Advent 26 - Thursday 24th December 2020
False Shepherds, humble shepherds, and the Good Shepherd
One of the stories in the international news today (New York Time) concerns Nigeria and the alleged kidnapping of people at the hands of police. One Journalist puts it this way: For years, police officers in the West African nation of Nigeria have tortured, killed and extorted young people, accusing them of being criminals, according to many testimonies in hearings and studies.'
These disappearances have created 'a buisness opportunity' with individuals, including church leaders, wringing money from desperate families, including those who have already paid large bribes to the police. The mother of one victim told the press: “They give you a prophecy that he will come back - whatever they tell you to do, you do it.” Regretfully there is nothing new in those who are supposedly called to a life of love and service, who sacrifice their integrity and take advantage of the people around them. Some big-name televangelists have been doing it for years!
But on the eve of Christmas these folks should shudder. For God is coming in person, breaking into human history, and entering human experience. The birth of Jesus in all his helpless vulnerability marks in the words of C S Lewis, God’s invasion: ‘I have to accept, he writes, the view that Jesus was and is God. God has landed on this enemy occupied world in human form.’ In other words, the coming of Jesus into the world is an act of intrusion. God is trespassing into creation. He has come to disrupt and intrude into our polite, secular, and sentimental celebrations.
Regretfully there are false shepherds. Priests and pastors who either distort the gospel message or line their own pockets. But there are humble shepherds, like the characters in the Christmas story were able to receive the revelation of God via the Angels and go on their way rejoicing. And there is the Good Shepherd, Jesus. The son of God and child and of Mary, who invading this world marks the coming of God’s Kingdom of love, forgiveness, and peace. Not forgetting the overthrow of evil and exposing injustice.
Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church
Sources: New York Times & Mere Christianity
Prayer and Blessing for Christmas Eve
Lord Jesus, before whom the Magi laid their gifts, whom humble shepherds worshipped, accept our praises as we celebrate your birth at Bethlehem.
We ask that as we make this a holy night upon which to remember your birth on earth, so our hearts would be illuminated with the brightness of your one true light, Jesus Christ our Lord, born in us this day.
Prince of Peace, born among us. As we share together the most profound mystery of your birth among us. So we pray that you would fill us with your peace.
Pour into our hearts that peace which we so desperately seek, and which you alone can give.
May we live as children of the same heavenly Father, willing to share our love for you and also to listen to the faith of others, that together your people may be one.
Awaken in our hearts, love and gratitude for all that you have done for us and may our joyful hearts share in the message of the angels to all humankind.
We remember those for whom Christmas will be difficult. Lord Jesus you were laid in a humble manger, because there was no room for you in the inn.
Have mercy we pray on all who cannot share our happiness this Christmas time.
We are mindful of the poor and the hungry, the sick and those separated from the ones they love. By your love poured out at Bethlehem, guard, guide and comfort those for whom we pray this night.
So may the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the perseverance of the magi, the obedience of Joseph and Mary, and the peace of the Christ child be yours this Christmas. And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always.