IT WAS A very bright and very hot day in August when we visited The Shepherds’ Field just outside Bethlehem. Our guide, Iyadd, told us the history of this field and then gave us some time to roam through it. Rough and barren, the land resembled hills more than a field. In some places there are very steep climbs. Paths crisscross the terrain and everywhere there are caves, some very tiny and some large enough to gather and protect a flock of sheep. It was humbling to stand on this very hillside where an angel of the Lord appeared to lowly shepherds and announced the birth of Jesus, the Son of God. As I roamed, I thought of what that night sky of long ago was like-filled with multitudes of angels singing,
Glory to God on the highest,
and peace to his people on earth. (Luke 2:14).
With this song in their hearts, the shepherds made their way into the city to see this thing that had come to pass. That moment is captured in words so well known to all of us.
See how the shepherds,
summoned to his cradle,
leaving their flocks,
draw nigh with lowly fear;
we too will thither
bend our joyful footsteps;
O Come, let us adore him.
With them we make our way to the manger. Through lessons and carols and prayers we too adore the Holy Child, born to be our Saviour.
With that same song in their hearts, the shepherds left the manger, “making known the sayings which had been told them concerning this child, and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” (Luke 2:17-18). In like manner we’re called to share the Good News. Through sacrament and service, word and witness, teaching and testimony, we seek to make known the loving purposes of God in Christ-to reconcile and heal, to bring joy and gladness, to announce peace among the nations.
After the manner of the shepherds, let us celebrate Christmas and embrace the new year with prayers for that day “when the whole world sends back the song which now the angels sing” (Hymn 140, Common Praise).
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, visited Israel and the Palestinian territories Aug. 22 to 30.