As the annual St. Michael’s by-the-Sea Christmas Pageant draws ever nearer, I’ve been thinking a lot about the characters in the Nativity story – in particular, the shepherds. They fascinate me because in many ways, we are just like them. They’re average people, minding their business and working hard to provide for the needs of their families. What is so special about these shepherds? Why did a host of angels appear to them? What can we learn from them?

During the time of Christ, shepherds were blue-collar folk who worked long hours out in the fields. Flocks needed tending every day, which precluded shepherds from Sabbath rest or sharing in corporate worship. Because of this, religious leaders of the day did not regard shepherds approvingly. Shepherds were not wealthy and had little social status. Yet God chose to share the Good News of Christ’s birth with them first. He didn’t send angels to the scribes or the Pharisees – He sent angels to the shepherds . . . and he sent a multitude of them!

Can you imagine what the sky must have looked like that night? There were no streetlights or buildings nearby giving off ambient light. Perhaps it was a new moon. In any case, the darkness was beyond what most of us have ever experienced. It must have been shocking to see the sky filled with angels, the glory of the Lord shining around them! The image becomes that much more powerful because of the darkness that it overcame. There is so much rich symbolism and metaphor in this scenario.

Once the shepherds hear the Good News of Jesus’ birth, what do they do? In Luke’s narrative they “went with haste” to find Mary and Joseph and the baby. Another translation reads, “they hurried off.” They don’t finish their shift, they don’t call home, they don’t even stop to buy a present – they feel compelled see Jesus right away. They show up with nothing to give Jesus but their praise and adoration. It’s hard to imagine their joy at finding that the angels were right, that the Savior they had been waiting for had finally come!

But this not the end of their story – it is merely the beginning. We rarely consider what happened to the shepherds after they saw Jesus. They are given the great gift of seeing their Lord and Savior face-to-face, and then they go back home. According to Luke, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them . . . The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

Like the shepherds, at St. Michael’s by-the-Sea we have been blessed to hear the Good News proclaimed. We have experienced Our Lord and Savior in personal and profound ways. As a church family, may we learn from their example, returning to give glory and praise to our God for all the things we have heard and seen!

Share in the story of the birth of Jesus as told by the children and youth of St. Michael’s at the 4:30 pm Christmas Eve Family Mass!

Written by Becky Gleason, Children’s Minister.