That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:8-14 (NLT)
Shepherds were common people. They were social outcasts doing work-a-day jobs. Probably they were shepherds because they were following in their family’s footsteps and there was no other option for them. If you asked them whether they were important to anyone besides their family and their sheep, they would laugh. I’m sure they smelled funny and they probably talked funny. I grew up in a place where the folks were mainly “shepherds.” Good, hard working people that city folks couldn’t live without but would ignore if they could and would laugh about if they couldn’t.
Shepherds lived a pretty solitary life in the fields with their sheep. They would come together at night to camp, pen their sheep with other flocks and join the other shepherds for company and safety. When this scene begins, they were sitting around the camp fire trading stories and finishing their dinner. Soon they would be kicking out the coals and going to bed. What happened next would change the shepherds’ lives forever and make them the center of conversation when someone asked the ice breaker, “What the wildest thing you have ever seen while out with your sheep?”
Judging by the shepherds’ response, the angel’s appearance was dramatic. The message the angel delivered was even more dramatic. The Jewish people had been waiting hundreds of years for God’s Messiah. And who did God choose to first hear the message that the Messiah had come? The shepherds. Why the shepherds? I’m sure they knew about God’s promised Messiah. If they had time to go to their local synagogue when they were in town, they may have heard the words of Isaiah announcing the coming of the one who would be called Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God and Everlasting Father. But, when the shepherds thought about the Messiah’s coming, they probably believed he would go to Jerusalem first. He would go straight to the temple so he could introduce himself to the religious leaders and important people and make plans for the restoration of the nation of Israel. The shepherds would be among the last to find out the Messiah had come.
The shepherds didn’t know that, this time around, it was going to be different. This time around, God was going directly to the people. The ordinary folks were the first to receive a most extraordinary message. By telling the shepherds first, God made it clear that the message of the Messiah’s coming is for the common folks; the people who are not highly regarded, the left out and the laughed at. The message of Christmas is for people like me, and you.
As you go through the week, finishing up your shopping, cleaning the house, and wrapping gifts, take some time to think about the message, “The Messiah, the Savior, has been born.” And, remember, the angel’s message of good news is also to you.
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