…not far away, a group of shepherds were guarding the sheep in their care in the darkness of the night. Some rested, while some stayed awake, all of them ready to defend their charges if need be. All of a sudden, without warning, the darkness was replaced by light, glorious light unlike any light of day, and a being hovered above them. They were terrified.
Wait, do not be afraid. I am not coming to harm you or your sheep. I come instead to give you good news of great joy, news that will impact all people everywhere forever. Today, in the little city of Bethlehem, a child has been born who will heal you, save you, free you. He is everything you have been waiting for. Go seek and find Him.
The one being was joined by innumerable company in what became the most magnificent concert of all time as they sang together, To the highest places, glory to God! And, in the lowest places, peace upon peace among those who please God!
As suddenly as they appeared, they were gone, and the shepherds couldn’t help but do what the angels had said and go seek and find the baby who would save the world.
It was the most important event in all the history of the world, an event that literally cut time into two: before this moment and every day after this moment. God entered the world. I mean, of course, He had already been here; from the beginning of time, He had been here, but not like this. It was no longer God and then us; now, God was among us in the form of a newborn baby.
It was news that needed to be shared, and God had a strategic marketing plan to do just that. At a time when sharing news took much more than pressing a finger on a small glass screen, He stretched out His hand through the heavens and had His messengers shout it out… not to the influencers in the biggest city, not to the wealthy business owners who had platforms to share the news, not to the powerful or the pretty. He said, “Let’s tell the shepherds first.”
We have a nativity set in our living room. It’s got pretty little lights around it. Mary looks idyllic, not at all the way most women look after hours of labor and eventually delivering a baby. Jesus is sweetly smiling with a blanket strategically draped over his boy parts. Figures representing the Magi and the shepherds don’t look all that different from each other, only gifts and staffs seem to tell us who is who.
This painting depicts the scene a bit differently. Look at the shepherds. Plan A of God’s strategic plan to share the good news of His arrival into the world was to them, men who were unshaven, unbathed, missing teeth, and who surely smelled like sheep. They had little education, little means, and seemingly little to offer.
Couldn’t God have chosen a more efficient… more honorable… way to start things off?
I’ve heard the questions asked before. And, I’ve heard them answered too. He came for the lowly. He came for the humble. He came to them first to show who He ultimately came for. It makes sense to me. But, when I stop to think about it, I think there’s more.
While all that may be true, there’s something more about the shepherds as I consider them that seems to make them the most strategic first audience of the angels’ joyous strains. They were caregivers. They weren’t important the way the world interpreted important. They weren’t considered experts, though they were experts of their flock. They knew how to protect and how to pursue. They knew what it felt like to work hard and give their life away without receiving much in return. They knew what tired was. Maybe they knew too what it felt like to hope for more, but they also knew how much unmet hopes could hurt.
I know Jesus came over 2,000 years ago. And, I’m so earnestly glad we live in the second part of time, the after-that-moment part of history. But, I wonder… I wonder if Jesus had waited until now to enter the world, who would be the first to hear the news?
Who would be the ones He’d direct his myriad of angels to and say, “They’re the ones. Let’s tell them first.” Some could argue it’s an unsound question, one that we dare not even ask. Maybe they’re right.
But, ponder with me for just a moment, wonder with me and imagine.
Given what I know, given the places I’ve been and the women I’ve met, I wonder if the Lord arrived now instead of 2,000 years ago, if the angel chorus would be singing for them. They aren’t the lowest, by any means. But, they aren’t the educated, well paid, powerful influencers either. They’re caregivers. They aren’t considered experts; yet, they know the ones in their charge. They protect the vulnerable; they rock the lonely.
They know what it feels like to work long hours on their feet without receiving much in return. They know what it’s like to hope for their own future and that of their own children and see children they serve receive a future instead.
Perhaps, they are our modern-day shepherds.
Keeping watch over the children by night, maybe it would be there, in a room full of chipped-paint cribs where the peaceful rhythm of children’s breaths in and out, in and out fill the quiet. As an ayi or two lay together on a mat on the cold floor. As another ayi sits in a chair with her head back against the cement wall. All of them resting but waking every so often, taking turns to periodically walk the halls and make sure all is calm and the night stays silent.
Maybe it would be there where He’d break through every barrier and replace darkness with light. Maybe it would be there where His angel would say, “Wait, dear ayis, do not be afraid. I am not here to harm you or a single child in your care. I come instead to give you good news of great joy, news that will impact all people everywhere forever. A child has been born who will heal you, save you, free you and every child in this place. He is everything you have been waiting for. Go seek and find Him.”
Maybe they — caregivers who care for the most vulnerable, the most alone, the ones with the broken-est broken hearts — would be the first to go seek and find the baby who would save the world and tell the rest of us and invite us to come along.
– images by Nicole Renee