Luke 2:1-20 (NRSV)
Chapter 2In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. Verse 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Verse 3All went to their own towns to be registered. Verse 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. Verse 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. Verse 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. Verse 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Verse 8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Verse 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Verse 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: Verse 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. Verse 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." Verse 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Verse 14"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" Verse 15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." Verse 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. Verse 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; Verse 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. Verse 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. Verse 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Although so much of the Christmas story is focused on the sweet, domestic scene of Jesus with his two parents, there is no singular model of “family,” either in modernity or in the Bible. God has not restricted God’s appearance on earth to a two-parent-one-child nuclear family. Instead, God, in God’s eternal and all-knowing, all-good, divine reasoning has given us many natural signs of the Incarnation through a range of human relationships, and through non-human beings. It was the shepherds who first experienced this. They experienced God’s incarnation through the angels. Whatever you believe—or don’t believe—about angels, God employed these non-human creatures to show the shepherds that God was doing a new thing in history, right then and there. The shepherds deserve credit for their bravery in taking a chance based on what they heard from the angels and for heading towards the manger where the infant Christ lay. Without them, would we know our Savior today?
Dear God, thank you, that in your infinite wisdom, you brought the unlikely crew of shepherds to be some of the first human witnesses of the infant Christ. You remind us that your Word is everywhere among the human and non-human family of your creatures, working in its saving and mysterious ways. In your Holy Spirit we pray, Amen.