And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)
The prophet Isaiah predicted it. Mary knew. Joseph as well.
But the shepherds didn’t.
How could they? They were unsuspecting men, simply going about their business that evening. They awoke early in the morning, and the most pressing issues likely included feeding their sheep, protecting their flock from predators, and cleaning the mess. When we think about God revealing His great plan, these shepherds may have been the most unlikely source to receive the news. 2,000 years ago these men were trusted very little (it’s been said that a shepherd’s testimony would not even be accepted in a courtroom). Shepherds were often paid little and had even less of a formal education. I’d say they were just like you and me, but they were thought of in lower terms. These shepherds – men whose reputations followed them around like a cheap coat – were such an unlikely group to hear the announcement that would literally change the world. Seriously, an angel approached these random and illiterate people? That doesn’t seem fair. Why would God trust these guys?
And that’s the point…
It would have made more sense to announce the glorious birth to those who carried influence over the people. We would have understood had the angels approached students with the news instead. But shepherds?
Later in the narrative we read that the shepherds “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child (v. 17).” It’s unsure whether or not people took them seriously, but that’s not what was important. What’s important was that these men were given an awesome responsibility.
Isn’t that amazing? God works through all of us. From the Wall Street banker to the hourly wage-earner. From the woman blessed with five healthy children to the woman unable to conceive. From the straight-A student to the little boy who can’t seem to stay out of the Principal’s office.
On this Christmas, if you find yourself asking the question, “Why shepherds,” perhaps the better question would be, “Why not shepherds?”
Merry Christmas everyone!
In His Name,