The setting is a field near Bethlehem. It is a summer’s night; a good time to be out in the open after the day’s scorching heat. Shepherds are tending their sheep; this is their workplace – away from the hustle and bustle of city life and city conveniences. Jesus has just been born in a stable not far away.
Suddenly, they are flooded with light, an angel announces Jesus’ birth, and then – then an incredible thing happens: a great choir of angels appears, singing praise to God in heaven and peace to us on earth.
The Saviour has born in the town of Bethlehem – the Messiah, the Lord. He is the crocus in the desert, the water in the wilderness, the way of Holiness through which God’s people can enter into Zion with everlasting joy on their lips as sorrow and sighing flee away (see Isaiah 35).
And the response is a greeting that spans the the entire range of creation from the angels’ song in heaven to the shepherds’ welcome on earth as the highest and the lowliest join in the wonder and welcome of Jesus born for us.
In this time of drought and devastating fire,
of deep dissatisfaction with politicians and climate-change deniers,
of unprecedented levels of domestic violence and depression
it is highly significant that the prayer that Jesus will one day teach his followers to pray – on earth as it is in heaven – is made manifest in this moment of his birth, out on the periphery, among the am ha-aretz:
the people of the land – for they are the ones who know most deeply the fragility of life and the hard work required to survive, let alone flourish in the dry places ….
May our thoughts today express all the melodies and harmonies of heaven as we ask for the open hand of God to bless the land and all the creatures on it.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,Luke 2:14
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”