Missionary Saints – The Shepherds of Bethlehem

O Come Let Us Adore Him. Then, Go Tell It On the Mountain!
We don’t often think of the shepherds of Bethlehem as missionaries. They were perhaps the very first Christian missionaries and provide for us a perfect example of missionary discipleship. Saint Luke describes how the message of the angels prompted the shepherds to leave their fields and to go see the Messiah born in a manger. After encountering the Holy Family, the shepherds “made known the message that had been told them about this child… and returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” (Luke 2:17, 20)

The shepherds model for us the movement of missionary disciples. First, go to Christ and from His presence, go forth to others. It is intimacy with the Divine Presence that urges our hearts to glorify God and share with others the beauty of Love in flesh made manifest. A missionary disciple’s initial movement is always toward the Divine. Then, having experienced the tender mercy of God, missionary disciples, just like the shepherds, are compelled to run over the hills and everywhere telling what they have heard and seen.

The Shepherds of Bethlehem are not the only characters of the infancy narratives that are models of missionary discipleship. The Magi of Matthew’s Gospel also offer an example of missionary discipleship. While the shepherd’s follow the instruction of the angels, the Magi follow the star. Both have the same destination: Jesus. The Magi come to adore Christ the Lord. Like the shepherds they come in humility to behold the Christ child.

Saint Matthew includes an important detail about the Magi that is really relevant for missionary disciples today. The Magi refused to be used by Herod in his evil plot. No, the Magi were too clever to be co-opted. They were participants in the Divine mission. They were wise not to allow any ideology or personality to lure them away from their purpose. So like the shepherds, they went forth from the manger to proclaim the Good News.

So, whether we identify with lowly shepherds or majestic Magi, whether we are in a nearby field or from a far off land, we are to come to the stable and find our Savior. Come to Adore. Come to love and to be loved. Come to find Mercy. Then, we are to go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!