I’m really fascinated by the Shepherds. This reprehensible, foul-smelling, swearing, group of men that spend their days with stupid animals, far from the center of anything important. But I’m really fixated on the moment of entry into the stable, or cave, or whatever it actually was where Jesus was born. Joseph, after the previous night’s humiliating negotiation for the worst room in town, after no doubt sleeplessly walking with his wife through labor among cattle, hears a knock at the door. Maybe the shepherds stench, a pungent blend of alcohol and sheep dung, overpowers the reek of the barn behind Joseph. And then they explain that a bunch of angels scared them all but told them that they should come check out the baby that was born here. Is Joseph just like, “Yeah that checks out, come on in.” Is he trying to fight them off — after all, it wouldn’t be hard to identify Mary and Joseph as travelers in a very vulnerable position– but then he hears Mary behind him calling “Let them in.” Did Mary and Joseph just know they should let them in? I don’t know, and I don’t know that we can know. But we can see clearly that before Jesus spoke a word, probably before he was a day old, his presence was invitational. The shepherds, who in a best case scenario should expect a “Please go away,” were the first in the inner circle to witness the beginning of the world’s recreation, the see second Adam who will undo the work of the first, to behold the Christ, who, once he learned to speak, would say “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden.”
That’s Good News of Great Joy.