IN the far north, sheep and shepherds are a familiar sight. While few of us may know any shepherds personally, we know enough to realise they are a hardy breed used to battling the elements as they go about their business caring for their flock.
On the face of it, it may appear strange that the announcement of the birth of the Christ child was made to shepherds. To some, the tale may appear fanciful, but, on the other hand. who would fabricate a story in which shepherds were alerted to such news. You would expect it to make its way to a royal house, a priestly class or the political elite.
We may express some surprise that they even responded to the news but they did and, following the directions, set out to explore further.
Their destination turned out to be an outhouse used to stable domestic animals. They had found the newborn babe in what was for them a well-known setting – with this they would be comfortable.
We can only guess at their response, what did this mean?
Perhaps there was an atmosphere which told them that here they were in touch with a reality beyond themselves.
We find ourselves in turbulent times. It seems that almost overnight things started breaking up and it’s as if we woke up surprised to find everything had changed. It is all very confusing and it seems few really have any idea where we go from here. Clearly things will never be quite the same again and many of the old securities have gone.
In the midst of a storm we need to seek the quietness in the centre of the turmoil. Those shepherds lived in uncertain times, in an occupied country and there was little ease to be had. Perhaps when they came upon that newborn child and gazed at this miracle of life, they were still for a moment and realised that here was all that mattered.
I am reminded of an Old Testament prophet who said more than was good for him and found himself in the midst of a political storm. In fear of persecution and a likely death, he ran away and when he stopped running he found himself in a cave and that is where God found him. The storm raged about him but God spoke in a clear small voice and put new heart into him.
As you see innumerable images of the Christ child this Christmas, as you surely will, reflect on the event they commemorate. Is this God saying to us all, this is the quiet point in the storm? I am on your side.
Have a happy Christmas.
REV BARBARA COTTRELL,
Retired Baptist Minister