Third Sunday of Advent: The Shepherds
Updated: Dec 17, 2021
Yesterday was the third Sunday in Advent. In calling us to remember the angel's visitation to the shepherds, it is commonly marked with the theme of "Joy," which is also why in some traditions this third Sunday is called, "Gaudete Sunday." This is derived from the passage in the Gospel of Luke: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:8-20). It is after this that they behold "a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
This is significant for a number of reasons. Mathew Henry in his commentary on this passage of Holy Scripture notes, "The shepherds lost no time, but came with haste to the place":
They were satisfied, and made known abroad concerning this child, that he was the Saviour, even Christ the Lord. Mary carefully observed and thought upon all these things, which were so suited to enliven her holy affections. We should be more delivered from errors in judgment and practice, did we more fully ponder these things in our hearts. It is still proclaimed in our ears that to us is born a Saviour, Christ the Lord. These should be glad tidings to all.
First, it is well-known that the class of "shepherds" is a lowly one. Henry notes, "Angels were heralds of the new-born Saviour, but they were only sent to some poor, humble, pious, industrious shepherds, who were in the business of their calling, keeping watch over their flock." But it is not the irony of choosing the least of these as recipients for the message of Christ's birth. This is a deeper symbolism as well. Recall that the shepherd-class was, like David, were associated with poets, deeply connected to the cycles of the earth and to the watching of natural and supernatural things and signs. The account in Luke is not the only story where shepherds are visited by divine beings. The pagan shepherds of Arcadia and the archetype of Virgil were perhaps used to all kinds of interruptions, and the ancient god associated with "thin world" of the forest was the old god Pan. Chesterton writes:
Pan was dead and the shepherds were scattered like sheep. And though no man knew it, the hour was near which was to end and to fulfil all things; and though no man heard it, there was one far-off cry in an unknown tongue upon the heaving wilderness of the mountains. The shepherds had found their Shepherd. (The Everlasting Man)
So the angelic announcement to the Shepherds was no accident. It pointed to the symbolic reality of which Scripture testifies, from Moses down to our present day. The reason our church leaders are called "pastors" is because Christ is the "good shepherd," fulfilling not only the Old Testament types of Moses and David but perhaps even those of pagan also.
Glory be to God in the highest, indeed. Let us pray:
O Lord Jesus Christ, you sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise make ready your way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient toward the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world, we may be found a people acceptable in your sight; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Agenda for Monday & the Rest of the Week:
Intro to Homer's Iliad Quiz (open book)
Recitation Quiz: first 8 lines of Iliad together
Review and discuss Book IV
Lecture on Homeric concepts
Read Book V of The Iliad together
Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Pray, that you may not stumble.
Bring Iliad books (We read Homer!)
Continue to work on memorizing Poetry Out Loud (POL) selections
Class Performance on Tuesday Jan. 4, 2022
Finish reading Book V; begin thinking about creative project.
Consider some of those barefoot shepherds below. As Moses, who was keeping the flocks of Midian, had to remove his sandals, so too these shepherds are pictured standing on "holy ground."