This morning, Joanne and I were reflecting on the shepherds during our Advent time. It's not really an earth shattering occurrence to be considering shepherds during this time of the year. It's about as ordinary as baseball in April really. One thing that occurred to me though is how much we take them for granted...shepherds I mean. Our understanding of them is quite frankly limited to preschool boys in bathrobes feigning fear before preschool girls dressed in sheets with tinsel wings and pointing down at them from on high. Now that I think of it, it's probably good for them to get used to fearing them at a young age. Its cute but just slightly off center of accurate. Let's be honest, who doesn't like preschoolers in robes. The reality and irony of the shepherds is that they were not very welcome members of the very culture and story which made them famous. They were a necessary evil. They were arguably the most valued and least respected players in the ancient religious observances of the day. In that day and in that faith, the sacrifice was the central security measure and really the center of existence. The shepherds were keepers of the sacrifice. They were keepers of the offering. Without them and their seemingly loathsome task, the entire faith system would be compromised.... And yet, no one wanted to really acknowledge those who were really holding the whole thing up. It wasn't that people were mean or persecuting towards them. It was worse...they tended to pay them no mind whatsoever. They were invisible.
As I have reflected on this, it occurs to me that, 2000 years and half a world away, we still have shepherds among us. Not the cute, bathrobe clad preschool type. I am referring to those who still exist on the margins while "holding the whole thing up". They are those who are invisible to us. All of us have our own shepherds...our own people who we might tend to pay no notice of. Don't believe me or know what I'm talking about? Stop for a moment and consider those who are really indispensable and yet we rarely if ever acknowledge them or convey our heart felt appreciation that, because of their efforts, our civilization still stands. It is different for all of us; a clerk at Costco, the person behind the counter at the gas station, the barista who made your drink, the bus driver who navigated traffic so you didnt have to, the drive thru window voice, the server of your happy hour, and my all time favorite...based on personal experience....pizza dude. Let's be honest, without these people, our economy, civilization, and entire way of life would collapse. And how do we thank