Shepherds, Angels, Stars

As Christmas fades towards Epiphany and the interest of the masses in Christmas and religious observance returns to normal levels Jesus is set loose from the confines of the crib, but not before the shepherds have made their visitation in our last but one attempt to domesticate him in this Christmas season. A domesticated Jesus, brought out like special crockery for birthdays and annual remembrances as the stars return to their place so many it seems, more than before. Have we missed our chance to follow yet, the one in the crowd. A glimpse a half smile, the world weary one alongside ordinary folk Shepherds even, simple words honest hands changing lives. In those precious minutes our worlds collide.  Will you have forgotten my face in the crowd that passes you by?  I will carry your smile with me and hold it close to me, close even to the shadow side, the broken side which we all share – perhaps that’s why there are shepherds at the very beginning, the humblest of folk – refugees from the world perhaps. Don’t forget that no one person owns truth, goodness or love.  In order to find this out we must begin to live it in humility. Not for a day or just for Christmas, but as a state of mind. The shepherds are the ones who inhabit the wilderness – of mind and of hillside. I wonder if they understood this happening completely, but to find a world outside that didn’t / doesn’t understand anymore. The beating drum of the world goes on insisting the path we tread. Still, the gentle imperative begins deep in the heart, and our discordant attempts to speak of the unseen in that liminal space are lacking. Time for withdrawing to the hills is over – from wilderness to the city the shepherds come just as Jesus will travel many years later when armed guards and courtiers will wash their hands the shepherds too as innocent as the lamb. I’m glad it was Mary who treasured these words and pondered the message of the angels brought by the shepherds. I’m afraid we men all too often get distracted. Distracted too, to miss that moment when simple shepherds offered an epiphany – the kings of the hillside with bright eyes and half smile which spoke a thousand different stories. Are those who heard them hungry for more than bread broken? Are we ready then to take off our shoes and walk with the shepherds, a shared chance encounter? Jesus, much like the shepherds message is not an agenda the world recognises as significant or even particularly important. And that is good. For the moment it does, there will be something to sell and the whole radical edge will be lost. Standing in the quiet hills as shepherds are wont to do, life around begins to emerge, or perhaps they being still of heart become aware of its presence. And as we stand on the cusp of a new year, are we ready for the Gospel story – the shepherds story to take us on a whirlwind snapshot tour from the backstreet birth, refugees travelling the road, baptisms, weddings, funerals, confrontations, healings and reconciliations. The seed planted takes time to develop. I have seen a glimpse of that place not yet of which the shepherds spoke a blessing on those who gathered. We never get to stay long in these in between moments, for this is neither the end of our journey nor yet, the beginning of the next. At this point, we ought not say ‘until next year’. – For our task is to keep this alive throughout the year, each month and every day. So, bring your hopes, dreams, visions and join us at the table Gathering Hope that the shepherds brought a re-imagining of the lost art and beauty of creation. Everyone has been invited, and everyone is welcome. And some choose to choose not to come. Don’t forget that hope appears where it’s least expected and when it’s least anticipated. Perhaps even in a Jewish Palestinian baby born in the occupied village of Bethlehem with few to witness it but some shepherds. And she gave birth and bore a son and she named him Jesus.

 

For New Year’s Eve – Nos Calan.  Put together with snapshots and sentences from the past year’s sermons…