Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census – the first – took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and travelled up to Judaea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.
In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing:
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to men who enjoy his favour.’
The Gospel at Christmas Day’s Mass during the Night depicts a world being turned upside down. Human’s seek to measure and regulate the world through census and registration, but in th etopsy turvy world a child who is born dedicated to turning it all the right way up.
And the announcement of the birth is made first to shepherds of sheep. Israel’s shepherds, kings and priests have been found lacking. God himself has promised to shpeherd his people and he will.
And he begins his guidance with delicious irony by turning to real shepherds, almost the lowest of the low, so that they might be the first to hear the good news, and the first to give praise to God for it.
- Where is Good News heard today? And by whom?
- Who fails to hear it and why?
Annunciation to the shepherds. St Nicolas chapel, Kings Lynn. (c) 2016, Allen Morris