And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock 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 great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…” (Luke 2:8-10)
The angel’s news came to shepherds. God was determined to elevate and bring outcasts into the story. Such then was the astonishment of the people who heard. There’s something powerful about this, this vision of reconciliation, of peace between. Being how things were meant to be, what we were made for, we long for it.
We all do. One of my favorite Christmas specials is an episode from “The Andy Griffith Show.” Andy and Barney are in the courthouse on Christmas Eve. The plans are set. Aunt Bee will cook. Barney will play Santa. And the prisoners will go home. Everything is set. But then old Ben Weaver enters, dragging Sam Muggins. Ben runs Weaver’s Department Store, Sam is moonshining, and Ben sees that as cutting into his business. “Lock him up, Sheriff,” Ben demands. Andy is stunned. And stuck. He has to comply. But what will come of Sam’s wife and children? And at Christmas?
Andy has a plan. He “arrests” Sam’s family as accessories to the crime and locks them up together. Barney goes out for the tree. Aunt Bee and Miss Ellie arrive with the food. Christmas has come to the courthouse. Everyone is thrilled – everyone but old Ben Weaver. He protests but Andy won’t have it. And then a strange thing begins to happen. Ben begins to commit petty crimes for no apparent reason. He steals a public bench. He tears up a parking ticket. Finally, Andy catches him “disturbing the peace” and notes, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying to get yourself thrown in jail.” “Why would I do that?” Ben argues. And then it hits Andy. “Yeah, Ben. Why would you do that?” he asks. And the old man begins to soften. And so Andy “arrests” him but allows him to pack a few things first – things that prove to be gifts from his store that are given out to everyone back at the courthouse. Christmas had come to old Ben Beaver too.
I relay that to you because it really is a Christmas story. The rupture and tearing of “shalom,” the longing yet still for it to be restored, and the joy found in even a partial taste in this life. The angels sang “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). This is part of the peace they were proclaiming. They could see what the Prince of Peace was bringing. They could discern something of what all this was about. And so they sang. May it be so with us as well.