I was setting up a nativity scene in our living room this afternoon. The figurines in the set included an angel. I placed the angel in the stable with Mary and Joseph, and then I looked at the picture of the nativity scene that came with the set and saw that the angel was off to the side, with the shepherds.
That reminded me of a devotional I read this morning. The angels appeared to the shepherds, who then told Mary about it; the angel wasn't in the stable, or at least, we aren't told that he was.
Imagine the birth, in a stable, Mary without her family and with only Joseph with her, in a strange town. She's young, almost alone, and facing the scary proposition of raising the child of God. Maybe the appearance of an angel to be reassuring would have been helpful.
Instead, the angel appeared to shepherds, and the appearance prompts them to leave their flocks to go see the baby. They tell Mary about the visitation.
I wonder if that is how life is sometimes. We need a sign; we need reassurance that God is with us. God doesn't appear to us, or if he does, we miss him. Instead, we learn of God's work in the world through a "shepherd." Our faith in strengthened by the words and actions of another.
Who are we called to be witnesses shepherds for?
Image: My church at dusk yesterday.