There’s a certain matter-of-fact-ness about this account of the visit of the Shepherds to the newborn Jesus. I find it intriguing that, having had what must have been something of a life-altering experience, they accepted the explanation of the Angels without a second thought and went to Bethlehem. Is that what we do? Is that what I do? Often when something happens in my life, whether I’ve got as far as recognising God at work in it or not, my first thought is to try and think it through, to rationalise it, make sense of it, plot a sensible course of action, based on scripture, tradition and reason and so to work out what the best thing to do next might be. It sounds sensible doesn’t it, but this isn’t what the Shepherds did. Beyond being terrified a few moments earlier, the writer of Luke doesn’t allow for a moment’s doubt. They’re told to go, and they go. And as they go, they find things just as they were told they would be. No small wonder they told everyone they could find about what they’d seen.
The story of the birth of Jesus is not rational. It does not make sense. Many people make careers out of trying to crowbar some logic in to the Incarnation. What it shows most clearly is that God requires straightforward, but not often simple, faith and trust from us. Each character in this story had to in some way or other suspend rationality in order to go where God invited. As we start 2016, are we willing to let go of our supposed wisdom, our cynicism, our higher logic, and simply commit to spending this year trusting God first? Not to say that we should suspend the use of our understanding, but that they should not become idols elevated above the one whose story we live to share and who has invited us to share in the writing of new chapters this coming year.As the song goes, ‘God is with us, round the earth the message bring’.