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.”
Luke 2:8-12 New Living Translation
The humility of the circumstances surrounding Jesus’s birth abound. God chose the most humble circumstances for the birth of His Son to connect with humanity at its most common level. That shepherds were some of the first people to see this baby only reinforces this reality. In spite of the many examples of shepherds who had become prominent in their history, the Hebrews of Jesus’s day did not have a high opinion of shepherds. They were seen as a rough and unrefined crowd. The view of shepherds may best match the image of cattle drive cowboys coming to town in old-time westerns: unclean, uncouth, and always to be met with suspicion. These were the type of people God chose to first announce the birth of His Son to and the people that would be the first to carry the good news to the people around them.
At the same time, shepherds were among the best type of people to be the first messengers of the birth of the Good Shepherd. The imagery of God as a caring shepherd was prominent in the literature of the Old Testament. Psalm 23, written by David, who was a shepherd himself, stands out as a great image of God as a shepherd to His people. Jesus would often refer to Himself as a shepherd caring for the most fragile of sheep in Isreal at this time. Even though shepherds may be seen with a certain amount of disdain, the sheep they care for had an important role in the cultural and religious life of the Jewish nation. Good shepherds saw the value of the creatures they cared for and would carry out their duties with diligence and tenderness. These shepherds, in particular, carried out their duty well in announcing the arrival of the Good Shephard.
We can draw encouragement from the role the shepherds played in the story of Jesus’s birth. No matter our status in the socio-economic view of our culture, God sees us as valuable and worthy messengers of His Good News. We may think that no one will hear our message because of our lack of influence. Sometimes, though, it is the unpretentious words of the most common person that carry the message more authentically than a person of high social standing. Jesus was born and dwelt among the common people and raised them up to a place of importance in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus, thank You that You chose to dwell among the common people of your day and made them the messengers of the greatest kingdom the universe will ever know. Help us to be faithful messengers like these shepherds were so long ago.