If I had been a shepherd – out in my field, keeping watch over my flocks by night – I think I would have been a different kind of shepherd. For example, I would have been wearing sunglasses. I would have been a certain cool shepherd.
That way, when the glory of The Lord shone around, I would have been prepared. The King James Version describes those shepherds as ‘sore afraid’. But not me, with my darkened eyes, I would have been, ‘sure of myself’. Those other shepherds were caught off guard and filled with fear. But not me, I live ‘on guard’. That way I don’t feel my fear.
So when the angel of the Lord exclaimed, “Fear Not!” I wouldn’t have been relieved. I would have, behind my lens, acted like I wasn’t afraid in the first place.
“Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ The Lord.”
Well, first of all, if you are cool, guarded and committed to not feeling your fear, then you don’t respond with great joy to anything. It would totally compromise your stance. And secondly, if you have already saved yourself with a posture of nonchalance and detachment, then you don’t need a Savior. Instead, you respond to the idea of God’s Visitation in human form by thinking, “What an interesting metaphor.”
I wouldn’t have gone to Bethlehem in the middle of the night ‘to see this thing that has happened.” I would have waited for the online report. I wouldn’t have seen Mary and Joseph and a baby, lying in a manger. And I wouldn’t have returned, glorifying and praising God.
I am too cool, too nuanced to let something like ‘God-in-human-form-coming-for-me’ actually get to me.
I would have missed the whole thing. All for the sake of showing that I don’t need anything. All for the sake of not being surprised. No – I cannot let myself be surprised. I cannot let myself be filled with anything. You see, if something fills me – then that would imply that I am empty inside. It would strongly suggest that I need.
And so there I stand in that quiet field, resolute and alone. I have succeeded. Nothing got past my plastic sunglasses. Nothing got inside me. How cool.
But sometimes, standing there alone in my cool success, I feel a little cold. And this little doubt arises – a small little voice deep in my chest. It bounces around inside me like an echo measuring a chamber. And despite myself, I begin to doubt my complete coolness. “What is I really am empty? What if there really is a space inside of me that I can’t fill?”
When I see the other shepherds returning – full of surprise, wonder and praise… well, I cannot suppress the question – “Is it too late for me to go to Bethlehem? Too late to face a Savior – without my sunglasses and with my need?”
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. In addition to counseling individuals and couples, Roger teaches and leads discussion groups about applying the Bible to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor, holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana and earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is married to Jean and they have seven children.