It’s 6:30am, December 22. The dogs woke me up at five o’clock, and we’re now sitting in silence on the couch. I’m thinking about Christmas – particularly, what it must have been like for the shepherds to whom the angels announced Jesus’ birth. As often as I’ve read the account and seen it depicted, I’ve never thought very deeply about it. What must it have been like for those guys? I’m trying to imagine the sudden appearance of an entire sky full of angels praising God and addressing me and a handful of my buddies. Wouldn’t it have been more than my senses could have handled? There could have been billions of them. It could have been incredibly loud. They might have seemed terrifyingly close. And I’m sure their appearance would have been quite different than the popular depictions of angels in robes with white, bird-like wings. My guess is that I would have been paralyzed with fear and awe.
Then what? The angels told the shepherds that the Savior had been born nearby, and that they should go and see him. What kind of thoughts and expectations would they have had as they walked? They might have assumed that he was born to people of a much higher social class, who wouldn’t appreciate the appearance of some smelly peasants moments after the birth of their royal child. When they arrived at the manger, might they have been both relieved and disappointed? What did they say to each other or to Mary and Joseph? How long did they stay before going back to work?
The shepherds never get mentioned again in the bible. I wonder, though, how the rest of their lives went. In the days following Jesus’ birth, they might have been thinking that in 20 or 30 years, he’d be old enough to stir up a revolt against the Roman occupation. Whatever their expectations, I assume they would have stayed in touch with the family. I could see them stopping by occasionally with some wool or meat from the flock.
We’re not told very much about Jesus’ childhood, but we do know that his family moved to Nazareth while he was still young. It might have been tough for the shepherds to stay in touch after that. If so, and if they were still alive 30 years later when word of Jesus’ activities began to spread, would they have made the connection between this guy doing amazing miracles and the child they’d known? It seems likely. I imagine they would have sought him out. What would that reunion have been like? I suppose they could have become some of his early followers.
That’s about all my imagination can conjure right now. Plus, one of the dogs is now asleep on my lap, which makes it difficult to type and impossible to reach my coffee. Thinking about the shepherds in such personal terms makes Jesus’ birth seem closer and less idealized than the portrayals we usually get. It’s been a good morning.
Merry Christmas to whomever reads this.