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Shepherds and angels

shepherds and angels

In the picture, a couple of shepherds are on the right-hand side, and one of them is playing a flute. Below them, their sheep drink in a river. One of the shepherds looks up and is blessed by an angel looking down on him. The middle group of angels is kneeling or bowing in worship before Jesus, lying in his cave, while the angels on the left of the picture stand like a choir, singing.

Only one of the four Gospels mentions the shepherds. Here they are, in Luke’s account of the Christmas story:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, 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 of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ 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, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.’ Luke 2:8-14

Luke’s Gospel has a special emphasis on the poor and disadvantaged, on people living on the margins of society. While Matthew’s Gospel focuses on the wise men who travelled from the East, Luke’s spotlight falls on these working men, who hear the news about the birth of Jesus from heaven itself.

Jesus later said, “I have come to bring good news to the poor.” The shepherds in the story remind us of God’s love for those who are forgotten and left behind in our world.

Prayer and reflection

Take a few moments to be still while you’re at your computer. If it’s night-time, you could dim or turn off the lights in your room.

Read aloud, if you’re able to, these words of Jesus…

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind…” Luke 4:18

Jesus fulfilled these words in his life, in the words he said and in the way he brought healing and new life to people. Remember those in your neighbourhood who are in need this Christmas. Think practically about how you might become part of bringing good news to them.

Finish by praying this prayer…

Blessed are you
O Christmas Christ,
that your cradle was so low
that shepherds,
poorest and simplest of earthly folk,
could yet kneel beside it,
and look level-eyed into the face of God.


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About this module

An Eastern icon of the Nativity introduces us to the main characters in the cast of Christmas: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherds and angels, and the wise men. With notes, short reflections and prayers for you to follow.

Categories: Spirituality, Art & image, Seasonal,


Module contents

arrow Introduction

arrow Jesus

arrow Mary

arrow Joseph

arrow Shepherds and angels

arrow Wise men

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