Summary: 1st of four in a Christmas Series. It began in the fields with the sheep. Their quiet and earthy world was interrupted by a chorus of angels who led them to the place where the Christ child was born. Once this journey is made nothing is the same again
That night, some shepherds were in the fields nearby watching their sheep. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord was shining around them, and they became very frightened. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people. Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord.
This is how you will know him: You will find a baby wrapped in pieces of cloth and lying in a feeding box.” Then a very large group of angels from heaven joined the first angel, praising God and saying: “Give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God.”
When the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem. Let’s see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about.” So the shepherds went quickly and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in a feeding box.
When they had seen him, they told what the angels had said about this child. Everyone was amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured these things and continued to think about them.
Then the shepherds went back to their sheep, praising God and thanking him for everything they had seen and heard. It had been just as the angel had told them.
Not many children today want to become a shepherd when they grow up. It wasn’t much different in those days either. A Shepherd’s life was about as low as you could get back then.
The shepherd’s life was the life of a working stiff
It was not highly regarded. It was important but to be a shepherd was to be in what we know to be the tough blue-collar world of everyday work. This is the world of truck drivers, motel maids, restaurant servers, sanitation workers, custodians, and store clerks. It was honest work but it wasn’t exactly a prestige position.
A shepherd’s work was tough, gritty, and full-time. The best grasslands were always a great distance and the flocks with their shepherds will be away for months at a time.
There was harsh weather, poor food, primitive lodging, dangerous animals, and the occasional poacher. Because of the distance from home there were no 8-hour days or 40-hour workweeks. Instead it was a daily routine of leading the sheep to food and water and returning to a safe place at night. Shepherds had to keep a constant eye out for strays and count the sheep every morning and evening. If one was missing they had to rescue the lost. If one was sick they anointed it with oil and sometimes carried it in their arms. When an ewe was ready to give birth the shepherd was there with a soothing voice.
The work required building a sheepfold (a corral) of fieldstone or brush. They wore a heavy cloak to protect themselves from the rain and they carried a staff to guide the flock. They used a rod and a sling to protect the flock from their enemies. In addition to these things they carried a bag of food and usually a simple reed flute or a lyre. They would while away the hours by practicing with their slings or by playing music with the sheep as their audience.
Important work but not exactly the kind of work of great men.
Yet Jesus’ birth was first announced to the likes of these
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord was shining around them, and they became very frightened.
And they were changed - forever!
The angel’s chorus, their message, and the glory of that moment would make every campfire different from then till the day they died. Their memories of the baby wrapped in simple pieces of cloth, surrounded by straw in an animal’s feed trough would be with them for the rest of their days.
These were God’s Men in God’s Time
God came to them while they were in the most desolate of locations, doing the humblest of tasks. They were in the last place that human viewpoint would have expected God to be.
God didn’t appear to the self-righteous religious leaders, to the "celebrities" of that day. He appeared to humble men, in a despised profession, and in a dark and lonely location.
Why them? Why these low, unimportant people? Why? Because Jesus came to be a shepherd.
These shepherds were symbolic of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who would also humbly follow God’s will.
Jesus came to rescue the us – we are God’s flock