Tag Archives: Shepherds

22 December – Good news for everyone!

The shepherds come bursting into the story, still smelling of sheep and a bit out of place in a maternity ward – however rough and ready it might be. But they remind us that Jesus’ birth is good news for everyone – including (or even especially) those who’ve got no business being there.

It strikes me for the first time this year that since Gabriel spoke once to Mary and once to Joseph about nine months previously, apart from Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, God has been quiet. He hasn’t (so far as we’re told) sent any more messengers, or even prophetic dreams. Mary and Joseph have simply got on with what they’d been called to do, bringing Jesus to birth miles from where they’d expected. They must have wondered sometimes what was happening to them.

But that night, the shepherds burst in and their excitement bursts out – the angels are back in celebration! It’s the confirmation of what this is all about. And it’s great news for the world.

 

The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent

21 December – Glory to God, Peace to Earth

When the angels turn up, heaven hits earth with a bang. God’s universe-wide, history-long plan to step into our world is announced to a few working people on a dark hillside. And that’s one of the key things about Christmas – we celebrate every year that God’s work in the world isn’t just ‘then’ (whenever ‘then’ is) but Now. And it’s not just ‘there’ (wherever ‘there’ is) but here.

Looking around you, where can you see God at work today, perhaps even in your daily work? Will you be willing to step aside from the ordinary to pray and worship him? That’s a way to follow the shepherds today.

 

The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.

20 December – The Lord’s my Shepherd

We’re not familiar with shepherds in Wednesfield. But the ‘Good Shepherd’ is an image of God lots of us find helpful. The shepherds in today’s video remind us of what that shepherding involved in their day; it involved living among the sheep, caring for them, guiding and providing and sometimes protecting them. Israel’s greatest king, David, began life as a shepherd, and at his best he led his people with the same care.

Who are the shepherds of our community? Who are our guides, providers, protectors? And who do you guide, provide for and protect? Pray for them today and perhaps ask yourself what they reflect of the God who cares for us – or of what we need from God.

 

The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.

Blogging the Bible 269 – Luke 2 – Back to the Beginning…

Having just celebrated Easter, we’re back into Christmas with this chapter!

Luke starts the chapter with one characteristic bit and continues with another. First he sets Jesus’ birth in a clear historical frame. Unlike all the myths of the birth of pagan heroes and demigods, this doesn’t take place in some unnamed mythic time, but while Augustus was Emperor and Quirinius was governor. I know that there are all sorts of historical debates about the census (was it the whole world or just Palestine? When exactly did it happen? What does it mean to say ‘their own towns’? etc.) Luke’s meaning is clear. This is a real event within human history, not a parable. This fits with the whole emphasis of Luke’s telling of events ‘in order’, having studied his sources.

He goes on to bring in another of his emphases. While Matthew tells of Jesus’ birth being greeted by foreign sages with rich gifts, Luke points us to the marginalised poor – shepherds, living literally on the edge of the community. They are the ones who greet the Messiah with joy in response to the angels’ announcement.

Luke then tells us of Jesus’ childhood in the second half of the chapter. His coming to the Temple was recognised only by two elderly prophets – but in itself, it’s a continuning identification of Jesus with what has gone before through the Old Testament. The redeeming of the firstborn goes back to the first Passover, and God’s own firstborn now shares in the ritual remembering of his people. Simeon’s words of praise point to the opening out of God’s purposes through Jesus to the nations, just as his words of warning prepare the way for the conflict and pain that will mark the way to this opening out.

Then we have our one reliable account of the later childhood of Jesus (despite all the later ‘gospels’ that would try to fill in the gaps with inspirational stories!). And it’s not the gentle, obedient, plaster-halo version of Jesus that fills so many Christmas Carols for children. This Jesus wanders off from his parents in the Big City, Jerusalem, without an apparent concern for their feelings, or any understanding that they may see the world differently from him.

It’s a powerful reminder that being sinless didn’t stop Jesus having to go through a normal adolescence. And perhaps it’s a worthwhile reminder to parents of adolescents (which includes me!) that their ‘different’ take on the world isn’t necessarily sinful – after all, if Jesus could be so blind to his parents’ anguish…

I’d still love to have heard what Mary and Joseph had to say to him on the way back to Nazareth.