wordsout by Godfrey Rust                                                 A Christmas commentary 4 of 6   HOME     



Modus operandi  

Shepherds, they say, were the fools of their day,
the ones who were butts of the jokes—
Fred Flintstone with sheep, Homer Simpson asleep,
imperfectly ordin'ry blokes.

They're nobody famous, just some ignoramuses
anyone might string along—
neither pious or holy, they take things in slowly
and often get much of it wrong.

So they're out on the down, looking over the town,
feeling vaguely that life's passed them by,
just minding their own, prob'ly having a moan,
when an angel gatecrashes their sky.

And that's how it is, this behaviour of his,
it's his modus operandi:
he will choose the obscure or the dull or the poor—
frankly, anyone who's handy.


Written to follow the reading of the story of the shepherds and angels in Luke 2, 8-20 as part of A Christmas commentary for the carol service at St Johns Church, West Ealing in 2012. In 2013 I expanded this into a much longer piece, Gabriel's revelation, which contains the original four verses.

Modus operandi is a Latin phrase meaning "way of working". 

I have heard from various sources that shepherds were a target of humour at the time of Jesus, and so his illustrations of the lost sheep and the good shepherd would have carried an additional edge to a contemporary audience ("Stupid shepherd, leaving 99 sheep unguarded so he can rescue one lost one...") . I've no idea whether this is true or not.