Summary: The Birth Announcement to the Shepherds, is also an announcement to you and I.
December 16, 2007
If you had to rate yourself in terms of how popular you are, how would you rate yourself? Would you be an 8 or 9, really popular and sought after? Or would you be a 4 or 5; people know you, but you’re not really popular, or are you in the lower category, a 1 or a 2? We can rate our popularity at school, at work, even at home and yes, we could do it at church, too. To some extent, we all want to consider ourselves important, needed and valued.
When you think about the shepherds, where would they rank on a scale of 1 to 10? If the people of Bethlehem and Jerusalem were doing the rating, they probably would have been considered a 1. And that might be stretching it for them.
Most of us are familiar with the story of the shepherds. A group of sheep herders are visited by an angel telling them the Messiah has been born. We’ve heard the story so many times, that it may not be such a big deal. In fact, more than anything, it just may be a cute story. So, as we look at Christmas stories, let me ask you, “WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD GOD TELL THE SHEPHERDS FIRST?”
A baby is born, it is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Chosen One, the Prince of Peace. And like any daddy, God the father wants to spread the news. It’s time for the birth announcements to go out. He sends out a birth announcement like none other — with angelic messengers, bright lights and glory.
We might expect heaven to be excited and break forth in shouts of praise for this once in history event. Never before had God taken on human flesh. This was new, this was exciting, this child would change the world. But the dramatic twist in this scenario is to whom this angelic birth announcement is sent to.
I’m not sure if kings and queens send out birth announcements, the media does a good job of getting the news out fast, but if they did, who would get one? I would imagine they would go to heads of state, those with Royal blood, the aristocracy, Presidents, and movie stars. The announcements certainly would not be sent to the common everyday, ordinary blue collar workers, would they?
And here lies the twist in God’s birth announcement. There in Bethlehem was born the King of kings, the Lord of lords. God visiting our planet once and only once. One Son of God, no other births, no other announcements to be given out. This was it. This was the biggest event in human history.
The mayor of Bethlehem doesn’t get an announcement. The High Priest is left out of the loop. King Herod and the royal court don’t get the news. No high ranking officials, none of the movers and shakers get an announcement. Instead, God’s birth announcement goes to a group of Sheep herders on the outskirts of Bethlehem.
Have you ever considered — Why? Why the shepherds? Why not more noble recipients of this glorious news? Why waste the greatest news ever on shepherds?
I’m sure there are many reasons God chose to reveal this breaking news to Sheep herders. I believe two of the main reasons are — first, by giving the message of the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, I believe God intentionally provides a glimpse into the nature of Jesus’ ministry as the Good Shepherd; and secondly, God intentionally seeks out people who are overlooked, disregarded or counted out.
I want to concentrate on the fact that God intentionally sent His birth announcement to those who were considered on the low end of the popularity scale.
It might help to look at Shepherding. Today we see shepherd figurines around the nativity scene and we think ‘what a cute little lot they were, with such holy faces and pure hearts.’
The sheep herders that received the angelic announcement, were not necessarily the well mannered, clean cut altar boys, one might imagine. Shepherds were considered social outcasts. They didn’t fit in with the culture. They didn’t have a 9-5 job, with 2 kids, a two car garage, and a fence with a swing in the backyard. They worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They didn’t have a home life. They were wanderers and drifters — living and moving around with the sheep. They didn’t look good, they didn’t smell good, they used crude language, they were uneducated and unsophisticated men.
During the day, they led the sheep to grass and water. They watched while the sheep grazed and kept an eye out for predators like wolves. And at night, they slept in the sheep pen with the sheep to guard against theft and attacks. A good shepherd could identify each one of his sheep by sight. He knew his sheep and they knew him.