These are the shepherd fields, where they lived and kept watch over their flock by night.
We went there during the day. I remember the underwhelming feeling traveling with fellow pastors and church leaders in 2019. The place was packed with tourists and travelers, pilgrims and peddlers. People have flocked to this holy place for centuries and, Lord, have mercy, can you feel the footprints of cultural imposition and western Christian commodification. The signs are all in English and Latin, paintings of white bearded shepherds with their white sheep are littered in every nook, a large Catholic chapel is constructed smack in the middle, barbed wire surrounds the controlled and walled-off space, and a huge arch with the words, “Gloria In Excelsis Deo,” greets you upon entry.
I think that’s new since the angels left the fields and gone up to heaven.
One of the most beautiful components of the Jesus story is the inability for the narrative to be contained to a singular place or people group. Jesus’ flock is nomadic, taking on the cultural practices, longings for liberation, expansive welcome, and generous pursuit of those prone to wander. The only thing excluded is exclusion. Also certainty.
Makes you wonder what the multitude of heavenly host really looked like that night.
I remember grieving a bit as I wandered these fields. It looked far different than what I remember reading in my children’s Bibles…actually maybe not different enough. And I wonder still about what is communicated now as response to the angelic declaration, “and on earth peace among those whom God favors?”
Who does this place proclaim as the Divine preferential option?
I think if we follow the shepherds outside these fields, we just may find out the favored flock is far more mysterious and indiscriminate than anything we could have hoped, imagined, or even feared. I’m glad our 2019 pilgrimage took us to those places. I hope I never stop traveling there, too.