Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
Luke 2: 13 – 16
It’s hard to believe it, but two thousand years ago, there were wolves and lions in the countries around the Mediterranean. Shepherds gathered the sheep into a walled enclosure at night, then lit a fire and slept out with their sheep to protect them. God’s people had been shepherds for thousands of years, all the way back to Abraham, and the hilly land around Bethlehem in the centre of the country was suited for grazing sheep.
The shepherds would have been a mixture of men and boys minding their families’ sheep and men working for others – all of them armed and used to dealing with wild animals. Angels, though, were entirely outwith their experience, and choirs of angels had them, as the old translation says ‘sore afraid’. But their fear didn’t stop them being curious and obedient to the angels’ message from God. So they went to the town, to discover the baby, lying in a manger as they had been told, and their lives were changed entirely.
Prayer: Lord God, help me to be like the shepherds. When I’m afraid, please give me their courage. When something new and unexpected happens, please give me their curiosity, and when you call me, please give me their obedience. For the glory of your name, Amen.
Action: as we approach the New Year, let’s think about our lives openly and fearlessly, and see whether God is asking us to do something new, that we didn’t expect.