The shepherds lived in the fields with their sheep, in the countryside outside the town of Bethlehem. Every night, they would be there, keeping watch over their flocks in the pitch darkness. The nights would be long and cold, no doubt boring, sometimes fearful, if thieves or wolves threatened the sheep. So imagine the shepherds’ terror on this night, when without warning, the angel messenger of God appears to them, and the glory of the Lord shines around them.
But the angel is bringing joyful news – news of salvation and peace. The shepherds set out through the dark night, and they find the baby Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem – a light of hope, shining out in the darkness. On Christmas morning, John’s Gospel tells us that Christ is the true light that enlightens all people, a light that darkness cannot overpower.
At the darkest and coldest time of the year, we celebrate the coming of the Son of God into our world, bringing the promise of salvation. In the darkness of our world – the darkness of injustice and conflict, suffering and sin – the newborn Christ shines a light of hope. God sends his Son to bring light to the people who are walking in darkness, and God’s gift challenges us to be a light to others.