In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
When 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.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
A Vision of God’s Promise
The day is dawning. What an unexpected evening! The routine of herding and protecting vulnerable sheep in a field of darkness changed in the flash of light.
At first, it was terrifying.
The light shining around a stranger.
The words, “Do not be afraid; I bring you good news of great joy for all the people.”
The words, the stranger, the light all described a promise.
It was the glory of God, but not at all expected.
The workers of the field were given directions to find the promise of the Messiah, a child, wrapped in cloth and in a manger. They were the one’s proclaiming God’s promise to all people. Just in case they did not believe the vision, or the message, there was a band of angels singing blessings of peace on earth to get them moving. The promise of God with us has arrived.
On this Christmas morning, in 2017, many are familiar with this image of shepherds, angels, a journey to find Mary, Joseph, and a child lying in a manger. Over the last weeks, this scene has been re-enacted, placed in churches, public spaces, and homes.
Yet, in this age of refugees, increased mistrust of the stranger, laws dividing families, discrimination, oppression, bombs, bullets, tweets, and instant information, is the manger scene even possible?
On 24 December 2016, from London, UK, Felicity Morse supposedly tweeted “a nativity scene without any Jews, Arabs, Africans, refugees or unwed mothers.” Whether this tweet is urban legend, or true, the words and image is powerful. A few sheep, cow, and empty manger. The star is pointing, but what is left after those who Westernized culture deems the leaders of what is good and safe are not present?
This is a day in which many areas of the world are dividing and creating legal and even physical barriers. What if those who wished to travel to seek shelter, safety, even if it was a manger, were denied access and silenced?
God with us began in a non-European space,
with a simple laborer and a unmarried young woman,
people without a hotel reservation,
following the direction of God’s promise.
God’s entrance into human form
surrounded by a diversity of creation,
began near the earth,
vulnerable yet protected,
and all were praising God.
Today, the baby Jesus will appear in the manger. While the world around us may be terrifying, and we are uncertain, this is a day for each of us to discover how God’s will appear among us.
The vision of God’s promise arrives is one that expands our experiences of ourselves and each other.
May we be surprised, share, and praise God for the beautiful miracle of life in many shapes, hues, languages, and expressions.