Local councils and shopping centres have begun ‘dressing up’ their community spaces for Christmas. What a lovely surprise to find the nativity scene displayed amidst the lights and colour of the commercial world. Some nativity scenes are small and insignificant, perhaps found in one shop window but how wonderful to find larger, well-placed displays in shopping centres. Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus are there and often the three well-dressed Kings with their gifts tastefully presented.
But where are the shepherds?
I went checking the Christmas cards available and found that Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the Kings and a star are there in varying combinations but no shepherds.
We sing about shepherds in traditional Christmas Carols. When we coordinate children’s pageants, we have plenty of shepherds. We knew the shepherds well once, but it seems they are disappearing from public display and possibly from our consciousness.
The shepherds were the first to witness the birth of Jesus and in the Gospel of Luke we find them front and centre. It was within the ordinariness of their daily lives that they met Jesus. They were not the important kings or leaders; they were simple ordinary folk doing the hard-daily task of caring. They would have been tired and shabby after days watching the sheep. They knew the landscape and their flock well, but they were drawn to Jesus.
This year, the shepherds remind me of those many ordinary workers who have been working tirelessly day after day, caring and protecting those who come into their care. During COVID-19, we have been made aware of the many, many ordinary workers who are now heralded as the heroes:
The aged care workers, the cleaners, the lowly paid hospital workers, the security people and nurses, have a new-found dignity in the public eye.
Those who have supported refugees, asylum seekers, prisoners, the homeless, those suffering domestic violence and those in quarantine.
Those seamen stranded on boats throughout the world keeping imports and exports flowing, not able to disembark anywhere.
Teachers, parents and grandparents who took on the task of education of children when schools were closed.
You know all these people and many more who are the ordinary, often low paid workers or volunteers who have been drawn to service and care as were the shepherds.
The Shepherds need to be in the nativity scene this Christmas, if not in our towns and cities, then in our minds and hearts. The good news of the Christmas story is that the Shepherds had the best view and ever since, have announced to the world that God loves the humble and lowly ordinary worker.
On behalf of Fr Silvio, Fr Mario and the Parish Council, thank you and wish you all and your family a very Blessed Christmas.
Fr Jude Pirotta mssp