In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
Luke 2:8-14 (NRSV)
Did you hear what I heard?
I heard from my uncle in Bethlehem that a few years ago some lousy shepherds came into town in the middle of the night talking all crazy and asking bizarre questions. First of all, what were they doing in the middle of town at night? What kind of shepherd abandons his flock? Some flaky shepherd that’s who. Somebody who couldn’t care less about the sheep’s owner and all the money he’s invested in the flock. Somebody who’s looking to end up begging in front of the Temple…that’s who.
What were they talking about you ask? Oh, that’s the best part. First, they come into town and start asking around about some baby, wrapped in swaddling cloths who is lying in a manger. Nobody wants to tell them anything because what business does a shepherd have looking for a newborn baby? I mean, you know those shepherds are filthy from hanging out with those sheep all day and night. Who knows what they really do out there. I had a friend once who had some sheep and hired a bunch of shepherds. He wouldn’t even let them come near his house because they were so dirty and unkempt. I’m sure they’ve got all sorts of diseases on their clothes. Anyway, when these shepherds were asking around, most people just laughed and told them they should spend less time looking for strange babies and get back to taking care of their flock. When nobody would help them, they mentioned something about singing angels which only made everyone laugh harder.
Angels singing and talking to shepherds? That’s a good one. Everybody knows that when God’s going to talk, he will tell a priest or prophet first who then relays the message. That’s how it works. Haven’t you read the Scriptures?
Also, what kind of mother wraps up their baby and puts them in a manger? If it was true, she must be one of the worst mothers to have ever given birth to a child. Doesn’t she know that’s where animals eat from? If some mother ever did that, her family should take that baby from her because she probably wouldn’t even know to circumcise him on the eighth day. I bet they never even go to the Temple.
What was that? Oh the shepherds? Did they ever find what they were looking for? Who knows. Apparently a few hours later they came back running through town screaming about how they found that baby and that the angels were right. You know, you really can’t trust those shepherds anyways. They’re always out there making up stories about how they killed a bear with their bare hands or killed 30 wolves with their slings to protect the flock. Blah blah blah. You know most shepherds would run away and let a whole flock get eaten by a bear if one ever showed up. Those shepherds, sitting out under the stars, singing songs. They last thing they’re going to do is try to fight off a crazy animal. Speaking of stars…that just reminded me, there is an even more bizarre part to this story.
My uncle also told me that a month or so after the crazy shepherds came through town some peculiarly dressed astrologers from somewhere way out east showed up. You know, east towards the Parthians and old Persia? You know they believe out there that the stars can determine a person’s future? Yeah, crazy…I know. Don’t they know that no one can know the future? Only God knows that. But, that’s what these astrologers show up saying. They mention that they saw a “new star” and that means that a new king must have been born. They wanted to know where the king was because they were told he would be in Bethlehem? They wanted to honor him and give him “gifts.”
Yeah, I know right. A king? From Bethlehem? If you wanted to find a king, you should go look in Jerusalem or Rome. I’m sure Herod or the Caesar would love your gifts. They’d probably tax you on them too. Or even better, I’m your king right here! Shower me with your gifts! And, what would these godless astrologers from the east know about our kings or where they are born? I think all those strange spices and incense they have out East were getting to their heads. If God was going to tell someone about a new king, or the Messiah for that matter, I’m sure he would tell a priest or prophet. Not those heathen star worshipers. I thought the shepherd’s story was crazy, but those deluded Gentile astrologers definitely came a long way for nothing.
I mean, seriously? Have you ever heard such crazy stories? First some dirty, foul-mouthed shepherds show up looking for a deadbeat mother who puts her baby in a manger? Then, to top it off, some misguided astrologers from the East say they’ve been “led” by a star to come and worship a king?
Give me a break. If God is going to tell us something, the last people he would tell would be shepherds and godless astrologers from the east. The next thing some Greeks will show up and sray is that Elijah has come back from the dead. Sheesh.
Okay, hopefully you figured out this is a bit satirical by this point. Hopefully you’re laughing a bit at the character in the story. But, honestly who would have believed the story when they first heard it back then? What about today? What if some migrant farmers showed up asking where to find a newborn baby and that angels had appeared to them? What if some Buddhist monks, some Hindu gurus, or some Islamic Imams showed up saying they were looking for a king because they had seen a sign?
Would you believe them? Or…would you discredit them? Saying that a God only works through certain, expected channels and that he would never reveal things to those kind of people.
We’ll he did. And that’s part of the story we celebrate today.