The plane arrived ahead of schedule. In that sometimes quirky system in the Arab world, delightful really, but unusual, the Kuwait Airways jet left half an hour earlier than the scheduled departure time because the passengers were all there, the plane was loaded so we left. Pretty logical I thought.
The taxi ride from the airport into the city of Amman, Jordan was uneventful. Wait, it WAS “eventful”!! As we drove the relatively short distance into town I saw the most delightful site. Along the road, up on the hillside, I saw a shepherd with a flock of sheep. Such a peaceful scene, it seemed so natural and so right somehow, even though I guess I had never actually seen a shepherd and a flock of sheep. I’ve seen plenty of sheep in my time but never a scene like this where the shepherd was guiding and protecting them.
Living in the Middle East and traveling frequently among the Arabian Gulf states, one observes many sights which are perhaps new and unusual for them. In particular, the camels roaming freely among the sand dunes on the drive from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, a scene straight out of the Arabian nights. Those wide stretches of sand with the undulating dunes always made me feel so at peace. None of the hustle bustle of city life but just seemingly endless expanses of shimmering sand and sun, a gentle breeze, a calming sense of peace.
But on this day near Amman, the city named Philadelphia in Roman times and described in the Bible as the City of Brotherly Love, the shepherd with the sheep struck a chord. It brought thoughts of shepherds abiding in the field watching their flocks by night as described in the story of the birth of Jesus. In this peaceful setting even though it was close to the city, that Bible scene became very real to me. How wonderful that the birth of the Herald of God’s love, Christ Jesus as he would become known, appeared first to simple shepherds.
While a few “Wise Men” had indeed received the angel message that there was to be a significant event, this first close-up glimpse of the divine idea, heralded by Angel Voices came not to astronomers, not to priests or other religious leaders, not to King Herod or the secular higher-ups but to simple shepherds, those whose minds were perhaps childlike and trusting, as shepherds must always trust, in a power greater than themselves. Those stalwarts who face dangers every day with only a staff and sling shot to protect them and their charges.
At this Christmas time may your heart and mind be as humble, expectant, receptive to the Christ spirit and as full of peace and love as those early shepherds watching hopefully on the hillside. And, may your flock, large or small, rest comfortably and abide with you, or in your thoughts, during this holiday.
Merry Christmas ... and Love... Pat Collins