8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
I'm imagining some shepherds. Their clothes are "field" clothes; sweaty, dirty, worn.
Their spirits are "field" spirits; a little lonely, tired, worn.
They know that they have a low-level job in their community. It is one that keeps them outside of town. In fact, their task to watch a flock of sheep sleep (instead of sleeping themselves) proves their status each night.
The shepherds settle their creaky limbs onto the cold earth. They ready themselves to keep watch for any threat. If they've been working this job for long enough, their anxiety is low-level but constant. If they're new, their eyes are wide and red, scanning the dark.
And so when someone emerges from the dark and stands in front of them, they feel terror. They feel exhausted, pulse-racing confusion -- confusion over whether they can believe what they see. They look to one another, checking to know if they're the only one having this experience. And when they see one another equally recoiled, they ask themselves questions in rapid succession.
Am I really seeing an angel of the Lord? Has this angel, emanating a breath-taking glory, really come to us? Have they really chosen to come, not to the safety and structure of the city in the distance, but to our undesirable, dark, and open field?
And yet, she came to them. She approached them. Indeed, she trusted and entrusted them with a message.
And the good news for those shepherds is this.
It is the adrenaline pumping through their bodies. It is the glory of God causing them to look at the angel from the sides of their eyes.
It is the word "do not be afraid," spoken to those whose muscles are tensed from watching for trouble.
It is the gift of a message for "all people." "All people" including them.
It is this word in their flesh.
San Francisco Theological Seminary M.Div. and DASD 2014