Luke 2: 8
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.”
While Joseph and Mary are delivering the baby Jesus in the stable, doctor Luke broadens the camera lens and we see shepherds. What might that scene look like in our today. Perhaps it would be similar to saying that while Mary delivered her baby in the ER because there was no room in the hospital that was full of Covid patients, shop keepers were working the evening shift in the suburban mall.
My mind travels back to Kenya and to driving a car full of women and children back from clinic during the rains and my car sliding sideways in the mud ruts. My husband in our 4W drive car came up behind and he came to drive my carload of women and children home. As I walked back to his car, I slid in the mud, fell and broke my wrist. I went to the clinic nearby and the doctor set my wrist as I hung it over a plastic bucket and he drew warm water from the tap. Suddenly he realized he had no cotton to wrap the wrist under the plaster and had to run to the shops. A trauma on a muddy road involved not only my health but also a local doctor and a local shop-keeper.
I wonder how Mary, who birthed Jesus in a stable, was connected to the shepherds? All heard from angels, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, but I do not think that formed a connection. Mary and Joseph were visitors in Bethlehem and not part of the residents of the town. The shepherds were on the fringes of the town’s society also. The shepherds formed community for Mary and Joseph. Their arrival, their familiarity with stables as a comfortable setting for them, allowed them to focus on the miracle unfolding before them. How many of us are distracted from the core of the story by the details of the event? The arrival of the shepherds who themselves had independently heard from angels God’s desire that Jesus would bring peace on earth, confirms again the journey that Mary and Joseph are on.
Community confirms things that often go unnoticed. The teacher who sees beyond the juvenile antics of a youth and confirms a “gift” might change the direction of that life. A mother who requires her son to read two books a week as in the case of Ben Carlson and who believed in him changed his life. That special person who opens up the option of being loveable is never forgotten. The connection is not the setting but the affirmation. Community has the power to see beyond the obvious, the birth in a stable, to the potential of our lives in a broader picture. Who are you encouraging this Christmas as you see the miracle forming in their life? God is working and your affirmation is important. Share it. Blessings.