Yesterday was the first day of two weeks without any sort of cancer treatment, medical appointments, or lab tests. I hardly knew what to do with myself! If it hadn’t been for my daughter’s presence, I would have been lonesome, bored, and unimaginative. As it was, the residual effects of radiation and chemo had me pretty much ensconced in my recliner with that deep fatigue that is hard to describe but oh so concrete in experience. After a nap, it took me another hour to muster the will and the strength to get up for our obligatory fifteen-minute walk around the neighborhood.
On this sixth day of Christmas, we turn our attention to the shepherds who were in the hill country surrounding Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth. Their lives were routine as they roughed it every night, sleeping outdoors with their flocks and keeping a watchful eye for prey. Not known for their refinement or for wealth, the shepherds represented the unimaginative, lonesome, perhaps bored underclass of people. The Bible has some notable shepherds in its cast: Joseph (Genesis 37), Moses (Exodus 2-3), David (2 Samuel 17), Amos, and figuratively speaking, Jesus (Matthew 9:36, John 10). Isaiah used the image of shepherding to describe the responsibility of Jewish leaders of Israel, whose inattentiveness led the Chosen down a path to destruction. God seemed to like shepherds, but the rest of society didn’t have a very high opinion of them. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.
So, back to our Bethlehem-area shepherds, out in the open air doing their job, sleepy no doubt, lethargic in the middle of the night. Nobody anybody would notice or even care about (unless of course a sheep went missing). But because of their unknowing proximity to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus upon his birth, they had the experience of a lifetime!