Heaven and earth came together the night when the Savier was born. That night there was something like a happy meeting between the pure of heaven and the humble on earth.
St. Luke describes that meeting which for us once more makes manifest the Lord’s predilection for the little.
“And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping their flocks by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear…”
But the angel said: “Be not afraid, for I…bring you good news of a great joy. For all the people. To you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”.
If God’s affairs were like the affairs of men, the first announcement of the Savior’s birth would not have been made to such men, so simple in themselves and so “insignificant” in regard to the society of Israel, but rather to the men in power, the “heads” of government, banking, and religion.
Express one’s self by means of an angel to some poor shepherds at work in the fields to transmit the greatest news event of all time, only God can do. God himself is humble. He makes himself man, and a poor man, born among the poor. The more we think about the ways of God, the more astounded we became. There exists the Gospel, though, to answer any doubts.
In the social scale of Israel, the lowest no doubt were the shepherds. Their chief merit would be in their condition as laborers. They did their work with dedication and honestly. They weren’t pushy people, bursting to lay hands on something out of their reach, like many modern-day workers, who live unhappily, trying to copy the rich.
Surely the shepherds did their work at peace with their own consciences, and not trying to fool anybody. As good Israelites they must have had knowledge, although sketchily, of the prophecies which referred to the coming of the Messiah. Like the rest of Israel, they were waiting. And they’d not forget to pray, during any rest in their labors, that the Savior come soon.
The manner of the angel’s appearance, surrounded by light, struck the humble shepherds with fear. Therefore the angel spoke, explaining the meaning of the apparition. “To you is born this day…a Savior”.
Once more our imagination is tricked by painting artists. We visualize angels with wings, bright colors, flowing hair…Nothing like that was witnessed by the shepherds. The vision they saw was, first of all, effect of grace. A particular lighting up inside their souls made them see and feel the presence among them of something supernatural. The words they heard were a revelation that would not resemble any human word, yet which without a doubt gave them to know that the familiar prophecies had been fulfilled.
The angel invites them to investigate and gives them the sign: “And this will be a sign for you; you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger”. A poor person, too, like them and poorer yet perhaps. Laid down in the straw that was a bed for animals. What a way to come upon a king! King of heavens and heath. But different from all the kings of history.
And suddenly there appeared other angels. And all the heavenly host praised God saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men…”
The angels bring that night a new message. In the highest of heaven they proclaim God’s glory and they unite it with the peace which should reign, among men. That is to say, when God is duly glorified, there rises as necessary consequence a peace among men. We may state as corollary, when men sincerely seek peace, God is glorified.
The glory of God aids our honor towards his name and our subjection to his holy will. To glorify God is not just singing or praying or adopting a posture of body or of the hands, it is rather recognizing His full dominion ever the universe, us included.
Peace among men presupposes many things. It is not a simple announcing of the word, peace. Nor is it a paralyzing fear that annuls free decisions. Nor is it conforming to a status quo. Nor is it even the more absence of war.
Peace is an inseparable ally of justice. Therefore, wherever there are wrongs, inequalities coming from lack of opportunities for all, violation of rights, and privileges that are extreme, manipulation of interests there no peace is. Often the forgetting of God and the oppression of man go hand in hand.
The angels and the shepherds have established as of two thousand years ago a dialogue whose echoes last, but whose lesson has not been sufficiently exploited.
To find benefit in those happenings, Mary shows the way. So St. Luke says: “Mary kept all those things, pondering them in her heart…” For her, it was no secret Who the Child was. On she went, following a humble way of life, with no show or pretension being His mother.
The Christian, in keeping with the lesson of Mary, ought to observe God’s signals, keeping them deep in his heart. Such observance may give us the peace we seek and perhaps have not encountered.