The Congregation at Duke University Chapel


photo of Carol

According to Luke, the shepherds were the first to know.  While minding their own business, that is sheep, some shepherds had a frightening vision of an angel. The heavenly messenger declared that the Messiah had been born in a nearby town. They would find the child wrapped and lying in a manger.

Unclean peasant shepherds would have had no reason to hope to see the Messiah. Surely, they longed for his arrival as did other Jews of their day, but as unclean, low-ranking citizens, they probably never imagined they would have the opportunity to actually see the Messiah, let alone be the first to do so. They had no reason to think they could witness such an event. The long-awaited One was expected to arrive in some sort of grand style to other people. And yet the angel declares that the shepherds would find the Messiah in circumstances similar to their own, in a peasant home, wrapped the way children were wrapped, looking very much like many babies they had seen. The child came not to unknown people in distant splendor; instead, the child came in a setting familiar to shepherds. Perhaps because it was familiar to them, they felt they could go take a look.

Do we sometimes wonder if Jesus comes for someone else? Maybe Jesus comes for those who are in some way better than us – maybe more pious or devout, maybe kinder or more loving, maybe more worthy or deserving? Or maybe Jesus comes for those who are in some way more in need than us – maybe those with more economic, health, or spiritual challenges than we. And maybe it is simply for reasons we cannot articulate, but we expect Jesus’ arrival is for anyone other than for us.

If the shepherds were invited to go and see Jesus, though they never could have imagined such an invitation, then perhaps that invitation is for us too. Perhaps we, too, should go and see what has taken place. The report is, "all who heard it were amazed." (Luke 2:18)

Jesus is born for us all, each one of us. Let us go, see, and celebrate.

May God bless you with deep joy this Christmas season.