S+L logo

The REAL Christmas Characters: The Shepherds

January 5, 2018
The Infancy Narratives in the gospels of Mathew and Luke are filled with rich symbolism. The Evangelists were Christians of the first century whose lives were dramatically changed after the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was their deep faith in Jesus and their concrete experience of the Christian community that informed the theology that permeates the Christmas story.
The Shepherds
Remember when Jesus said “the last will be first?” He might have been talking about people like the Shepherds in Luke’s infancy narrative. They were not the most highly respected folks in society. But they were at the top of Luke’s Christmas guest list. So, why did God send a choir of angels to announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds? What made them so special?
Luke’s Gospel turns everything upside down: All the sinners, prostitutes, homeless and poor, have a privileged place in the story of Jesus. The Shepherds were roaming beatniks, trespassing on other people’s land with their sheep; social outcasts viewed with suspicion and contempt. But not by God. To God their marginalization made them VIPs to the most important birthday in history.
The Shepherds in Luke’s Christmas story don’t make it warm and cuddly. They make it revolutionary. The Kingdom of God is the reverse of the societies we construct: the poor, the marginalized, the people without any power or privilege, like the shepherds, are closest to God. The only way we can be close to God at Christmas, according to Luke, is to be close to people like the Shepherds.
“One will never understand the infancy narratives without first being convinced that all Gospel material has been colored by the faith and experience of the church of the first century.”
Fr. Raymond Brown, SS, "An Adult Christ at Christmas"

Related posts

Know That He Is Near, at the Gates
Read this reflection from Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, on the Gospel reading about the end times, for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. ...read more
Two Mighty and Courageous Widows
Two stories of remarkable widows force us to reexamine our understanding of the poor and poverty, and to look at our own ways of being generous with others. ...read more
Love of God and loving kindness towards one’s neighbour
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 4, 2018 Today’s first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy (6:2-6) and the section from Mark’s Gospel (12:28-34) contain the fundamental prayer of ...read more
Master, I Want to See!
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – October 28th, 2018 Mark’s healing stories of the blind man of Bethsaida (8:22-26) and the healing of Bartimaeus, the blind man on the road to Je ...read more
Christ and the Priesthood
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – October 21st, 2018 The readings for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time of Cycle B invite us to prayerfully consider the priesthood and priestly minis ...read more