Christmas Eve 11 pm
Breath of Heaven, Bell and Chancel Choirs
O Holy Night, Jason Sabino
2018 xmaseve 11 pm Order of Worship
The shepherds were just doing their jobs. They were minding their own business, watching over the sheep at night. It is not a job that pays much. No need for a college degree. You don’t need weapons outside of a shepherd’s crook that can be used when needed to guide a wayward sheep back to the flock or to fend off wild animals or nosy neighbors.
A shepherd’s work is not complicated.
You don’t need a smart-phone to keep track of your sheep.
You do need two things.
You need to stay awake.
And you need to watch.
You need to be awake and you need to watch.
Do that and you are a good shepherd.
So it is not really a surprise, when as these things go, and divine intervention happens. Divine intervention happens when it will and it happened on one night to shepherds who were awake and watching as they should be.
When you are awake and watching you can see things that you cannot see when you are asleep and not paying attention. When you are awake and you are watching you can see messengers of the Lord standing right in front of you. When you are asleep and not paying attention, messengers appear, and you don’t see them, and, poof, they are gone.
“Why bother with these people?” say the messengers.
They are not awake.
They are not paying attention.
Now I don’t know exactly what happened as I wasn’t there, but I would not be surprised if the divine messengers had tried to visit some other folks on that night that the Anointed One was born in a manger in Bethlehem.
They might have visited the mayor. The mayor of Bethlehem or perhaps the whole town council. But just because you are the mayor or a member of the town council, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are awake and paying attention. The Divine messengers might have said, “Hey Mayor of Bethlehem! Hey Town Council! We bring you good news of great joy!”
But they didn’t see the messenger of the Lord even though he was right in front of their eyes.
So the messenger of the Lord and the whole messenger assembly packed up their voice boxes and searched elsewhere.
I don’t know if it really happened like this, but they might have visited the richest guy in town. The guy with the big house and all the trappings that go with it. But again, even the rich guys are sleeping and off in neverland.
The divine messengers really gave it to them,
“Hey rich guy in the big house! I have good news that will benefit the whole nation! A baby is wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough! What do you say?”
But the rich guy is too bored to care.
I don’t know if any of this happened at all but I wonder if the Divine messengers went all through the town that night. All through the countryside. Up one street down another. Knocking on this door and that one. Trying to find important people to tell important news.
“The priest should hear us. Let’s tell the priest,” say the angels.
The priest wasn’t awake either.
Not paying attention.
Just kind of numb.
Time after time, not one person was awake enough…
Not one person was watchful enough…
…to see the divine messenger and to hear the divine message.
Peace is the message.
The Prince of Peace is about to be born.
The one who will announce peace through justice,
who will calm the seas,
heal the sick,
cure the blind,
eat with outcasts,
forgive the unforgivable,
love the unlovable,
weep with the grieving,
laugh at the devil,
and point a finger to God,
..that one is about to be born.
The one, who would make us,
if we would care to follow in his path,
also to be makers of peace with justice.
The one who would remind us that we are all sisters and brothers
and it is in all of our interests to put away squabbles and unite.
That one has been born,
and by the way he has been born in an animal’s feeding trough.
No pretentions, that one.
Sadly, no one was awake enough or watchful enough to believe.
Not the mayor. Not the city council. Not the rich guy. Not the priest.
The messengers took a break. They looked at each other. What now?
Will no one on Earth believe in the possibility of peace?
Will no one recognize the prophet in their midst?
Will no one care enough to see what humankind can do when it wakes up and pays attention?
Just then one of the divine messengers heard a sound.
It was the sound of a sheep.
They looked toward the sound.
Sure enough there was a sheep.
Not just one. A flock of sheep.
And as the divine messengers moved closer they saw shepherds watching the sheep.
The shepherds were awake. They were paying attention.
Then the messenger of the Lord moved closer and stood near them and the shepherds jumped up, grabbed their crooks and were ready, frightened but ready. Because that is what one does when one is watchful and paying attention and a weird divine messenger suddenly appears out of nowhere.
The divine messenger must have been as surprised as the shepherds just to be noticed.
So he rehearsed the line they had been given:
“Don’t be afraid: for behold I bring you good news of a great joy, which tis to benefit the whole nation. Today in the city of David, the Savior was born to you—he is the Anointed One, the Lord. And this will be a sign to you; you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”
And just to bring the point home,
the divine messenger struck up the angel praise band and they sang,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
And on earth peace among those God favors!”
God must favor shepherds is the way I see it.
Because they are awake and they pay attention.
So the messengers went back to heaven, their job complete.
The shepherds? Well they checked it out.
Found the baby with the baby’s mother.
Told them their story and went back to their work.
But more than that.
Watching out for all of us.
Watching and paying attention.