Friday, December 4, 2015
THE SHEPHERDS’ FIELD
Shepherds' Field Angel, Chapel of the Angels, Beit Sahur, Israel
Shepherd and Flock, Qumran, Israel
Announcement Mural, Chapel of the Angels, Beit Sahur, Israel
There is more than enough war and hate all over the world today. Man’s legendary inhumanity to man ever seems to have no limit. I don’t remember a time during this advent season of expectation when violence was so prevalent. I don’t recall a time when the world was more in need of the promise of Christmas. The people of the world are more consumed with fear than possibly any time in this generation. The world is in more need of a message of peace and hope than any time in this generation.
There is a field just east of Bethlehem in this war ravaged region that is the hallowed ground of a momentous announcement. It is where an angel of the Lord and a heavenly host of angels announced the arrival of a Savior for the world. Isaiah prophesied that this child would lead the wolf to live with the lamb. It’s important to note that this message was not delivered to nobles and religious leaders, but to one of the lowest classes of the time—shepherds who were watching over their flocks on one very significant starry night. These men were not encumbered with the political and economic biases and filters that would have scrambled the angel’s message. The world of that generation was filled with hate and war and the people of the region were anxiously awaiting a warrior king to bring peace to their lives. The angel told the shepherds not to be afraid for he was announcing good news for all men. And then a host of angels sang:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
As I walked this land earlier this year, I couldn’t help but wonder why we still had not achieved that peace that was promised over two thousand years ago. As an adult, the Savior gave men a simple formula for peace—love God and love your neighbor. The lambs these shepherds were raising were quite possibly those used in the nearby temple for blood sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people. The Lamb of God who entered the world that day became the substitute for these blood sacrifices by shedding his own blood for us. And He left mankind with a way of living through his teachings and model that can restore peace in the world.
In this beginning of the twenty first century, God’s people need to rally around life change, peace, joy, love, hope and action to fulfill our Heavenly Father’s expectation for all humanity. People at the birth of Christ and people today expect him to save us from our enemies, but he came to deliver all of us from ourselves. A provocative newspaper headline after the San Bernardino massacre declares that “God isn’t going to fix this” while mocking politicians who were praying for those directly affected. No, the majority of suffering in this world is caused by other human beings who have the free will for good or evil, but God will help us bring good out of any bad situation.
And on that fateful night we were sent an ally to walk with us as we exercise our free will to do something actionable about the hate and darkness in the world we were given stewardship over. Darkness and hate were not eliminated that night in this field, but light and love were sent to checkmate them.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956