And the Meaning of Christmas
As we near the end of Advent and approach Christmas Day, we will take a look at the powerful story of the shepherds and the angels (from Luke 2:8-20), and see what insights it might have for us.
The story tells of an amazing experience, an experience that foretold a time of great joy and peace.
When many of us were children, the shepherds played a prominent role in the story of Christmas and in our nativity scenes. We may have become accustomed to seeing them as bearded men wearing nice clean robes, watching cute, docile sheep, in a pleasantly pastoral setting. But this probably does not reflect how the shepherds actually lived. Being a shepherd was a difficult, dirty job. The sheep were dirty, difficult animals, and the shepherds had to more or less live in close proximity with them. It was not pleasant work.
The way Luke tells the story, the shepherds were in the fields, at night, with the animals. This was their workplace.
Suddenly an angel appears and what Luke calls the glory of the Lord shines all around them. We are not told what the angel looks like, but it must have been spectacular. The shepherds are terrified, so the angel first allays their fears and then delivers a message of great joy and peace. Then the sky explodes into the glorious display of the heavenly host, with hundreds or thousands or maybe close to an infinite number of spiritual beings all speaking and praising in union.
It is as though there in the fields at night a veil has been removed between heaven and earth, between the eternal and the temporal. Transcendent reality, divine reality, in all its glory breaks in and is experienced by ordinary human beings.
The message of the angel involves the birth of Jesus, course, and the announcement of great joy and peace. But what does this mean for us today?
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