St. Mark Presbyterian Church (USA) in West St. Louis County: continuing to move into the future, building on our 50 year history of serving God.
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Shepherds and Kings
"8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."
While pondering the life of a shepherd and remembering a sheep dog trial we once attended in Wales, I realized how much of the birth of Jesus involves the shepherds---not the Three Kings with their treasures, but the shepherds.
The shepherds were minding their flocks when an angel appeared to them (not to the innkeeper, not the kings, not Herod, but shepherds). Those simple shepherds didn't question what they saw or heard, but immediately headed to Bethlehem. They responded with faith and were the first to see the newborn child.
Those migrant shepherds who moved around the hills with their flocks also began spreading the good news of Jesus's birth: "All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." Again, these were not the people in power or the people with wealth, but simple shepherds to whom everyone listened and were amazed.
As a contrast, no angels appeared to the three kings: they followed a star. When they reported to Herod, why they were going to Bethlehem, Herod began plotting to kill them and to kill the child. So while the shepherds announcement brought hope to the people, the kings brought fear and destruction with their announcement.
Although called "King of the Jews", Jesus preferred to be called the shepherd. The simple, constantly migrating shepherd, not the king, is what he identified him.
John 10:14-16New International Version (NIV)14 :“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
From the beginning of Christ's story, Christianity was a "grass roots movement" among the poor, the marginalized, the enslaved---even beginning with Jesus's birth. We are forgetting the "roots" of our religion when we forget about the simple, the poor, the migrant and the value they bring compared to the kings with all of their power and wealth. The spreading of the Word began with the shepherds.