Brett Fawcett


Christmas Midnight Mass – December 25, 2014
Isaiah 62.1-5 | Psalm 96 | Titus 2.11-14 | Luke 2.1-16
December 15, 2014

When we hear the familiar Nativity story from Luke's Gospel, we often forget that the shepherds who heard the angels' message went back to being shepherds afterwards.

They may have had a privileged, beatific, empowering encounter with the newborn Messiah; they may have been some of the first evangelists in history; they surely left the experience with a newfound joy that swallowed up all other emotions they felt for days thereafter.

But, when all was said and done, they went back to being shepherds.

Jesus Christ gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity. &ndash Titus 2.14

'Jesus Christ gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity.'

Titus 2.14

It doesn't take much Bible reading to discover that shepherding was not a highly reputed profession in the Bible; the first reference to that profession is in Genesis, where we learn that "every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians."

It isn't necessarily difficult to see why: It's a dirty, monotonous job without a lot of prestige. Moreover, these were shepherds in Bethlehem. We know from Matthew's Gospel that Bethlehem was going to see a lot of suffering and bloodshed in the next little while, as Herod's massacre of the Holy Innocents would break out in direct response to the very event that the shepherds had witnessed.

It is not difficult to imagine that, once the initial excitement of meeting the Christ Child wore off, the shepherds had, let us say, their rough days, their discouraging days, the days where the joy they had taken away from that manger scene was buried under layers of rougher and less pleasant human emotion.

This, frankly, can often be the way we feel at Christmas, or in the long, cold months afterwards: Despite all the sentiment and good cheer (or, in some cases, because of it), the harsh realities of the world stick themselves in our way again – this can be especially difficult when they don't even wait until after Christmas to show up – and suddenly all the lovely notions of peace on earth and good will among men are dashed to pieces.


But this does not negate Christmas. Actually, it reminds of precisely why there is a Christmas. Jesus is born into our world precisely because it is broken, unforgiving and unwelcoming – in a word, fallen – and comes to heap it all onto himself on the cross and, in so doing, conquer it.

This is why it is so important to have shepherds present at his birth: They remind us of precisely the kind of unfair, adversarial situation he came to redeem, in a way that faces the sin of the world head-on and does not try to hide it behind tinsel and mistletoe.

Indeed, he is bold and humble enough to identify himself as the Good Shepherd, the quintessential, definitional shepherd, who willingly goes into the mud and the grime to be with his sheep.

This baby in the manger will show himself to be the shepherd when he shows himself to be the Lamb, offered for us, born to take away the sin of the world.