Ephesians 3: 17-18
…I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…
Luke 2: 8-15
And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’
REFLECTION: HIS LOVE IS WIDE
Consider the media frenzy and fanfare that surround a royal birth. All around the globe newspapers and TV screens simultaneously report that a royal baby has been born. World leaders congratulate the parents. It is huge. Now compare that with how God came to earth as a baby.
The first recipient of the big news wasn’t the BBC or CNN. It was a group of shepherds working in a field in the middle of the night.
Sunday school nativity plays have us picturing shepherds as nice little men wearing dressing gowns with tea towels on their heads. However, the reality is, at the time Jesus was born, shepherds were among the most despised class of people in society. They were the lowest of the low, the bottom of the social and economic ladder. They were uneducated, smelly, dirty – in fact they weren’t even allowed to worship in the temple because they were considered to be unclean. They were always on the move because they needed new pasture for the sheep, and so they were regarded a bit like gypsies/travellers would be today.
Shepherds were generally considered to be a bit suspect, you had to keep your eye on them. If something went missing, it was probably a shepherd who stole it. A shepherd wasn’t even permitted to testify in court because they were considered to be unreliable witnesses.
As if being a shepherd wasn’t bad enough – these were the night shift shepherds. Basically they were guys who probably wouldn’t get a job anywhere else except sitting in a field all night. It gave them a lot of contact with sheep, but very little exposure to people. So they were often a bit socially stunted. Not the best around other people.
All of this makes verse 9 of our Bible reading all the more incredible:
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”
Think about it: the first people to whom God sends his angelic messengers to announce the birth of the Saviour, the Messiah, are not kings or priests or prophets; it’s not the rich and powerful. It’s smelly, dirty, despised shepherds.
God’s love is wide. So much wider than ours.
He comes close to those who we often don’t want to get close to.
He loves to communicate with people we don’t think He should speak to.
His glory engulfs those we probably wouldn't touch.
God shows up in the most unexpected places. He will not be confined to the church or the temple. He goes outside the religious walls and man-made boundaries.
He’s not a God who is too posh or snobby for the common person. Class, wealth and social standing mean nothing to him. He loves to embrace those who are considered outsiders.
He is radically indiscriminate in His love, something for which I am incredibly thankful and will be eternally grateful. He welcomed me into His family when I had nothing to offer, He adopted me as His son, He clothed me in His righteousness and He crowned me with honour.
Think about those who are considered, or who perhaps consider themselves, outsiders in our community. This week, how could we demonstrate the wideness of God’s love to them?