“Do not be afraid; for see - I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” Lk 2:10
The announcement of the good news of the birth of Jesus came to some shepherds at work in the field. The shepherds were the salt of the earth people. They were not respected by the highly righteous Orthodox believers. They always fell short of their standards. The nature of being a shepherd did not go along with the life-style of the most ‘righteous’. Yet, the angels appeared to them.
Many scholars believe that these were no ordinary shepherds but the very caretakers of the lambs used in the temple offerings. One scholar says, “It is a lovely thought that the shepherds who looked after the temple lambs were the first to see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” *
It is also a lovely and compelling vision to see what the shepherds did. The shepherds sought Jesus. They went out to find him and then they told everyone about it. They witnessed a multitude of heavenly host — angels filing the skies beyond what the eye could see — singing praise to God. In the presence of Jesus, they found themselves doing the same.
In fact, in the days following Christmas, this is what we can do. There is something we can hang onto after the gifts are opened, and the tree comes down, and the Christmas music fades away. As we look ahead to the new year, the shepherds give a vision for what our calling is. We must cling to the good news of great joy. We must find a way to keep seeing it as the angel said. Because it points to the essence of all that is.
The good news of great joy for all people is that we have a Savior. We have one who is patient and vigilant and courageous for us. We have one who is mighty and loving and merciful: our shepherd. He will lay down his life for us to save us.
In Psalm148 the whole of creation is singing praises to God - the sun and moon, the stars, the highest heavens, the water above the skies, the earth and all its creatures, even the snow and clouds, the mountains and the hills and the trees. They all praise the Lord and that is what we are made to do as well.
Reflecting on the Psalms, Eugene Peterson writes that being blessed or happy “is one of the great and characteristic words for describing a person who centers life in God and experiences salvation by faith…Everything observable in the world is a cipher for discovering grace.” **
Everything is a reflection of the good news of great joy. Everything is an opportunity to praise God.
Let us see it and carry the joy of Christmas in our hearts. Let us see it in the sun and the moon. Let us see it in the clouds and the snow. Let us see it in the mountains and the hills and trees for just as they were made to praise God, so are we. Let us seek the one who has come to save us — the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. (Isa 9:6) He is our good news. He is worthy of our praise.
“Joy to the World, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing…Joy to the world”
* William Barclay, Good Tidings of Great Joy: The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
**Eugene Peterson, Praying With the Psalms: A Year of Daily Prayers and Reflections on the Works of David