In the story of the birth of Jesus in the gospel of Luke, we are told of shepherds who are watching their sheep at night when an angel appears telling them to go to Bethlehem and see the special babe that has been born. Shepherds were of a very low socio-economic class in that time. They were certainly not accustomed to being favored by God with special tidings of great joy to all people. Yet the sincerity of the message is validated by its delivery to the shepherds. This birth is indeed good news for ALL people, even lowly shepherds. Maybe especially lowly shepherds!
Unaccustomed to such invitations, the story tells us that the shepherds leave the sheep and go to Bethlehem to see about what the angel has foretold. And it is all just as the angel declared. The babe, wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger in a barn. The shepherds, not used to anyone paying positive attention to them, especially an angelic host, have been given a heads up on a very important matter.
It is also just as the angel said that this child would bring good news to all people. In Jesus’ teaching and ministry, he does bring good news great joy to all, if they will hear it. And this good news is especially welcomed by those made poor. Jesus honors the dignity of each and every person. He encourages creating relationships and community that is just and in which each person is valued. With Jesus, the commonwealth of God is made real and no one is made poor.
As we think about our migration toward Jesus and the celebration of the birth of Jesus, this is a time to think about how our orientation toward Jesus is inviting us to create relationships and a society where no one is made poor. Christmas is a time of year where there is much giving to charity to help people and to see that families have a Christmas dinner and children receive a toy. But the good news of great joy to all people is a society in which no one is made poor. There is no need for the massive charity efforts made at Christmas because everyone has access to what they need, not only at Christmas but all year round.
Helping serve Christmas dinner to homeless people is an act of compassion and love. But creating a world where no one is homeless or hungry is truly good news of great joy to all people. And we, living in the richest society ever, certainly have the capacity to do this!
Seeking to live and flourish, may we make our way toward Jesus this Advent season. Amen.