Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Poorest

It was the custom in the ancient world, long before engraved announcements or phones or text messages, that when a baby was born to a respectable family, messengers would be sent out to announce the birth to the “right sort of people,” friends of the family’s social class in the best neighborhoods of the city. So it is that heavenly messengers announce Jesus’ birth to shepherds. These poorest, smelliest, “lowest-esteemed laborers,” receive the birth announcement of God’s own Son. They are the “right sort of people” for our God, people of God’s own social standing. This open “traffic” of angels between heaven and earth in the Gospels is the great sign of the awesomeness of the event of the Nativity.(Luke JohnsonThe heavens are opened, angels are everywhere. There is now easy interchange for God’s dream of intimacy with his creation has come true in Mary’s womb. Through Mary heaven is wedded to earth in Christ Jesus her baby. And the right sort of people must be informed, people like us, poor sinners, desperate for the good news that is his mercy. 

Hugo van der Goes, The Portinari Altarpiece, c.1475, Uffizi Gallery, detail of shepherds.