Summary: Why did God reveal this wonderful news to shepherds - of all people!!!!!
God seems to have a soft spot for Shepherds
Story: A famous hostess was holding a dinner party to which she invited a famous Shakespearean actor.
After the main course and then the dessert, she asked the actor if he would be willing to recite a piece of poetry.
The actor, accustomed to be asked to do his party trick, readily agreed. He asked if someone at the dinner table would like to suggest a particular piece.
There was a deadly hush until an old clergyman raised his hand and said: “May I please ask you to recite the 23rd Psalm.”
Rather nonplussed the actor agreed, but added: “I will do so – only if you will agree to recite the 23rd Psalm when I am finished”.
The clergyman rather reluctantly agreed.
The actor then recited the 23rd Psalm with as much passion as he could arouse. His voice was perfect. His intonation was flawless. The audience was spellbound. When he finished, he was met with rapturous applause.
The old clergyman then stood up to speak and recited the Psalm. But his voice was rough and broken from many years of preaching. His diction was anything but polished. But when he finished there was not a dry eye in the room.
The actor then got up from his seat came over and put his arm around the clergyman and said:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I know the 23rd Psalm. This man however knows the Shepherd.”
God seems to have a soft spot for Shepherds. He even identifies Himself as the “Good Shepherd”
Some of the great men of the Old Testament were Shepherds.
For example, Adam’s son Abel – the first recorded murder victim, was a shepherd.
Abraham, the great patriarch was a shepherd, as were Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
Israel’s two greatest leaders, Moses and King David were shepherds.
And of course Psalm 23 begins with “The Lord is my Shepherd".
1. The Christmas Story
And our Gospel reading this morning is all about the revelation of the Good News of Jesus’ birth to Shepherds
And the Angel had this to say to them about the little baby born in Bethlehem:
“Do not be afraid; for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people. To you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord…” (Lk 2:10,11)
The wonderful news that the angel brought is that Jesus came to this earth to enable all people – to come back into a right relationship with God.
Sin had separated us from God – and Jesus came to earth and died on a Cross to bring reconciliation with God. That’s what it means when we say he is the Saviour of the world.
But I don’t want to major on that this morning.
2. The Shepherds
What puzzled me when I was preparing my talk was:
“Why was this wonderful revelation given to the shepherds and not to the “Good and the Great” in Israel at the time.
Illustration: Now if I had been an Angelic spin doctor - advising the Lord God how to advertise the birth of His Son - I would have respectfully suggested a different course of action. If you want to make maximum impact, conventional wisdom would dictate making a big splash with the “Good and the Great” in the land – chucking in a few plagues if they wouldn’t listen (- like He had done once before).
But forget the Shepherds, Lord – they don’t bring in votes.
After all, shepherds had a bad reputation in Jesus’ day. They weren’t the sort of people you want particularly “proclaiming anything – let alone the birth of God’s one and only Son!”.
What do I mean?
1. Shepherds were considered unclean.
Their line of work prevented them from participating in the feasts and holy days that made up the Jewish religious calendar.
When everyone else was making the trip to Jerusalem to make sacrifices at the temple, or to participate in one of the annual feasts, shepherds had to be out in the fields, watching over the sheep.
2. Shepherds were looked on with suspicion.
They were constantly on the move.
They had a rather unendearing quality of confusing “thine” with “mine”.
They were renwn for thieving. If it wasn’t bolted down when the shepherds came to town – you’d lost it!!!
If something went missing - it was always those shepherds again.
3. You could not trust the word of a Shepherd.
They were prone to be “economical with the truth”. And so they were not allowed to act as witnesses in a Court of Law because their word was not considered trustworthy.
The Talmud stated,
"No help should be given to heathen and shepherds."