The Ugly Shepherds – A Christmas Reflection

“You know what’s not cute? Shepherds,” Father said it during his homily at Mass this morning. At midnight Mass some of the Children from the parish dressed up as angels and shepherds, and he described it as very cute. Then he went on to tell us what shepherds were really like:

“They were dirty, and smelly, and kind of weird, and they lived away from the rest of society.”

I think of the magi, the kings who went with great humility to the King of Kings, and they are awe-inspiring. I always thought of them as the first “real” people who came to see the Baby-King. But the shepherds, the cute little figurine that is always included in our nice clean nativity sets were actually dirty, smelly, weirdos.

In a way, I can relate to these guys. I am a mess most days, and I’m weird, and frankly I sometimes find my imperfections unbearable.

The shepherds, they were the first guys to see the baby Jesus.

The Word became flesh, he came to live with us, and the first people who laid eyes on him were the dirty smelly weirdos of the world. The humility of God stuns me every time.

Sure the wisemen brought the frankincense, the gold, the myrrh, but the shepherds, they brought nothing. They had nothing fancy to give, they gave only themselves, and received into the world the King of the Universe.

As Father said the words of consecration, I reminded myself of God truly present. Body, blood, soul, divinity, the Word made flesh. As Jesus came to us in the flesh on that altar, I thought of us all, huddled around, crammed in that little church.

I imagined we were much like the shepherds in the manger that night, huddled around the promised Savior.

In a moment I felt as though I could bring all of my ugliness, all of my brokenness, all of my mess to the baby Jesus. He receives me, just as I am, just as he received all of them that night.

Isn’t this the plan of God? That he would come as a baby, so that we could approach him?

Finally, the God king, in my heart, approachable.

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful…”

-Isaiah 9:5-6


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