Luke 2:8-20 says: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”
At the time of Jesus birth, people who attended sheep were considered one of the least significant of the human race by other people. They lived quiet and humble lives, often spending their days and nights with their flocks. The sheep that they tended were probably bred as sacrifice animals for the temple in near-by Jerusalem. These shepherds were just doing their usual job when the angels appeared before them.
I think I would be shaking in my sandals too. The news the angel gave the shepherds would have surprised them too. Babies would have been plentiful during the census and specific descriptions were to help the shepherds find Jesus among the crowded town.
When they went down into Bethlehem, they found Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. They worshipped the newborn king before returning to their flocks glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen. It had been just as the angel had told them.
I can imagine the shepherds telling their friends and families for weeks after the event. This incident would have made a significant change in their tedious lives. History tells how shepherds had become accepted and probably even admired by many.
Jesus refers to himself as the “good Shepherd”.
John 10:11 tells us, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”
John 10:14 says: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”
The next time you sing the Christmas carol While Shepherds watched Their Flocks by Night, take notice of the words and remember their significant place in the Christmas Story.
Father, thank you for sending your son to earth as a small baby. Thank you that lowly shepherds were among the first to greet Jesus and for the reminder of the significance of the birth. We praise you, just as the angels and shepherds did on that night so long ago. Amen.
First Published 2014
Scripture Verses used are from the King James Version of the Bible