God seems to have had a special place in his heart for shepherds. Their vocation features strongly in the Messianic thread throughout the Bible.
The Israelite people themselves were a flock-keeping people, and even in Genesis it was shepherd Abel, rather than crop-producing Cain, who found favor with God.
I think it has something to do with the caring, guarding nature that a person must develop while watching over flocks of sheep; caring for their daily needs to find good pasture and clean water, guiding them, bravely protecting against predators. God is very like that with us, and it reflects something of his nature.
However it is, it was the shepherds, leading their simple pastoral lives that had the most astonishing revelation from heaven on the night of Jesus’ birth.
So powerful in its impact that they left their livelihood, watching their flocks. They quickly went to give worship and honor to the one who was the focus of the angels announcement: the baby lying in a manger.
That must have been life changing for their hearts, although much in their lives would have remained the same.
They still would have gone back to their jobs, remained in the same social and economic strata, but understanding something about themselves and their place in God’s eyes. Something that would have changed them ever after.
I wonder what it was like for them in the years following?
What Are Our Lives Like, After Christmas?
Now, during Advent, we have so much anticipation. I am preparing every day, looking forward to having family arrive from different parts of the nation.
During the Christmas season I always find my spiritual thoughtlife deepening, and it carries into the New Year as I look forward to finding a focus for my mind, efforts, and plans.
Was it like that for the Jewish shepherds after the angelic revelation? Did they think differently about their future knowing the long awaited Messiah had been born?
I don’t know how it could not have impacted them. Their existence was infused with hope, knowing deliverance had arrived.
But what a different picture, than what had been expected.
Why Not Priests?
Why didn’t God bring the angels hosts to sing inside the temple to the priests? Why the shepherds?
I think the answer is given when Jesus was teaching many years afterwards:
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
We grow crusty and restricted in religious thinking. We lose the ability to experience God for who he is and what he wants to do when we have only the form of religion and not the power of his spirit within it… within us.
To live in his kingdom we have to be like little children, like the simple shepherds, and be open to Â all God has for us.
That I think is the lesson from the Shepherds of that Christmas night.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
In The Bleak Midwinter