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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Luke 2:8-20: The Messiah is in our midst

Yesterday, the man who fell to earth died. Today, there's a fanfare to welcome someone who came for very different reasons - not to save his homeworld, but to save his adopted home. David Bowie's character, Thomas Jerome Newton, was told, "you're only welcome if it's beneficial to us." What sort of welcome will the Son of God receive?

It looks like sudden change of strategy. Beginning in obscurity: a baby born far from home, squashed into a corner of a strange house. Now, the heavenly spotlights are turned on, and amazed and frightened shepherds were the first to know about this momentous occurrence.

Shepherds weren't usually the brightest bulbs in the packet. If you were an oldest son, you would inherit the farm. if you were the second, or the third, you might become a shepherd - maybe looking after your older brother's livestock, or earning a pittance looking after somebody else's.

There were certain times of year when shepherding was a 24 hour occupation - lambing time, for instance. In this country, shepherds used to kip down in little huts on wheels, which could be towed to the field where the sheep were. That would have been luxury, probably, for the shepherds in today's story. But while they took it in turns to sleep. and helped out the ewes who had trouble giving birth, and wondered what to do with the weak younger twin lamb that had been rejected by her mother, something happened.

It had never happened before, and has never happened since.

No wise and earnest prophet of old ever had a vision like this. Even Ezekiel, who specialised in the most psychedelic of visions, would have been jealous. The heavenly PA is switched on, angelic music blares out, and an unmistakeable message booms across the lonely fields.

"Today, the Saviour has been born. Yes, the Messiah himself! In David's town, David's greater son is now among us. Go and see for yourselves, he's sleeping in a feeding trough!"

The shepherds run to see, and to tell. Mary sits quietly, reflecting carefully on all that the shepherd's story contained. For me, there is an echo of that word again - carefully. Luke is writing carefully, the magi were told to go and search carefully, Mary thinks carefully. No, the word isn't in the original text, but it has sprung so clearly to mind.

Take care. The Messiah is in our midst.

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