By Michael Bennie

My kid brother literally wanted to be a shepherd when he grew up. He hasn’t. So he isn’t–yet.

But after a roller-coaster week, with the clutter of life clattering in my head, I’m thinking he was onto something. The perks of shepherdhood call to me: fresh air, nice mix of solitude and fraternity, great tan, cute and fluffy beings surrounding you, time to chill. Not baaaaahd. (Sorry.)

Of course, even a job as dreamy as shepherd has its downsides. Bad weather, quirky coworkers, boredom, long hours, sheep brains, threat of predators and smell of poop could all take center stage in my head and ruin an otherwise idyllic gig.

This Christmastide, I did some daydreaming of what the Nativity shepherds must have been thinking that Night Divine. They’re out there doing the nightly grind, expecting the ordinary. And the ordinary may be great–or not–depending on their headspace. Maybe they are exulting in the stars, or complaining about the cold. Maybe they are laughing around the fire at stories told, or regretting they can’t go back and change them. Maybe they are savoring the wooly warmth around them–or wrinkling noses at the odor.

And then, like it or not, ordinary ends.

Suddenly, something weird happens, and the story says it freaks them out. Terrifies them. “Sore afraid,” they are. Unexpected glory can do that. (Interesting how we’ve morphed angels into Precious Moments cherubs, when Scripture is so full of people whose response to angels was terror. Maybe we’ve grown to see that inside the fearful messenger is actually love.)
And these fiery messengers ask the shepherds to do something dangerous. Leaving their animals could cost them their livelihood. Worshipping a King not named Herod or Caesar could cost them their life.

But they leave the inertia of the ordinary, push through their fears and say, “Let’s go…and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” (Luke 2:15). They walk toward a Hope beyond what they’d dared hope for, up until now. They risk their lives and go to a cave with a baby in a feed trough. And somehow, miraculously, they see glory.

In this midwinter of an election year, at a time when fears can out-shout hopes, I’m challenged to channel my inner shepherd–opening up to unexpected, inconvenient, dangerous, and downright scary interruptions to my ordinariness. I want to greet the fear, recognize the love in the frightening messenger and have the hope to go and see what God has told me about. And every step of the way, I want eyes to see glory.