We are celebrating Christmas at a new church this year, and that’s okay. After my kids and I found our place in the ministry here, I was asked to direct the children’s Christmas program.
My son was a narrator, reading the scriptural transitions from Mary to Gabriel to Joseph and on to Bethlehem, where the next narrator took over. My daughter, I assumed, would be an angel again. She’s not quite old enough to have a lengthy speaking part, and not quite veteran enough at this church to take on a primary role. She understood those criteria, but she didn’t want to be an angel.
“I’m tired of being an angel, Mom. I’ve been one every year. Can’t I be something else?”
She had the valid yet unfortunate point that many children in the annual pageants make…I’ve been that role for ____ years. I’ve worn my bathrobe for 3 years. I’ve worn the itchy, glittery white costume with lop-sided wings for 4 years. I’ve had animal ears for 2 years. Can’t I be something else?
We examined the options, and she decided to be a shepherd. “I’ll be their costumes are more comfortable anyway,” my blond-haired, blue-eyed angelic tomboy smiled with relief.
And so, she took on the role of a shepherd.
The evening of our dress rehearsal, the night before the performance, I asked her, “Do you feel okay being a shepherd?”
“Sure,” she replied with utmost confidence. “I mean, they’re basically the same as angels.”
“Really?” I asked, wondering if her line of thinking had more to do with the play’s roles or something more theological.
“Well, yeah…they were both messengers. Angels were messengers in the sky, from heaven. And then after they did their job, the shepherds were messengers on earth.”
Well, yes, yes they were. And there it was, my 2017 Christmas revelation.
The angels had a job, a critical role…to tell the humans the heavenly news. But then, the angels were done with their job. They went back to heaven. They didn’t come back night after night, year after year, reminding the shepherds of the good news of great joy.
Remember what Luke chapter 2 says…
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.
The angels did their job and returned to heaven to their mysterious celestial tasks. But the shepherds’ work was just beginning. They talked to each other (“Did that really just happen?” “Did you see what I just saw?” “I’m pretty sure there’s a prophecy for that.” “I think I drank too much goat milk tonight.” “Well, this is what we’ve been waiting for…” “Come on, y’all…let’s go!”)Then, they ran to find the holy family and celebrated with them.
No doubt, their disturbance in the streets awakened visitors in those over-crowded inns…and they shared with them what had happened.
And then “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” They kept walking and talking. They kept sharing the news….for the rest of their lives. In temple. At the market. At family gatherings. In the fields. On the dusty roads they traveled with other shepherds while they were doing their job.
That’s it…they were just doing their job. But their job had a different appearance now.
Wander the hills with other shepherds. Share the Messiah.
Lead the sheep to water. Pour out the news of a promised fulfilled.
Head back into town. Greet travelers with the good news.
The shepherds continued their leg-work after the angels were gone. The angels were back in heaven, preparing and praising. But the shepherds stayed on earth, mingling, walking and talking, passing on the Gospel for generations.
I love the idea that my daughter’s role changed this year. And I love her new role as a shepherd. I hope that Christmas’s good news will be the news she shares throughout her blessed life.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace… Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.