Maggi Dawn – on Simplicity & Humility of the Shepherds

My wife, Diana, and I have long practised the discipline and joy of early morning prayer and contemplation with the offerings presented by ‘New Daylight’ – a publication of BRF – which provides a daily reading from Scripture, together with a commentary by one of the academics and leaders in Christian ministry affiliated to the Fellowship.

Maggi Dawn is “an author and theologian, currently based at Yale university, where she is Dean of Marquand Chapel and Associate Professor of Theology and Literature in the Divinity School”. Both Diana and I greatly value the comments of those, like Maggi, whose contributions to the series are constantly directed towards the openness of God to all humanity. It is in this ethos that we are enabled to begin each day with a reflection on what I like to refer to as ‘The great love of God as revealed in the Son’.

Today’s reflection is centred around the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, verses 8-21 (NRSV), which describes the  Angel of Lord’s visitation to the shepherds ‘ keeping watch over their flocks by night’ on the hillside in Bethlehem. Here is Maggi’s reflection:

“Most first-century shepherds did not own their own flocks, but worked as hired hands, They were the powerless and the voiceless; they lacked qualifications and worked long, unsociable hours in tough conditions for very little pay. How refreshingly typical of the gospel, then, to reverse all expectations, so that the shepherds were the very first to hear the news of Jesus’ birth!

“Professor Henri Nouwen experienced this kind of reversal when he left an academic career to to work with profoundly disabled people in the L’Arch communities. He thought, at first. that he might have something to give to them but, gradually, he came to believe he was receiving more than he was giving, for he discovered that the most fundamental level of human understanding is not intellectual but instinctive. Education may help us to see some things more clearly – that is surely the point of it – but it does not qualify anyone for a front-row seat when it comes to the revelation of God. The mind is not superior to the heart when it comes to understanding what really matters. (my emphasis)

“Maybe it was precisely because the shepherds were not hampered by the need to reason and cross-reference what they heard, that they had no trouble at all seeing the heavenly host in the sky above them – while the wise and educated missed it completely”

Maggie ends with this prayer: “God of Love, tune us in to the voice of those who are often ignored, and help us to listen to, and learn from, the powerless”


Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand  (Feast of St. John, Evangelist. 27/12-12)

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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