Reflection by Rev. Dr. Thomas Smith, Director of Ministerial Services, Kentucky Annual Conference
This is a picture of a shepherd that someone took on one of our trips to the Holy Land. I never cease to be amazed how each time I travel there I gain new insights on the Scripture. I have seen many Christmas plays in local churches with bathrobe clad youngsters portraying various roles. The shepherds, often without speaking parts, were often the youngest or the most shy. Even watching those portrayals, in the back of my mind, the shepherds hearing the lauding of the angels and rushing to side of the manger were always adults. That was just the image I had of the shepherds, until this picture. Then it came home to me, that those persons on the hillside could have been just children. I never connected the shepherds at the announcement with the child David, who would become king, as he protected his flock with a sling and a rock. They were as powerless as anyone could be. To these powerless children on the fringe of society angels herald the incarnation. How radical is that!
I am encouraged by the recent signs that many of our churches are re-engaging with the poor, the fringe, the outcasts of modernity. I believe that Advent is a marvelous time to be reminded that to such is where God chose to proclaim the birth of Christ. It wasn’t flashed on the sign at Mega-church Jerusalem or put in an email blast to the Council of Bishops, but proclaimed in the place none of us would have expected it. As we enter this holy season I pray that our extravagant love will include those encompassed by God’s extravagant love, the least powerful of our world. As we enter Christmas and hear the hymns as they try to convey the moment of realization of a radical, extravagant God who chose to live among us, I pray visions of the shepherd come to mind. I hope we remember, “In that region there were shepherds living in the fields and keeping watch over their flocks by night, then an angel of the Lord stood before them….and said..I am bringing you good news…” This Advent season let us bring good news in places where no one would expect it.