They were disrespected, disregarded, and dismissed. They lived outdoors, with the animals They traveled often, moving from place to place to keep the animals fed. They were not welcome in most circles. They were the poorest of the poor. They were often broke, dirty, and smelled like the animals they cared for. They lived in the margins of society, carrying labels like “other,” “outcast,” and “stranger,” and even “crook.”
It was to this group the angels spoke and ignited a fire of curiosity, hope, and purpose within their hearts. It was to this group, that the good news of Jesus’ birth and the great joy of his promises fulfilled were first delivered, and it was this group that upon seeing the baby Jesus, went out and told the story - spread the light to those they met.
This is a story of expectations, standards, and assumptions turned upside down. When those who think they know, simply don’t. This is the story of God’s love illuminating the darkness experienced by all those who felt cast out, pushed aside, judged, and ignored. In the midst of struggle, hardship, oppression, division, and pain, God’s love comes. In times of uncertainty, tension, and tragedy, god’s love comes. When we are hurting, overwhelmed, or in some way, lost, God’s love comes. That is the good news. That is the call of Christmas; to keep trusting - keep believing that the light of Christ shines in the darkness.
It is to us, shepherds, in all our worry, fear, and turmoil; in all our messiness, grief, and division; it is to us who live in the margins, those who are alone, and those labeled “other.” It is for those who face uncertainty, devastation, and loss. You. Me. We. All are given the light of the shepherds to show us the way on our advent journey.
This third weekend is about realizing we stand in a long line of storytellers. Angels. Prophets. Shepherds. Inn keepers. Wise ones. Children. Young. Old.
May we always remember, there is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small flame. Amen
Like the candles lit before us, may your light break forth into our lives once more, in a new way, or perhaps even for the first time. May your light shine love where there is hate. Illumine hope where there is despair. Radiate peace where there is chaos. Pour out your comfort where there is pain. May your life-giving story continue to shed it’s rays into the dark places of our lives, giving us courage to walk on through the shadows, strength to look forward through the clouds, and faith to trust you with each step. May that same light penetrate the dark places of our world, bringing understanding, compassion, and kindness that we might know, experience, and participate in your kingdom here on earth. In the name of Jesus, the Light, Amen.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine