The shepherds of the Christmas story have always fascinated me. I lived on a farm and liked to be outside, so I knew that one had to care for the animals. The care they needed was not just during working hours. You had to think and plan ahead to make sure they were okay 24 hours a day. Being out alone in the fields fascinated me also, although I was always able to think about that lying in a nice warm bed!
The shepherds could not know what was going on that holy night, but they knew something was happening. The stars were different; there was something in the air. They had to be attuned to any change in the world around their flock. Maybe their flocks were restless in a strange way. The shepherds were no doubt curious and maybe a little concerned. However curious they may have been, they had to care for their flocks.
Each of us is a shepherd at times to others: being aware of their needs and willing to respond to them, often in the background with quiet service and care. Sometimes, we can sense that change is around us, that something new is going on. Usually, we can best serve the future by taking care of today’s needs even as we prepare for the future.
Advent is a good time to think about the shepherds in our lives. Those many persons who quietly create stable patterns in our lives. It is so easy to take things for granted in our lives. Think especially of those people in your life who seem to know that change is happening in your life before you do. The ones who ask, “are you ok?”, “can I do anything for you?”, or “what would help you the most right now?”
Using the language of the Christmas season, our future does not just come one day; we are shepherded by a large array of others in our world. Remember those shepherds in the fields sensing a wondrous change in their world.