2nd Sunday of Christmas – What Happens Next?

18 12 2011

For Sunday 1st January 2012

Luke 2.15-21   (The full text is below)

Whether you are keeping the 2nd of Christmas or the Circumcision of Christ the gospel is the same. And it begins with a conversation between shepherds.

‘shepherds’ v 15  Christian tradition has usually contrasted the shepherds with the  magi, the wise ones. The shepherds are the yokels in mystery plays. Rustic and rude, they offer some light relief or comedy. But the knowing reader will be making connections rather than distinctions here. Mention of ‘Bethlehem’ brings the shepherd-king David to mind – and that’s important. What sort of king is this?

‘child lying in the  manger’ v16  It’s  a lovely, cute image. But is there more to it than that as the New Year begins?

‘the shepherds returned’  v 20 We hear that they glorified and praised God as they  travelled. But what happened when they got back home? If you scroll down far enough you will find a poem by Val Shedden which addresses just this question.

‘it was time to circumcise the child’ v21  To be entirely candid, this does not strike me as the most promising starting point for the first sermon of the New Year.  Can we in fact, connect circumcision with good news?  Presumably it’s not the physical act which is important (though would Luke have known that?) but the meaning of the name, ‘Jesus’. In Hebrew it is ‘Joshua’ – God saves.   So is it, saves from, or, saves for?

Stephen Cherry

(With thanks to Val for the poem, below)

Luke 2.15-21

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Where did the shepherds go after their journey into Bethlehem


One hurried to tell his ailing mother

who turned her dull eyes to the smoke-

stained ceiling, arms in a wide shrug to God.

‘Ai what will I do with this son

who tells me that you are come.’


One slipped silently to his sleeping wife

stirring her from the rough sewn covers

hair braided and warm.

She offered her open arms

smiled with closed eyes, ‘Come to bed.’


Did another return alone

to a tent where the dogs already disturbed

keep him awake all night,

or did he stay outside

staring at the sky?


Val Shedden 2001






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