Sing: Angels We Have Heard on High, UMH 238
On the night that Jesus was born there were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks in fields all around Bethlehem. The fields of Bethlehem were a major source of animals which were sacrificed in the temple in Jerusalem. Sheep, goats, calves, bulls, and a messiah were all needed in the sacrificial system of the Jewish Temple. The area around Bethlehem, because of its rocky soil, was particularly suitable for raising sheep and goats.
Which field or fields did the angels appear in? That is a question that has been asked in Bethlehem for almost two thousand years. Tradition says that it was one of the fields east of the village. Today there are three sites that compete for pilgrims’ attention: a Protestant field; a Greek Orthodox field; and, a Roman Catholic field (Do you think the sheep know what denomination they are?). On this still cold and drizzly day we went to the Protestant Shepherds’ Field. As with the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Shepherds’ Fields our site included not only a field but also a cave which the shepherds would have used for shelter for themselves or if it was large enough also for their sheep.
This was a lovely site and we could easily imagine shepherds and their sheep on a dark and quiet night enjoying the peace of this place. Like the shepherds we used the cave to get out of the rain and the wind. We listened as one of our group members read the story of the shepherds from the Gospel of Luke. Then suddenly . . .