Summary: the story of Jesus and his birth told through the eyes of a sheppard
"A Shepherd’s Story"
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them,"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 "Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
Good morning. I guess I should begin by introducing myself. My name is Matthias and I’m a shepherd by trade. I used to scratch out a living tending sheep in the land of Palestine. I’m here to tell you about the night that my understanding of God and his purposes, and my place in them, changed forever.
I’ve got to level with you. This is not the most comfortable thing for a man such myself to do. I’m not sophisticated like most of you. I’ve never had any formal education. From an early age my father trained me in the only skill he knew - shepherding. I’m not a theologian either. Certainly my parents told me the stories of our forefathers - those great men and women of faith like Abraham, Moses, David and Esther. We sang the Psalms like all good Hebrews and occasionally visited the synagogue to hear the rabbi’s teach. But that was about the extent of it.
We didn’t mingle a lot with other people. It’s not that we were antisocial. It’s just that shepherding as a profession wasn’t highly esteemed. No parent in their right mind aspired for their child to be a shepherd. It’s hard, monotonous work. You spend most of your time outdoors, exposed to the elements. Here in your country you have fenced pastures and elaborate barns to care for your livestock. That’s not the way shepherds operate. Our sheep graze in the open countryside. We have to lead them to green pastures to eat and still waters to drink, walking every step of the way.
Predators are a constant threat. It’s the shepherd’s job to protect his flock from snakes, bears, wolves and the occasional marauding lion. There have been a few occasions when I thought I was a goner fighting off those beasts.
Suffice it to say that people of my profession were looked down on. We were near the bottom of the ladder when it came to respect and social standing in the community.
Nobody ever said it, but we could always tell that most folks didn’t want us around. Part of the reason was the way we looked and smelled. If you live and work outside with livestock there’s no a lot of time to trim your beard or wash your face or clean your clothes. When you spend a lot of time with sheep you begin to smell like them. You may not know this, but sheep are filthy animals. The wool that you see ready to be sold or made into clothes has been cleaned thoroughly. A sheep in the field is as nasty as a pig. You can imagine the reaction of people in town when a few of us would stop in for supplies. They’d take our money, but we could tell they’re ready for us to leave. I guess I can’t really blame them.
What I could never understand was the mistrust the townspeople had for shepherds. Maybe it was because of our nomadic lifestyle. We moved from place to place, sort of like your modern day carnival workers. If something was stolen the shepherd was automatically the most likely suspect. This was unfair. I’m sure there were some dishonest men of my trade, but isn’t that the case in all professions? For some reason the people assumed we were all scoundrels. Even the judges thought this was true. They wouldn’t allow the testimony of a shepherd in any court case.