December 24th, 2016
This past week was a big week for school Christmas Pageants and Choirs singing. My brother had his granddaughter singing in a Christmas pageant this week. One of the songs that were signing was “While the Shepherds Watched Their Flock at Night.” The place was packed and because she is a good little singer they had her right in the front, in the front row. To everyone’s delight what she sang was “While the Shepherds washed their socks at night.” Let’s talk about those shepherds and the manger, because we tend to romanticize those shepherds and the manger a lot.
Shepherds were mostly the lowest people on the social latter. They would be mostly un-education people and there only job qualification would be to stay awake a lot, be good with a slingshot. They would not be people who would keep holy the Sabbath and they would not be those who would be following the letter of the law in the Torah. They would smell just bad and should have washed their socks at night.
Of all places to be born, why was the manger the place the Christ child was born? A manger at the time of Christ would be an underground cave. It would be cold and damp and the only heat would be what the animals would give by body heat or their breath. It would be dark, even in the light of day, it would be dark as the animals and shepherds would push to be as far back in the cave as possible. Lastly, it would be dirty with mud, manure, dust, and mold.
We romanticize all of this, but the truth of it all only helps us to come to a spiritual truth. The shepherds would have been the most unlikely group to be waiting for a Savior because they lacked the theological reflection that some would expect to have. What makes the shepherds so great they had no agenda when the angels came in all their glory they just believed and they went and told others. How do we hear this Good News tonight?
What makes the manger so significant is that it would be cold, dark and dirty just like our human hearts can be. Our hearts can be cold because we do not know the love of God. Our hearts can be dark, because we do not know the light of Christ, and our hearts can be dirty because we give way to temptation and sin.
Jesus is born in Bethlehem, its name means, House of Bread. If tradition is true and Jesus was born in a manger, then he probably would have been born in a feeding trough. He now wants to feed all of us in this Eucharist. May we come to see and believe just as the shepherds did this night?