Monday 24 December 2018

The Extraordinary in the Ordinary#3: Good News for Men at Work

And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
Luke 2:8-12

Imagine for a moment. It’s the middle of the night. You’re working – like you do every night. Not much of a job in most people’s eyes. In fact, a menial job in most people’s eyes. Hard. Sweaty. Dirty. Very little pay. And no status. Then suddenly something happens. You’re told something important. And you stop what you’re doing, and take off, and you see something. And afterwards, you’re overjoyed, and you’re telling everyone you meet about it. You can’t help yourself. It’s that good.

But you’re still a menial worker with no career prospects. You still worry whether you’ll have enough to make it through the winter. You still grumble at the teenagers in the house. And yet... and yet, everything is now different.

You’re a shepherd. And everyone knows that shepherds aren’t to be trusted. They don’t always stick to their job. They graze their sheep on other people’s land. They can’t always get to the synagogue on the sabbath. Their witness isn’t worth much in a court of law. That’s you.

But here’s a thing: Jesus comes for you. What’s more, you’re the first to hear the news!

Like elsewhere in the Christmas story, we see here a combination of the extraordinary in the ordinary. As we’d expect, news of the Messiah’s birth is accompanied by a breathtaking display of heavenly glory – nothing less than an angelic choir announcing his arrival! And the news itself is amazing: Jesus is born in the town of King David, and he is Saviour, Messiah, Lord. But the news comes to poorly-paid, semi-despised night workers smelling of sheep and fields.

Yet, if we’ve been reading Luke’s gospel to this point, it’s only what we should expect. Mary has already sung of the birth of her son bringing down rulers from their thrones but lifting up the humble (1:52). The shepherds themselves show something of the paradox of the gospel – the great and glorious God meeting us in our lowly fallen humanity.

It’s to ordinary people in the real world that the good news of peace comes.

In many respects, things stay the same – work, relationships, the highs and lows of everyday life. But the promise that comes with the presence of the baby in a feeding trough means that, from now on, everything is different. For first-century shepherds, and for people like us, everything changes.

No comments: