01.01.2023: Luke 2.16-21 – The shepherds
In the preceding sequence, the angels announce to the shepherds that a savior has been born to them in the form of a swaddled baby. The shepherds decide to set off to have a look. In the Gospel of Luke, they are the first to visit the Son of God like the Magi in the Gospel of Matthew (next Sunday’s text).
Shepherds and Magi are at the two extremes of the social structure, the former are despised while the latter are scholars, but they have in common to set out to kneel before a newborn.
Points of exegesis
Note two points.
Who are the shepherds?
We need to hear that shepherds are the least credible people to bring the news of the birth of God’s son. At that time, the shepherds were despised men, they had the reputation of being thieves and liars. The owners suspected them of hijacking part of their herds, and they weren’t always wrong. Yet it was to these unworthy shepherds that the angels appeared.
The presence of the shepherds in the manger is the prefiguration of what Jesus will say to the high priests and to the leaders of the people: Amen, I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are ahead of you in the kingdom of God (Mt 21.31).
The savior in a manger
The angels had spoken to the shepherds of a Saviourfrom Christfrom Lord, and they added: This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. A sign is a situation, an object which designates something other than itself.
A birth is a natural event, but it is at the same time a supernatural event, it depends on how you see it. The shepherds have before their eyes a very ordinary spectacle – what could be more common than a couple moved in front of a newborn baby – and yet this painting designates something else: they have before them the savior of the world.
1er theme: Mary reads everything
Like all mothers, Mary already has a long intimacy with Jesus when he comes into the world. She is therefore particularly sensitive to the words of the shepherds about her child and she rereads his story. The visit of the angel – the conception of her child – Joseph’s welcome – Elizabeth’s reaction – the birth in Bethlehem – the visit of the shepherds… when she reflects on all this, Mary realizes that she is witness to God’s time.
It is sometimes necessary to stop to reread his story and see the finger of God through a succession of events, words and encounters.
2e theme: glorify God
The shepherds glorify and praise God… They saw a man, a woman and a child, but this meeting is in conformity what they were told. Praise springs when what is seen conforms to the Word.
Thanksgiving is here the mark of faith which is nourished by gratitude. The shepherds are grateful because they have been recognized by the angels and have gone out to verify the word that was spoken to them.
The shepherds returned to their work, but one can think that this visit remained in their memory and that it was often told at night, during the vigils when they watched their flocks.
3e theme: Jesus is circumcised
The first thing that is said about Jesus is that he is circumcised, which is a rite with strong symbolic significance. It is an ablation on the member of manhood that the child enters into the covenant. This sign is that of his ministry: it is when he enters the waters of baptism that the Spirit will descend upon him in the form of a dove, it is when he announces his death that he will be transfigured, is when he dies on a cross that will accomplish what his name designates: Jesus means God saves.
An illustration: Why shepherds?
Why did the angels speak to the shepherds to announce the birth of the Savior? As they were lazy, they started with the easiest, they tried to go and warn the inhabitants of Bethlehem. But when they appeared in the sky, no one noticed them because everyone was locked up at home watching TV. They were disappointed because they had great news to share and no one was available to welcome it. It was then that one of the angels said, “Out there in the countryside, I know there are shepherds watching. Since they don’t have a television, they often have their eyes on the stars. Perhaps they will be ready to hear the news that must be brought to men. »
The shepherds were the first invited to meet the Lord because they were watchmen, more often than the others they contemplate the stars and listen to what the wind tells.
Production: Bersier Foundation – Protestant Perspectives
Speaker: Antoine Nouis
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