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DAY 16: THE GLORY OF THE LORD ACCORDING TO THE SHEPHERDS

A Glória do Senhor de acordo com os pastores

Português | Luke 2:8–20

 

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

– Luke 2:20

 

Brazil, my home country, is usually immersed in a hot and humid summer when the Advent season arrives. I always feel sorry for all the “Santa Clauses,” ringing their bells at the door of street shops dressed in as many red garments as their counterparts in the Northern Hemisphere would be and sweating under the sun. Their colleagues in air–conditioned shopping malls suffer considerably less!

Not as certain as the presence of the “Santa Clauses” in the streets and in the malls during the Advent season, but also very likely, is the fact that Evangelical churches throughout the country will have a display, a picture, or even a staging of the nativity scene described by Luke in this passage (Luke 2:8–20): the holy family by the manger that night, surrounded by animals and by kneeling shepherds celebrating the birth of “the Saviour, the Messiah, the Lord” (2:11).

I have had the opportunity to play two of the characters in this scene in such plays. No, I have never played baby Jesus, but I was one of the shepherds once, in a small church in my hometown. My costume was based on our ideas of the garments they wore at the time, and that resulted in a lot of sweating. A couple years later, in a larger, fresher, and less crowded church in another town, my Joseph was better able to maintain his composure!

“There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby”

My insistence on juxtaposing uncomfortable and air–conditioned environments in this season is not random. On the one hand, none is qualitatively or morally superior to the other just because of its circumstances. On the other hand, one type is much easier to bear than the other. And even though the event we are celebrating by retelling the story of Jesus’s birth is the same, this juxtaposition does represent the persistence of sharp differences among the contexts, experiences, and living conditions of the people that retell the story of Christmas.

Furthermore, reading Luke 2:8–20 attentively, we notice that the very same contrasting elements are somehow present. After all, Mary was giving birth to Jesus in a precarious environment because the all–powerful Caesar Augustus, from the comfort of his distant palace, demanded a census. And as for the shepherds we see in this passage, Luke makes it clear that they were not even small farmers who own at least a small piece of land and a pen to shelter their sheep at night, but rather they were the ones “living out in the fields,” working the late–night shift. Yet to them appeared magnificent, awe– and fear–inspiring messengers from heaven itself, and the angels and the lowly shepherds alike celebrated the night’s good news (2:13–14, 20).

The meticulous character of Luke’s work both in his Gospel and in Acts assures us that these details are not accidental. In fact, Luke’s account is heavily marked by an emphasis on what the Africa Bible Commentary calls “a prophetic concern for the poor.”1 The Latin American Bible Commentary goes in the same direction, saying that “Luke’s theological proposal is based on the universality of God’s love and on his preference for the poor.”2

“All who heard it were amazed”

It is in the light of this context, therefore, that the manifestation of the glory of the Lord to the shepherds presents us with some direct challenges.

We are invited to acknowledge that the socio–economic dimension of the good news is so important to the Lord that it is even woven into the account of this most joyful moment of celebration, and we are asked to fulfill our role in His mission taking this into account. We are invited to celebrate the fact that peace has finally come to those on whom God’s favour rests and to listen actively and attentively to those who testify to it, whether they be heaven’s angels or the fields’ shepherds. And, finally, we are invited to be permanently amazed and transformed by these accounts.

 

1 Tokunboh Adeyemo et al., “Luke,” in Africa Bible Commentary (Nairobi, Kenya: WordAlive Publishers, 2010), p. 1229.

2 C. René Padilla et al., “Lucas” in Comentário Bíblico Latino–Americano (São Paulo, Brazil: Mundo Cristão, 2019), p. 1287.


DR CÉSAR LOPES
São Paulo, Brazil

Dr César Lopes is a Langham Scholar and Langham– published author who lives in São Paulo, Brazil and serves as President of the Community for Interdisciplinary Theological Studies (CETI Continental).

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