When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Luke 2:15

In the last reflection, after this amazing, and what had to be a mind-blowing experience, the shepherds had a choice to make. Go, and see what the angels had told them about. Or stay, as if nothing had happened. They chose to go. Now, that may seem like an easy decision, of course who wouldn’t want to go and see what the multitude of angels had sung about? Remember the ratio of sheep to shepherds. Let’s say for example, five shepherds and five hundred sheep. It was going to be a major effort just to get to where Jesus was. They decided that it would be worth the effort and they went.

What about when they got there? They might have been wondering what they would find? When they first saw Mary and Joseph, how would they have explained the presence? And how would they even have gotten there? We know that a star guided the magi, but what about the shepherds? Perhaps the angels gave more detailed instructions that are not included in the Gospel account. Even with specific directions, moving with several hundred sheep would have been a challenge.

We’ve all seen newborn babies, either in person or in pictures. Imagine the scene in the cave—animals like donkeys and cows around, a simple manger filled with straw, presumably some lanterns to give light, and the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, laying in the manger, surrounded by His trusting mother, Mary, and His obedient protector, Joseph. In Orthodox icons, the cave represents heaven, among other things. It is always depicted as black, an infinite space. It also reminds us that Christ, the Word of God, was present before the creation, pre-eternal God. When there was only darkness, there was the Father, Word (Christ) and Spirit—the Holy Trinity. So when the shepherds visited the cave, it was like they entered the kingdom of heaven for a few moments.

The Gospel accounts do not tell us how long the shepherds lingered at the cave, or what, if any, conversation, they made with Mary and Joseph. All we know is that they decided to GO. And going changed them. It gave them purpose actually. Because when they “returned” in Luke 2:20, to their flocks, they were still the same people in terms of their social standing. They were still outcasts and nomads, doing a dangerous job. But they were changed, because they now had seen Christ, and they were now glorifying God for all that they had heard and seen. Now they had a higher purpose—to glorify God. And this happened, because they made a decision to go. Their world changed, and the world changed because of a decision to go.

Each of us is faced with the same decision—to GO when it comes to God. Not only to go to church, but to go out into the world and to do the things of God. Each of us has a talent which we have to decide to GO and use. Each of us has an opportunity to bring God into conversation. I was looking at a beautiful scene at summer camp this past summer with one of my staff members. We each commented on a Bible verse while we were looking at it—mine was “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) The other person’s was “How great are Your works O Lord, in wisdom You have made them all.” (Psalm 104: 24) We could have easily just said “that’s nice” or said nothing at all, but we chose to bring God into the conversation. We each have an opportunity to encourage people to GO, whether it is to church, or Bible study, or GOYA or something else in this community. We each have the opportunity to encourage each other to pray or read Scripture.

Hopefully, we will each be encouraged by someone to do these things as well.

The encounter between the angels and the shepherds gave them pause to think. It gave them encouragement. But the encounter between the shepherds and Christ, while introduced by the message of the angels, happened because the shepherds made a decision to GO. We go to church to worship, we belong to a community in order to be encouraged, we engage in ministry in order to serve, but the choice to believe in God and have Him as the center of our lives follows the example of the shepherds. We are to hear the message and GO.

The sayings of the Prophets are being now fulfilled, for our God shall be born in the days to come ineffably from Mary the Virgin, and He remains what He was before childbirth. The Magi have been gathered, bearing their precious gifts. In the fields are the shepherds. And we sing a hymn to Him who from a Virgin was born, “Glory to You, O Lord.” (Kathisma, Forefeast of Nativity, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

Personal Reflection Point: Have you ever had friends encourage you to “go and see” something of God? Have you ever encouraged your friends to do the same?


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here: https://amzn.to/3nVPY5M


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