January 1st 2017
Hidden in the nativity story of Luke's Gospel is the merest hint of something rather radical, its there in the text but because it just slips in we often miss the power of what is being told us.
The Shepherds ....'made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds'. (Luke 2.17,18 )
If we think about them a little bit we might realize that these shepherds are not the wonderfully bucolic characters of our traditional country stories, they might not have been very good shepherds. I suspect they were quite frightening figures, as they stood for those uncertain areas of life where ordinary rules might not hold, they lived in an in-between place not quite in normal society yet at the edge of it, a rough hewn people, wild at times and often ferocious, which they needed to be to defend their flocks. And which gives to them an unknown quality of slight menace. A lot like the desert itself!
And yet, it is these uncultured, rough people who are some of the first evangelists, encountering the Christ Child and Mary and Joseph a powerful change that comes over them, no longer outcasts they are angels, people are genuinely touched by what they hear from them, but there is more than that.
They have a genuine relationship with Mary and the child, she listens to these new angels, more than that Luke tells us that she....'kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart'.
What a wonderful image to hold onto as we start the New Year. Here is the Theotokos, the Mother of God, as she is called, opening herself to other types of angels, not Gabriel now, but those unknown people of stony field and mountain-desert pasture, whose company was guard dog and sheep. Not only does she listen, but also she makes their message her own and draws them closer to herself and Christ.
I much prefer this image of Mary to many other images, for a start she is with her child, and it is he whom the shepherds worship. Mary who accepts them accepts all of us too, reminds us that part of being Christ's disciples is not only to be angels of the good news, but to listen and reflect on it as well, and to include everyone, for all are welcome to Mary and the Christ.
Like Mary, may we be an inclusive people too!
Blessing for the New Year
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!