Out in the cold, living in fields…Looking after animals, in the dark of night…
Lonely, stiff and cold, hungry, sleepless and miserable, surrounded by slumbering insensate beasts who couldn’t even begin to give a crap about anything except their own comfort and care…full bellies and security from wild beasts even if it meant being captive to their comfort and thus forever doomed to the dust-life…and never a dawning of even the beginnings of wondering what is Wonder…
…it is there we meet the shepherds…who are aware…ALL too aware of these things.
I mean, c’mon!
The story tells us they were living out in the fields!
They had no homes.
They had no place to lay their head.
Except in the fields…with the beasts they cared for…and their own sense of wonder…wondering why the rich sat at ease in their cedar lined homes…wondering why their bellies were so empty when the refuse cans of the rich were so full of excess and waste…wondering why the stinking Romans had authority to take and break and dictate…
wondering why God was silent, absent, insensate, indifferent…
and into that dark and lonely discomfiting despair came a Divine breaking in and breaking thru!!
In the midst of the darkest, most silent, most still, most absent of hope, most slumbering unaware time…came Heaven’s declaration that a Child had been born! A Child had been Given!!
And His name was Wonderful!
His name was Counselor!
His name was Prince of Peace!
He was The Everlasting Father (yet an infant, meek and lowly)!
He was the Dayspring, the Bright and Morning Star!
Ahh…Morning Star…that Star that presages that night is drawing to a close, is ending.
And then the shepherds were given His core name, His Heart-Name…
God with us. God with us.
God is with us.
Go to the lowliest place, for that is where God chooses to appear! Do you not realize that everything you wish God to be God IS in the revelation of Advent? He chose the lowliest, the weakest, the most foolish…and in that place was born…in a feeding trough…a manger.
You do get that, don’t you? The Bread from Heaven was laid in a manger (another name for trough from which cattle eat)? And broken there for us…to “eat”…to “ingest” and have Him become one in essence with us?
The shepherds were told to go and see the baby, and then to go, and tell it on the mountains, tell it in the valleys, tell it everywhere there were hungry ears…that EMMANUEL HAD COME!
And they did.
Thus we see the second activity of Advent: you are called, as a shepherd, as one who is aware (regardless of whether you are full of hope or full of despair…either one is the sign that you are an “aware one” and thus are chosen and blessed)…to go.
Tell it on the mountain.
Tell it in the valley.
And keep your eyes open to spot the Child! You shall find Him in your neighbor…that “asshole” down the street that drives by you everyday, eyes fixed forward and exuding anger and frustration…that “airhead” in the cubicle next to you who is seemingly obsessed with her makeup and her dating life and fashion…
You will find Him in that hopeless one next to you on the subway whose beautiful incredible skin is the wrong hue in this culture and whose shining incredible heart is so wounded and bound by the hatred of others…
You will find Him in the transwoman on the street just trying to live in her skin…in the homeless youth whose vision is more obscured by their hair than it is by their heart…
This is the activity of Advent for the shepherds: find the Christ Child…in all His mangers…and proclaim that Child’s Name:
Emmanuel: God is with us.