Lectio Divina – 18
“In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night. An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And all at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those He favours. Now it happened that when the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this event which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about Him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds said to them” (Lk. 2:8-18).
First, the shepherds whom the angel found in the countryside were indeed good shepherds. They were guarding over their sheep during the watches of the night. They were awake and dutiful. The angel of the Lord found them to be trustworthy servants and told them that their Saviour was just born! One must note that God announces the birth of Christ to His chosen ones through angels. The shepherds find a place in the list of God’s chosen ones after Mary and Joseph. Like Mary and Joseph, the shepherds believed what the angel told them. They neither disbelieved and discarded it as impossible nor doubted and said to one another, ‘Let’s go and check if it is true.’ Instead, they hurried to Bethlehem to find Christ, and not to clear their doubts. From these shepherds St Ambrose learns that “no one seeks Christ unless it is with eager haste.” Indeed, as Isaiah has urged us, we need to seek out God while He is still to be found (Is 55:6). Second, the angel of the Lord came to the shepherds, perhaps, because they were very simple people. The angel did not go in search of scripture scholars who knew all Messianic prophecies; the angel ignored spiritual elites as well. God doesn’t want people who add something to His Word or falsify it. Greater the simplicity, stronger the faith. Look, what the shepherds did when they saw the divine child. The Scripture says that they simply repeated what the angel told about the child. And, it is also written that everybody was astonished at what was said. What is required from us is to simply repeat what is revealed about Jesus. Third, note the sign given by the angel for identifying Jesus when He was born: wrapped in – clothes – lying in a manger. This simplicity at His birth continues in His life and through His burial as well. As Jn 13:4 testifies, Jesus removed the outer garments, took linen and wrapped it round His waist, and reached to the feet of His disciples. Again, as Lk 23:53 testifies, when Jesus died, His body was wrapped in linen and put to lay in a tomb.
O’ dear God, these chosen shepherds teach me some important lessons. I need to wake up and remain watchful and dutiful always. Lord, I take to heart what your Holy Spirit told the church in Sardis: “Wake up; put some resolve into what little vigour you have left: it is dying fast” (Rev. 3:2). Lord, it’s so long that I have been battling with spiritual slumber. Help me Lord, to conquer slothfulness and to wake up. I must be working.
My everyday life is the field; my soul and the senses are the sheep; the worldliness in and around me is the night; and, the Lord is my shepherd and I am His co-shepherd. Guard your soul and senses.
Practice simplicity in prayer by repeating, ‘today a Saviour is born to me, Christ the Lord!’