“Good News For All The People”—Daily Reflections for Advent 2016
CHRISTMAS EVE, December 24th
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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 Saviour, 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 he favors.”
Catch the words of the angels’ praise and be in wonder: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those he favors.” Look at Jesus’ life and you will see who God “favors”: the poor, captive, blind, oppressed, tax collectors, sinners, and all other lost causes. These are the ones Jesus came seeking, the ones to whom He was announcing the good news of God’s favor. These are the ones to whom God promised “peace”, that is, shalom, well-being and harmony.
In Luke’s Gospel narrative there is an unmistakable turning away from structures of political power (Emperor Augustus and Governor Quirinius) and religious power (high priesthoods of Annas and Caiphas). Notably, God’s good news of peace and favor is not delivered to palaces in Rome and Jerusalem, or to the Temple hierarchy. God’s good news goes out to common shepherds in the fields keeping watch over their sheep. God’s good news went out to those thought least deserving.
The Christmas story takes yet another step in humble and vulnerable love, as the Son of God descends not in royal procession, but as a totally helpless, defenseless baby. The shepherds find Him “wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” There are no angels in the manger singing the Christ Child a lullaby. The shepherds find the Son of God in a feeding trough in a foul-smelling barn. None of it seems the stuff of religious art or Christmas cards. Yet, it does seem the stuff of real life and struggle.
Journey to the Bethlehem of today and you will find, a short distance from Shepherds’ Fields, the world’s oldest church in use, the Church of the Nativity. The Church’s entrance is remarkably unimpressive and visitors must bend low to enter the grotto where Jesus was born. Twice over the centuries the entrance door has been lowered to prevent the most important visitors from entering on horseback. The entrance is called “The Door of Humility”, as visitors must bend low to enter.
As we come to Christmas Day it is good to remember “The Door of Humility” and to enter there with shepherds, wise men, seekers, and all other “poor on’ry people like you and like I”. We long to live in God’s good news for all the people. We know “Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” (C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle)
- Why do you think that the good news went to common shepherds rather than to Emperor Augustus or King Herod?
- What would entering Christmas by “The Door of Humility” mean for you?