? (BF)

 

 

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