You may not enjoy this time of year. The cold. The hard work. The people. Little angels. Babies.
Neither, I suppose, did a bunch of shepherds sitting on a hill. I imagine them as grumpy old men. Perhaps they weren’t all old. But the work was hard and their status was low.
So I was thinking, why would grumpy old men go and visit a little baby in work hours, leaving assets out in the open – unless they had a really good reason?
Something must have convinced them.
Maybe they took some food along with them. Maybe they hated babies and children, but were so astonished that they just had to check out the truth. I doubt Mary had had to give birth entirely on her own – other women would have been around to help at the birth, but once the baby had arrived and a fire lit and the blood cleaned up, other people would have wanted to be part of the experience.
The visitors Mary ‘pondered in her heart’ were the unexpected ones – the grumpy old men from the hillsides who came and gave another vital layer of reassurance. Not the women of Bethlehem who told her to breathe, push and who cut the cord and cleaned the stable. Not the innkeeper’s family who found cloths to wrap the new baby in. Not the census counters who knew that Quirinius did not care about counting one more child. Not the shamed family, the disbelieving friends or the others in her home village who were not even there for her at the birth. No. Mary treasured this quiet signal from heaven: unexpected visitors who had no time for babies, but who were in the business of breeding sheep, delivering lambs, of sacrifice and toil.
David’s clan were gathered in his home town, but Mary told Luke what she remembered most: the visit from those who were still just shepherds.