“The Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerard van Honthorst (1622)

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the God-man. At Christmas night Mass we hear: “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.” The birth of any human being is a cause for celebration; but even more so for the birth of the God-man, Jesus Christ. Indeed, the angel declared to the shepherds and to us: “For today in the city of David a Saviour has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.” From this moment, God is truly “God with us.” In the birth of Jesus, God is present among us; he is no longer a distant God. God is close to us, and dwells amongst us. This is truly great news that requires a response from every human person! This news changes everything; hence it affects us all.

Who can hear this news? What is the appropriate response to this news? Firstly, it is only those who are awake, who will hear the news. If we are closed-in on ourselves, self-absorbed in our own concerns, we will not hear the message. But if we are awake and listening for truth wherever it may be found, we can hear and respond appropriately and immediately.

Second, look at the shepherds in the gospel story. They were awake, tending their flock by night. They heard the message of the angel. Responding immediately to this news of great joy, they made haste to find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The shepherds offer us the example of true vigilance and discipleship. They are open to hearing God’s word and they respond with haste.

What do the shepherds find? The God-man who loves them, saves them from their sins, and carries their burdens. They see their God in the flesh! The invisible One has become visible. The Almighty Lord of heaven and earth has humbled himself to become a man. Christ the Lord invites us to imitate him in his humility and love.

What do the shepherds do? Presumably they were in awe at this wonderful scene. They dwelt with the Holy Family and gathered around the Christ-child in adoration. Then, not presuming to keep this great news to themselves, they went out to the world and spread the message of the Gospel to others: “And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” This Christmas let us do the same. Let us follow the example of these humble shepherds: adore the Lord made flesh, Jesus Christ, and tell the world of the great news of salvation!

(Copyright © 2016)