And 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 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.” (Luke 2:8-12)
It’s a balmy evening, the sky full of stars, sheep quietly rustling. A warm fire glows while your fellow shepherds settle in for the night, your rucksack under your head and a light blanket to warm your shoulders. Peaceful. Not an easy life, but nights like this, safe on a hillside outside Bethlehem, seem perfect.
And suddenly … the peace of the night is shattered, the sky glows, a cacophony of angels … angels? Did the shepherds even recognize them as angels? These simple, most likely uneducated shepherds, did they even comprehend angels?
It doesn’t matter. What matters is that, amid their shock, they responded. They acted. They ignored the task at hand, left their jobs and did what the voices in the heavens told them to do. And they found exactly what they were told they would find.
The first surprise we see is … angels. Pretty terrifying surprise! The second is the location of this “Messiah, the Lord.” A manger. Where animals feed. This is where they lay a King? Another purposeful surprise from God.
Yet a third unexpected “thing” strikes me. Those shepherds just went. They left their work; they did not stop to question the message or consider what their boss might say. They did not wonder if they would be seen as foolish or stop to consider the ramifications of their leaving. They (scripture uses the plural so we know it was more than one) as a unit, simply up and went, trusting that what they heard would be true and all would be well.
Faith isn’t about sitting on a hilltop considering. Faith is about hearing and responding. Advent is about preparation … acting on the Good News of our salvation.
O Lord, grant me open ears and a faithful heart so that when you call, I respond, knowing you will show me the path you desire for my life. Amen.