January 1, 2017 - Shepherds

The LORD said to Moses:
"Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.
Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites,
and I will bless them."

Numbers 6:22-27

This passage holds a special place in my heart because my wife and I say this, with our hands on our daughter’s head, every Sunday night.

In the Gospel reading this week, shepherds arrive in Bethlehem to bear witness to the baby Jesus. In all likelihood, the shepherds were meant to remind us of David who was the youngest of Jesse’s sons and out tending the sheep when Samuel arrived to anoint the next king (1 Samuel 16:11).  His choice as king was totally unexpected.  In every instance, God does not choose the expected firstborn or highest moral achiever.  Moses was chosen as chief negotiator despite a stutter, Abraham was chosen apparently at random and twice tricked wealthy rulers into relationships with his wife to exhort money from them.  Noah and Lot started out pretty well, but wound up engaged in the most unsavory immoral acts.   Being a shepherd did not have noble connotations in Jesus’s time – they were the criminals who couldn’t be trusted with any other task.  Moral purity is not required to approach God. And it is messy, ambiguous people who are chosen to transmit the blessings of God to others.