10th Day of Advent – The Shepherds

By Emma F.

Continuing in the series about the special characters which make up the beautiful Christmas journey, we come to the shepherds.

In the days of Caesar – Waldo Williams

In the days of Caesar, when his subjects went to be reckoned, there was a poem made, too dark for him (naive with power) to read.
It was a bunch of shepherds who discovered
In Bethlehem of Judah, the great music beyond reason and reckoning:
Shepherds, the sort of folk who leave the ninety-nine behind so as to bring the stray back home, they heard it clear, the subtle assonances of the day, dawning toward cock-crow, the birthday of the Lamb of God, shepherd of mortals.

Well, little people, and my little nation, can you see
the secret buried in you, that no Caesar ever captures in his lists?
Will not the shepherd come to fetch us in our desert,
gathering us in to give us birth again, weaving us into one in a song heard in the sky over Bethlehem?

He seeks us out as wordhoard for his workmanship, the laureate
of heaven.

Raising Up The Hidden

I absolutely love the fact that the Shepherds have a key role in the nativity story and I adore this poem, I think because it is highly political!

The author Waldo Williams, was a 20th Century Welsh poet and his politics of Welsh Nationalism are evident, as he addresses the poem to the people of Wales, comparing them to the lowly shepherds. He’s a fascinating guy to read about.

The poem shows me that God challenges our human hierarchies of power. We follow a God who first reveals the birth of Jesus to those seen as unimportant by the powers that be. The shepherds lived on the margins, on the hills outside the town. They were looked down on by the religious powers as they could not keep the Sabbath as their sheep needed constant protection.

A beautiful metaphor runs through the poem of the incarnation itself as poetry. I am intrigued by the line about Caesar ‘there was a poem made, too dark for him (naive with power) to read.’ Naive would normally apply to those immature, inexperienced, and not usually attached to those who wield power. This emphasises to me how God raises up the hidden, sees the ‘little’ people and makes their story and experience important. Maybe those who struggle, who suffer, who go unnoticed understand more of God, and see more of God, than those of us who experience comfort and plenty.

The shepherds could hear the music. They had a need to hear the Good News. They had the ability to grasp the importance of the message. They had the experience of leaving the ninety nine to look for the stray that resonated with God’s heart.

I am challenged, excited and motivated by the fact the ‘little people‘ heard and responded to the song of peace before the powerful did.

Who is God challenging us to no longer overlook?

Pope Francis challenges his priests and bishops to be ‘Shepherds with the smell of the sheep.’

Where do we need to get off our pedestal and serve, be with and learn from the poor?

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