Imagine for a moment that you’re a shepherd. It’s just another cold, lonely, dark night sitting by the fire, watching the sheep. Suddenly, a bright light pierces the sky and you’re staring at an angel. The angel sees the terror on the men, thinking he has come to kill them, and declares, “Don’t be scared. I have good news of great joy for all people.” Then instructions are given about where to find a baby, born in a manger, wrapped in strips of cloth from mom’s robe. “He’s the Redeemer, the Messiah,” he announces. A baby in a manger? These guys would have totally comfortable with that scene.
Here’s the backstory. Shepherds, as a stereotype, …
… had a reputation for being low-lifes, men of bad reputation.
… didn’t observe the ceremonial law or were religious.
… had a reputation for stealing.
… were so unreliable that they were not allowed to testify in court.
We can’t know if these particular shepherds were this way or if they were just good men in a despised position. Regardless, God made his birth announcement to the least of these. (Matt. 25)
Another amazing possibility is this group of shepherds may have been watching the flock that would be used as the sacrifices for sin at the temple. God may have been saying, “The Lamb has come that will die once and for all for the sins of the world. No more of your animals will need to be killed.”
God was coming down to man. Religion was being replaced by a relationship. The rebels were being given a shot at righteousness.
How did the shepherds respond to God’s invitation? With immediate obedience.
God trusted the most unreliable and irreligious bunch in the area with telling His story. Things haven’t changed much, have they? So, go and tell.
As the shepherds returned to their sheep, they were praising God and saying wonderful things about him. —Luke 2:20a CEV