Summary: In a ‘slow motion moment’, black and white turns to living color! The boring brilliant! The mundane becomes magnificent!
O – ordinary
R – routine
D – dull
I – inferior
N – normal
A – average
R – repetitive
Y – yawn
These words, along with a few others of like kind, could be used to describe an evening with the shepherds. Nothing ‘too much’ happened out in the fields while the shepherds kept watch. There may have been an adventurous lamb or two “with a ‘baa-baa’ here and a ‘baa-baa’ there, here a baa, there a baa, everywhere a baa baa” but that was about it! And of course, a wild animal could make the night a little ‘wooly’ too but other than that it was usually the same ole, same ole.
Have you ever had an evening like that? An ordinary
evening? Nothing dramatic expected…just ‘do’ the job and get it done. Then in a ‘slow motion moment’, black and white turns to living color! The boring brilliant! The mundane becomes magnificent! Perhaps it came by way of a hand-shake and bonus, maybe it came when the Dr. handed a ‘cancer free’ report, or, like the shepherds, in the announcement of the birth of a child!
I’m going to invite you to join the shepherds on that infamous evening. Pull your “mantle” (clothing made of sheepskin…the wool side warn on the inside on cold nights and reversed on warmer nights) around you and grab your “staff” has you prepare for an evening to remember!
It strikes me as more than interesting to realize that it was first to a humble, lowly people the message of salvation and love was sent. Dr. William Barclay, writer and teacher, impresses on us that the shepherds spoken of in this portion of Scripture were mostly likely ‘special’ shepherds. ‘Special’ in that they were probably in charge of the flock of sheep from which the Temple offering was chosen. He writes, “It is a lovely thought that the shepherds who looked after the Temple lambs were the first to see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Let’s sit with the shepherds…
First of all:
1) Sheep Watching
Much has been written and discussed as to whether Jesus was actually born on December 25th. There are some who think it would have been too cold to ‘watch sheep’ at such a date so have assumed it would have been earlier in Oct. Still there are others who would say there is not enough evidence to support or not support this position.
So here we are…sitting in the field with the shepherds and the sheep, possibly on a chilly evening. This night started out like all the others. An evening of pasturing, protecting, guarding…tending to bleating, smelly, roaming sheep. Not a career that offered much promise, prominence or position. Not until this night watch! Luke wrote, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” (2:8)
Max Lucado, preacher and writer, teaches that ‘every day deserves a chance’. He feels so strongly about that, he wrote a book with the same title. The thinking is that regardless of what is in our day, if we give it a chance it can become a ‘good’ day. Of course, coupled with that thought is the understanding that God infiltrates ‘our world’ to make a difference, a difference for good.
God infiltrated the world of the shepherds on that celebrated night and when given a chance made it an evening to remember. An extraordinary evening, not only for the shepherds of that day, but for teachers, store clerks, ditch diggers, lumberjacks, doctors, taxi drivers, lawyers, caregivers, support workers and the like for years to come!
Walter Russell Bowie, religious scholar and writer wrote, “Shepherds were despised by the orthodox good people of the day. They were quite unable to keep the details of the ceremonial law; they could not observe all the meticulous hand-washings and rules and regulations. It was to simple men of the fields that God’s message first came.” That same message has come to us and when received, we are never the same!
The shepherds of long ago not only spent an evening sheep watching, but also:
2) Sky gazing
Robert Russell, pastor and author tells a story of how about twenty years ago there was a house near the entrance of his subdivision that kept their Christmas lights burning long after the season was past. They burned through January. Even through the first of February those outside lights burned every night. Finally, about the middle of February, he said, he became a bit critical and said, "If I were too lazy to take my Christmas lights down, I think I’d at least turn them off at night."
But about the middle of March there was a sign outside of their house that explained why they’d left the lights on. It said simply, "Welcome home, Jimmy." Pastor Russell went on to say, “We learned that that family had a son in Vietnam, and they had unashamedly left their Christmas lights on in anticipation of his return. Lights are a symbol of hope.” (Robert Russell, author and pastor of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky)