St. Luke’s story of “shepherds in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night” echoes in the hearts and minds of millions who have heard the story told and retold year after year.
Like most well-loved tales, the simple account of the adoration by the shepherds has grown and developed over the ages. Extra traditions have attached themselves to it. Charming characters and details have become part of the story. Beautiful preaching points have illuminated the tale and unlocked the story’s deeper meanings. Many of these “extras,” however, were conditioned by later cultural assumptions and colored by devotions removed from historical reality.
What are the true circumstances of the birth of Jesus Christ? What was Bethlehem like at the time of Jesus’ birth, and why was the little village so important? How did Joseph and Mary meet, and why did they travel to Bethlehem? Were they really homeless the night Jesus was born? Was there an inn, a “No vacancy” sign, and a grumpy innkeeper? Who were the shepherds, why were the manger and the swaddling clothes a “sign” to them, and why were they so important to St. Luke?
After completing The Mystery of the Magi — his groundbreaking study of the wise men — Fr. Dwight Longenecker took a sabbatical in Jerusalem to study the ancient texts and the geography, history, politics, and culture of the time. He added his own firsthand visit to present-day Bethlehem shepherds in order to unlock “the secret of the Bethlehem shepherds.”
This little book sheds new light on an old, old story, deepening its beauty and enriching your Advent and Christmas celebrations for years to come.