The Gospel speaks about the shepherds living in fields watching over their flocks by night.
And suddenly an angel of the Lord stood before them and they were terrified.
Who were these people, these shepherds?
At the time of Jesus, the status of shepherds was one of the lowest of the low — as it still is in many countries.
Even though the job they did really was important work, few people recognized it as such. In fact, the world seemed to pass them by.
Yet, typically, it was to such as these that the good news of Jesus' birth was first announced, and it was just such as these, these lowly shepherds, who welcomed the news of that birth.
We can just picture them in the cold quiet countryside, keeping watch over their sheep as they did night after night, year after year.
These were the poor people who lived and were working for the most part in darkness and in the cold.
But this only meant that they were ripe for the Good News.
The Good News about the Messiah, the Saviour of the world who was to come to save us from our sins.
We all know that God comes first to those who are poor, and especially to those who are not afraid to admit it.
Now we know that material poverty is the most obvious thing we think of when we speak of poverty.
But there is a worse kind of poverty then material poverty — there is spiritual poverty – spiritual poverty which is a denial of the existence of God or a denial of our sinfulness and our need for a Saviour – and this is much worse than material poverty.
It was while the shepherds were doing their lowly task of caring for their flocks that the great news came to them: 'Today in the town of Bethlehem a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.'
God came to them in the midst of their humble lives — as they were watching over their flocks.
Having received the message of the angels, the shepherds did not sit back.
The message demanded some action from them.
It demanded that they go and search for the child. So they made the journey to Bethlehem, and they found there that it was just as the angels said it would be.
With their outward eyes all they saw was a little babe, a child 'wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying a manger'.
This is what they saw at first glnce, but with their inward eyes, the eyes of faith, they then immediately recognised this child as the Messiah, the one who was to come to save them from their sins, the Saviour sent by God.
Still, after all the excitement had died down, and when all the brightness had faded, they had to turn back into the cold dark night and head back to their flocks. They had to get back to work.
And so we are told that they went back 'glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard.'
They went back to work. They went back to their flocks.
They returned to the same lowly work, the same obscure life.
Nothing had changed, and yet everything in the whole world had changed.
Life went on as before but with one major difference: now their hearts were filled with wonder.
They now had a new vision, a new hope, a new sense of the love of God for them and of His presence with them.
They knew that their Messiah had come.
Their lives, which a short while ago were dim and monotonous, now glowed with meaning.
The old world had become like a new country where everything glistened with marvel, hope and joy.
What about us?
What message is in there for us? Is our life filled with marvel, hope and joy.
Our lives should be. Because even though we haven't seen the angels, we have heard the message of the angels. And tonight (today) we have come to see the Child. To celebrate His birthday.
Like the shepherds, we must try to see Him with the eyes of faith. With eyes of faith we don't just see a tiny human baby.
If we believe that Jesus is the Messiah. We see our Saviour, Christ the Lord. We see God's gift to us. God's love made flesh for us. We see Emmanuel, God with us.
And, of course, just like the shepherds, we all have to go back to our homes and get on with our ordinary lives.
But we should leave this place with a difference in our lives.
If we truly believe that God is with us. Emmanuel.
Then we should to back to home tonight (today) glorifying and praising God for His goodness to us.
Yes, we go back out into the dark cold night (day). Back to our homes, back to our commitments, back to all the small and sometimes boring tasks that go to make up our daily lives.
But we see should see things differently. We really should. Because we should now also see ourselves differently.
In the divine human Child, we see our own humanity, we can even see our own divinity.
This realization should lead us to a deeper commitment to life.
We have to learn how close we can be to God, and how close God can be to us, in the midst of our sometimes painful and sometimes joyful lives.
In the birth of Jesus we see that God has immersed Himself in our messy world and our often confused lives.
Tonight (today) as we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child may we experience some of the great joy announced to the shepherds.
This joy springs from a sense of God's presence with us and love for us.
Joy is one of the greatest signs of the presence of God.
Joy comes from the realization that yes, Martha there is a God.
Yes, somebody is watching over us, somebody is watching out for us.
Somebody is with us. God is with us in His Son, Jesus. Emmanuel.
And if God is with us who can be against us?
Glory to God in the Highest and peace to His people on earth.
Let us all rejoice in the Lord for our Saviour is born to the world. True peace has descended from Heaven.
Merry Christmas to all.
Deacon Bernie Ouellette