In a way, the Christmas summons of the shepherds is offered to each one of us in the Eucharist. While caught up in their labors “keeping the night watch over their flock,” the angel of the Lord appears to the shepherds, announcing “good news of great joy” — born is “a Savior who is Christ and Lord.” The shepherds respond by saying to one another, “Let us go and see this event which the Lord has made known to us.”
In other words, Let us step away from all that occupies us to go and be with this miraculous Presence. Heaven soon will beckon us similarly in the tender words of God’s own Son: Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome. God chooses our moments of concern and stress to call us out of ourselves to him in his Real Presence so that he can comfort us.
If the shepherds feel hesitation in leaving their post, it is because their job is to protect the sheep from the wolf. But born for us in this “Savior, Christ and Lord” is our Protector — One who will save us from every threat and peril, every savage attack, every ambush, every evil. In adoring the heaven-sent Presence, they will discover this truth. The bidding of the angel is an invitation to the shepherds to take a risk and trust. We are told that “they went in haste.”
They “found the baby lying in the manger.” That is, they found the Presence for which their heart was made. There is nothing like the power of a presence.
When somebody’s presence does really make itself felt, it can refresh my inner being, it reveals me to myself, it makes me more fully myself than I should be if I were not exposed to its impact (Gabriel Marcel).
What happened to the shepherds will happen in us as well: “once they saw, they understood … glorifying and praising God.” At Mass before Holy Communion — even though most of us are not shepherds — not an angel but a priest, holding aloft the glory of the Lord, will say: Behold the Lamb of God. Let us go and see this sacramental Event that the Lord has made known to us.
Installments in this series can be found each week here: Real Presence