The Announcement to the Shepherds

How did people meet their Savior? The stories about the shepherds, the wise men and king Herod shows a wide range of emotions – from the pure faith to fear to hatred. However, it is symbolic that first of all we encounter people’s ignorance and indifference in them. Or course, those who were resting in their homes at that late hour did not even realize that they all took part in the event of a universal scale, as well as that the Child born in the cave would become the “Light of People”. Although they all had to know the law of God ordering them to give a shelter to the travelers, no one did that.

And then the shepherds, who were herding the sheep on the neighboring field, came inside the cave. They were worried and began to tell about “the great joy which had been announced to them by God”.

It seemed as if their coming retuned them all back to the Old Testament. We often find mentions in The Holy Scripture of people who live with their herds as those who are closer to God. Sitting around the fire under the night sky, Abraham, Moses and Amos listened to God’s will. They put their doubts aside and went where God told them to go. The same was with the shepherds, who were the first people who saw the Savior.  

As far as the day of the Nativity was correlated with the day of the solstice, which is December 25, often we associate the announcement to the shepherds and their coming with the winter scenery. Indeed, sometimes at this time of the year snow falls in Palestine. It is regrettable to part with the rooted tradition, but we should admit that it is not proven by the Holy Gospel. Apostle Luke wrote that “the shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night”. In December people kept their cattle inside. The cattle was herded from March till November. Consequently, that means that Christ was born in this  time period.

Of course, the feast itself is much more for us than just a calendar recollection of the events. It has a deep spiritual meaning. By the fact that the feast is celebrated on the day of the solstice, the Church proves the coming of the “Light of Mind” and the “Sun of Truth”.

The new day did not begin yet when everyone at home knew already that the miraculous event had happened. The apostle continues: “And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds” (Luke, 2:18).  The prophecy about the King of the world did not make sence for those people. They could not believe that the Son of those poor parents, who had come from Galilee, could be the King . However, Mary’s assurance in Her divine destiny was strengthened even more, and She kept in Her heart the news brought by the shepherds from the field.

Eight days after birth, the Old Testament ritual of circumcision was performed on the Infant, and he got his name, Jesus. We can say that many mothers in Palestine would often chose the same name. But in case of Mary that name had a special meaning. Jesus, or Joshua, or Yehoshua means “God’s Salvation”. The name of Christ banded together all the prophecies and aspirations of the Old Testament world.

We do not know whether Joseph intended to leave Bethlehem or to stay there forever. Anyway, he could not be in a hurry. According to tradition, a mother was not allowed to leave the home for a month after the birth of a child. Then they also had to visit Jerusalem, where they had to go through additional rituals…

An excerpt from “History of the Religion, Book 6”