8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 

9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.

I wonder, what would be “good news of great joy” for “shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night”.

What is “good news of great joy” for any of us?

Tragically, for many people still today “good news of great joy” would simply be the provision of enough food, clean drinking water, or adequate shelter to sustain life. For many, “good news of great joy” would be a land in which they could live peacefully and with some degree of security. Or perhaps it would mean the return of good health, the end to agonizing family dysfunction, or a way out of agonizing injustice.

Jesus acknowledged the need for the basic necessities of the human condition to be adequately met. He fed people, healed them and called for justice where he saw that institutions had become an obstacle to human life. But, Jesus also said, that once these needs have been met, there is something more for which we long. He made the point in the most challenging way possible, when he said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)

Having reached a basic level of sustenance and reasonable security and safety for the body, “good news of great joy” moves on to this “more than” dimension of life.

Jesus came to demonstrate and to embody the fundamental truth that there is a whole realm of life beyond the basic necessities of sustaining our bodies. It is in this hidden invisible spiritual realm that resides the deepest longing of the human spirit. Jesus said, “whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

The “room” is the inner “room” of the heart. The “reward” is fullness of life, freedom, contentment and strength of spirit. These are the only things for which anyone will genuinely long after the basic necessities of life have been met.

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How do I experience the “more than” quality of life calling to me? How do I respond to the inevitable dissatisfaction I experience in the material realm?

(Boucicaut Master. “The Annunciation to the Shepherds” Paris 1415-20)