By Allison Gingras
After a long day of tending sheep, the shepherds in Luke’s Gospel stay out in the field to keep watch over their flock at night. Sheep tending requires ’round the clock’ dedication. Shepherds worked together so each could find time to rest. Sheep, though adorable, are not known for the keen sense or their startling brilliance. In fact, sheep have been known to eat themselves off cliffs when hyperfocused on lunch (aka a grassy patch in the pasture) rather than what dangers lie ahead. Also, relatively defenseless against their predators, sheep require constant protection to keep them safe. Though, they are wise enough to recognize and respond to the unique call of their master. Anyone else seeing a little bit of themselves in the sheep – either in their behavior or being in the protective care of a good shepherd?
The Gospel of Luke
However, the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel is not about the sheep, but the shepherds’ response to the message of an angel. The angel, accompanied by a host of angels, bring glad tidings, jarring them from their daily routine and labor to take note of something extraordinary happening that day. The birth of Jesus, Emmanual, which means, “God is with us.” We are given this same sweet disruption to our usual routines with the coming of Christmas each year. Like the Shepherds, the message there is a Savior among us should startle and stir a desire in each of us to seek to be closer to Him.
The shepherds came in haste, similar to Mary, when she received news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, aware the extraordinary, the impossible was happening around them. Do you go in haste to find Jesus in your own life? Do you come to visit him in prayer, s encounter him in the sacraments and Scripture? Do you allow the grace of your Christmas—that magnificent grace that transforms every moment into something spectacular—to become part of the grace of your ordinary everyday life?
With child-like anticipation for the gifts of Christmas morning, we should bubble with joyful expectations of God’s gift of Jesus. There will never be a more precious gift beneath our tree than the one our Heavenly Father bestowed to each of us over 2000 years ago.
Mary watched, listened, and pondered the moments of the visitation of the shepherds in her heart. This pondering did not refer to remembering each detail for posterity’s sake, but instead thoughtfully discerning discovering more about God and herself as his disciple in every circumstance. Mary, filled with grace, embraced every opportunity to open her heart, grow deeper in faith, and draw closer to God.
Let us celebrate Christmas, as never before, with a heart filled with the wonder and awe of our Savior’s birth. Let us use this unique opportunity to put Jesus at the center of our celebration, and like the shepherds, to go in haste to worship the Lord. Like sheep, let us learn the master’s voice and respond to his call. Finally, modeling the Blessed Mother’s perfect faith model let us ponder how we can open our hearts, grow deeper in our faith, and grow ever closer to our Triune God this Christmas.
Heavenly Father, how glorious the gift
—given to us in love—
of your Son, Jesus the Christ.
May we open the grace wrapped
in the mystery of His birth every day of our lives.