In today’s reflection, Maggi reminds us that the shepherds were among the most marginalised in their society. And yet it is to them that God chooses to reveal the good news of Jesus’ birth. Or perhaps they are the only ones prepared to see and hear what God is trying to say to everyone?
Do the marginalised and demonised have a particular insight into God’s message for humankind? Are they somehow ‘better’ than the comfortable and accepted at hearing what God is saying? We don’t want to risk romanticising real people facing real hardship by using them as an object lesson about listening to God. But perhaps there is a grain of truth in the idea.
Those who are privileged, accepted and welcomed tend to have access to more. More food, more friends, more opportunities, more money, … more stuff. And that stuff can get in the way of listening to God. How many of us at Christmas are distracted by presents and visitors and food and cards and parties and even (dare I say it) the organisation and preparations of church services, so distracted that we forget to pause in awe before the Christ child, we forget to listen to the song of the angels, we forget to make space in our hearts for the good news of Jesus’ coming.
But if we had none of the trimmings of Christmas – not the presents or food or celebrations, or even our beloved families and friends – what then would be left? Only the joy and hope of love incarnate. Then we would have to hear God’s message, in all its awe and wonder, without the interference of all that has come to surround it.
So as we plunge into the last few days of build-up and excitement, stress and preparation, let’s make sure we take a moment to pause. Let’s somehow find our way onto our own personal equivalent of the shepherds’ deserted hillside, so that we too may be ready to hear God’s message for us.